George Eaton Simpson (4 October 1904-13 December 1998)
George Eaton Simpson was an American sociologist and anthropologist, researching mainly on religions of the Caribbean.
Simpson was born to Lawrence E. and Grace M. Simpson in Knoxville, Iowa, U.S.A. on 4 October 1904. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from Coe College in 1926, and his Master of Arts from the University of Missouri in 1927.
While he continued teaching at Temple University (1928-1934), he met Eleanor Brown, also a graduate at the University of Missouri, she became his wife in 1930. They later had four children, Jon E., A. Louise; Nancy B.; and G Curtis.
After he gained his Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania in 1934, he taught at Temple University and at Pennsylvania State University.
From 1947 to 1971, Simpson became a member of the Oberlin College (Ohio, U.S.A.) faculty as a Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, becoming an active leader as department chair and serving many times on all major committees, including the Advancement Committee and the Ad Hoc Committee on Oberlin College African American Studies.
Simpson was considered a gifted and dedicated teacher who received numerous honors and awards for his work. Among these were the 'Wellcome Medal' for Anthropological Research; the 1958 'Anisfield-Wolf' Award in Race Relations (with J. Milton Yinger); and 'Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters' from Oberlin College (1976) and Coe College (1980).
On his retirement in 1986, George and Eleanor Simspon moved to Friendship Village, a retirement community in Columbus, Ohio. He was soon asked to serve on several committees, including the Memorial Fund Committee and the Health Center Committee. However, Eleanor died in June of 1991 following a battle with Alzheimer's disease and George himself died at the Village on the 13 December 1998.
He was the author 60 books and articles, among them "Black Religion in the New World" (1978) and "Jamaican Revivalist Cults" (booklet, 1956), "Religious cults of the Caribbean: Trinidad, Jamaica, and Haiti", a biography on anthropologist "Melville J. Herskovits", and "Racial and Cultural Minorities: An Analysis of Prejudice and Discrimination".
In 1953 Simpson, while at the Oberlin College, carried out a field study among four Ras Tafari groups in Kingston, Jamaica under the sponsorship of the Institute of Social and Economic Research, University College of the West Indies (UCWI). In 1955 he published his findings in two articles, "The Ras Tafari Movement in Jamaica: A Study of Race and Class Conflict" (Social Forces, vol. 34, No.2), and "Political Cultism in West Kingston" (Social and Economic Studies, Vol. 4, No.2). The second of these articles which was published by the UCWI is the more informative; but both essays concentrate on a thematic treatment of Ras Tafari doctrine, descriptions of street meetings and worship, paying little attention to the history, organisation or background of the movement.
N.B. The nature of the 'Ras Tafari' cult has changed significantly since 1953, and Simpson's account has to be brought up to date.
Simpson’s research and writing in the area of Sociology, his correspondence with individuals concerning his research, minority issues (1920-1997) are in a collection at Oberlin College - the 'Correspondence Series' contains letters between Simpson and individuals such as Ralph J. Bunche, Melville J. Herskovits, Eduardo C. Mondlane, and Erwin N. Griswold. These letters include discussions of Simpson’s research on cultures of foreign countries, his work concerning minorities, and the activities and operation of Oberlin College.
Selected Books and Articles
The Shango Cult in Nigeria and in Trinidad, 1962
The Belief System of Haitian Vodun, 1945
The Nine Night Ceremony in Jamaica, 1957
Culture Change and Reintegration Found in the Cults of West ..., 1955