White, Leslie A., 1900-1975

Alternative names
Birth 1900-01-19
Death 1975-03-31

Biographical notes:

Professor of anthropology at University of Michigan, chairman of the anthropology department, 1932-1957 and 1959, and student of the culture of the Pueblo Indians of the southwestern United States, and of the career of early American anthropologist, Lewis H. Morgan.

From the description of Leslie A. White papers, 1921-1974. (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 34423619

Leslie White was an influential American anthropologist and anthropological theorist who in his writings and teachings espoused the importance of evolutionary theory and helped top revive the work of Lewis Henry Morgan as one of the pioneers of American anthropology.

Leslie A. White was born on January 19, 1900 in Salida, Colorado to Alvin Lincoln White, a Methodist minister, and Mildred May Millard White. His childhood was unstable, with many moves following his parents' divorce in 1905. After high school, White worked as a stenographer and bookkeeper in Louisiana until 1918 when he enlisted in the Navy. Following his discharge the following year, he studied at Louisiana State University. In 1921, he transferred to Columbia University where he received his A.B. in 1923 and his A.M. in psychology in 1924. He continued his education at the University of Chicago receiving his Ph.D. in sociology and anthropology in 1927.

From 1927 to 1930, White taught at the University of Buffalo, then came to the University of Michigan where he remained from 1930 to 1970. He was promoted to full professor in 1943 and served as chairman of the department of anthropology from 1945 to 1957. Following his retirement from the U-M, White was a visiting professor at San Francisco State College and the University of California at Santa Barbara.

White was extremely active as a teacher and researcher in his discipline. He made numerous field trips to the Keresan Pueblos and to the Pueblo of Taos, New Mexico between 1926 and 1957 and was leader of the Ethnological Field Party of the Laboratory of Anthropology, Sante Fe, New Mexico, to the Hopi pueblo of Oraibi in the summer of 1932. In addition, White was the author of many articles, monographs and books. Some of the most important monographs were on the Acoma, San Felipe, Santo Domingo, Santa Ana and Sia Pueblos. The books which best expressed his evolutionary and culturological theory and interpretation were The Science of Culture (1949) and The Evolution of Culture (1959). White was the leading scholar of the life and career of anthropologist Lewis Henry Morgan, editing Morgan's travel journal and his Indian Journals, 1859-1862.

White was visiting professor at a number of universities. Also professional active, he was president of the Central States Anthropological Society, president of the American Anthropological Association (1963-1964), and vice president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1958).

From the guide to the Leslie A. White Papers, 1921-1974, (Bentley Historical Library University of Michigan)


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  • Nuclear energy
  • Pueblo Indians
  • Indians of North America
  • Indians of North America--British Columbia
  • Kwakiutl Indians
  • Anthropology
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