Professor Greg Donaldson

» Developmental Skills

» Spring 1997

» Biographical Sketches

Professor Greg Donaldson

Greg Donaldson and his friend Sharron Corley were both feeling pretty good in 1995. Donaldson's book, The Ville: Cops and Kids in Urban America, which chronicled Corley's life growing up as a gang member in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, had garnered national acclaim since its publication two years before. The work was a powerful portrait of the human problems that abound in Brownsville, at the time a largely low-income, inner-city Brooklyn neighborhood known for poverty, drug abuse, street crime, and the domestic and other types of violence that were prevalent there. The Los Angeles Times hailed the book as "smart, noble and potentially restorative."

Significantly, Donaldson's book was credited by the Daily News and other papers with helping turn Corley's life around. Following its publication, the young man's circle of friends changed from gang members and drug dealers to actors and film producers, as The Ville helped land him the lead role in the Gramercy Pictures major release, New Jersey Drive, to which national film critics Siskel and Ebert gave an unqualified "two thumbs up!"

Donaldson 1997 Scholar on Campus Lecture, "In Search of Language," examined the previous year's national furor over Ebonics. "This furor," he said, "highlighted the corrosive racial mistrust that persists in America." His lecture drew on his studies of language and power in different societies to illuminate how the Ebonics controversy had important implications for classroom teachers.

Over the years, Donaldson has lectured widely on youth crime and other topics and has shared his views on federal crime legislation and crime-fighting measures with national audiences on broadcasts that included CBS's highly popular "Up to the Minute" news magazine.

He also has published widely in major national periodicals on a diversity of social and cultural issues, including articles for New York magazine on "the death of the diner" and on "the city's changing gang scene." In the latter, a companion piece to Alex Williams' feature story on the Martin Scorsese blockbuster film Gangs of New York, Donaldson suggested that gangs as we remember them "are on the verge of extinction. When it comes to large numbers, group loyalty and active criminality, today's New York gangs are limp and demoralized, if not entirely clueless."

Donaldson went on to write that this decline was the result of various significant societal changes. For starters, the NYPD's sizable Gang Division has done an effective job over the years of greatly decreasing gang numbers. Similarly, urban renewal has depleted the presence and strength of the gangs of old.

Donalson attended Brown University, graduating with a bachelor's degree in history. After Brown, he studied with acclaimed drama coach Sanford Meisner and later received a master's degree in urban education and a doctorate in theater history from The City University of New York. He taught at City Tech for 25 years before leaving in 2003 to join the faculty at CUNY's John Jay College of Criminal Justice. In addition to The Ville, his major works include The Hip Reader, a book of stories for inner-city teenagers.

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