School 14

Crawford Young

November 7, 1931 ~ January 21, 2020 (age 88)


Merwin (Crawford) Young succumbed to complications from congestive heart failure on January 22 at the age of 88. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 7 November 1931, growing up in Philadelphia until high school, when his family moved to Washington, DC for his father’s appointment to the Federal Reserve during the Eisenhower administration. He graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1949. After completing a BA at the University of Michigan in 1953, he worked for two years with the International Students Association in Paris where he also courted and married his wife, Rebecca Young on 17 August 1957 after a whirlwind, three-week romance. After completing his doctorate from Harvard, he joined the political science faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1963. He was also a visiting professor at Makerere University in Uganda (1965-66), the Lubumbashi campus of the former National University of Zaire (now Congo-Kinshasa, 1973-75), and the Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar, Senegal (1987-88). His major publications include Politics in the Congo (Princeton UP, 1965), The Politics of Cultural Pluralism (University of Wisconsin Press, 1976), Ideology and Development in Africa (Yale UP, 1982), The Rise and Decline of the Zairian State, co-authored with Thomas Turner (University of Wisconsin Press, 1985), The African Colonial State in Comparative Perspective (Yale University Press, 1994) and The Postcolonial State in Africa (University of Wisconsin Press, 2012). His scholarly contributions were awarded various recognitions, including the Herskovits Prize (1977, for best book in African Studies, African Studies Association) and Ralph Bunche Prize (co-winner, 1979, best book in comparative ethnicity over the past five years, American Political Science Association, 1979).

Crawford was President of the African Studies Association (1982-83) and won the ASA Distinguished Africanist Award in 1990. At the University of Wisconsin, Madison, he served as Chair of the African Studies Program (1964-48), Chair of the Department of Political Science (1969-72, 1984-87), Associate Dean of the Graduate School (1968-71), and Acting Dean of the College of Letters & Science (1991-92). He was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship in Senegal in 1987-88 and was a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton in 1980-81, as well as the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in 1983-43. He retired in 2001.

Crawford devoted most of his life’s work to developing an understanding of the African state and the politics of cultural identity in the third world. His last book, however, was dedicated to the love of his life for 51 years, Becky Young. He self-published a book honoring her pioneering efforts as a woman in Wisconsin politics last year, Rebecca Young, a Life of Civic Engagement and Progressive Electoral Politics.

Crawford is preceded in death by his wife, Becky, and is survived by his daughters, Eva Young, Louise Young, Estelle Young and Emily Young, son-in-laws: Geoffrey Chambers, Marv Edwards and Serge Dedina and his grandchildren Israel Dedina, Celia Rose Chambers, Daniel Dedina and Anthony Chambers.  Visitation will be held from 5-7 on Friday 1/24/2020 and funeral service is planned for Saturday at 3:00 PM.   In lieu of flowers, contributions in his name may be made to the African Studies Association Scholarship Fund. Donations can be made online through the University of Wisconsin Foundation,  . Donations can be mailed to: African Studies Program, 205 Ingraham Hall, 1155 Observatory Drive, Madison, WI 53706.  

To send flowers to Crawford's family, please visit our floral section.


January 24, 2020

5:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Cress Funeral Home - Speedway
3610 Speedway Road
Madison, Wisconsin 53705

Funeral Service
January 25, 2020

3:00 PM
Cress Funeral Home - Speedway
3610 Speedway Road
Madison, Wisconsin 53705


African Studies Program
205 Ingraham Hall, 1155 Observatory Drive,, Madison WI 53706

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