Charles W. Mills, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, died on September 20. He was 70 years old and had suffered from cancer.
Born in England and raised in Jamaica, Professor Mills earned a bachelor’s degree in physics at the University of the West Indies. He went on to earn a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Toronto.
After teaching in Jamaica, Dr. Mills joined the faculty at the University of Oklahoma in 1987. He then taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago for 17 years before being named the John Evans Professor of Moral and Intellectual Philosophy at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. He joined the faculty of the City University of New York in 2016.
Earlier this year, the American Political Science Association chose Professor Mills as the recipient of its biennial Benjamin E. Lippincott Award, which honors a work of exceptional quality by a living political theorist that is still considered significant 15 or more years after its first publication. He was honored for his book The Racial Contract (Cornell University Press, 1997). In the book’s introduction, Mills writes, “White supremacy is the unnamed political system that has made the modern world what it is today.” He set out to create a framework for understanding racism, or white supremacy, as a power structure, one that allows white people to act against their own moral principles.