Joseph L. Graves, Jr. (born 1955), is an American professor and the Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Biological Studies at the Joint School for Nanoscience and Nanoengineering which is jointly administered by North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and UNC Greensboro. His past research has included an examination of the evolution of life history and physiological performance in Drosophila, a genus of small flies often called fruit flies. A particular application of this research has been to the evolutionary theory of aging. Using his background in evolutionary biology, he has also written two books that address myths and theories of race in American society. Graves has made appearances in six documentary films on these general topics. He has been a Principal Investigator on grants from the National Institute of Health, National Science Foundation and the Arizona Disease Research Commission.
Graves was born in 1955 and received his B.A. in biology from Oberlin College in 1977 and his PhD from Wayne State University in 1988. Before his appointment to North Carolina A & T State University, he held positions at the University of California, Irvine; at the West campus of Arizona State University, with a joint appointment in African American Studies at the main campus of Arizona State University in Tempe; and as University Core Director at Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Childhood experiences shaped Graves interest in race and racism. “My parents were poor. They didn’t know how to read. I had to teach myself how to read,” he says. “The school system of my home was racially biased. When I was in kindergarten teachers wanted to declare me mentally retarded so that I could be placed in a special education curriculum. The regular curriculum had a tracking system,” Graves continues. “For no apparent reason, all the black kids ended up in the lower track.” But, by graduation day, years later, Graves had risen to be among the highest ranked students at his high school. Yet he received no awards or scholarships.