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In this paper we emphasize W. E. B. Du Bois’s relevance as a sociological theorist, an aspect of his work that has not received the attention it deserves. We focus specifically on the significance of Du Bois’s theory of Double Consciousness. This theory argues that in a racialized society there is no true communication or recognition between the racializing and the racialized. Furthermore, Du Bois’s theory of Double Consciousness puts racialization at the center of the analysis of self-formation, linking the macro structure of the racialized world with the lived experiences of racialized subjects. We develop our argument in two stages: The first section locates the theory of Double Consciousness within the field of classical sociological theories of the self. We show how the theory addresses gaps in the theorizing of self-formation of James, Mead, and Cooley. The second section presents an analysis of how Du Bois deploys this theory in his phenomenological analysis of the African American experience. The conclusions point out how the theory of Double Consciousness is relevant to contemporary debates in sociological theory.
Generating new understandings of the contributions of W. E. B. Du Bois's The Philadelphia Negro (1899) for sociology and social science more generally, this article posits that the urban analysis provided in the book demonstrates how interwoven cultural and economic factors undergird the social organization of urban communities more so than any pragmatic economic pattern or logic. It is the interwoven nature of these factors (defined in this article as the counterintuitive economic logics of the study) that have been insufficiently acknowledged in recent decades of social scientific urban studies research. Exploring the interwoven nature of cultural and economic factors in the sustenance of Philadelphia's Black Seventh Ward, this article suggests that the agency of African Americans is a critical, yet undervalued, aspect of their urban living. This article situates W. E. B. Du Bois as the first of some later voices (mostly within urban ethnography) that offer a corrective and alternative to urban spatial conceptual frameworks that did not and do not fully account for the persistent influence of race and the agency of racial minorities on the landscape of American cities.
The Du Bois Review is pleased to publish, for the first time, this significant reflection on “the meaning of Booker T. Washington to America,” and in so doing highlight Du Bois's desire to see courage, rather than sacrifice, prevail in the face of injustice. This previously unpublished essay is among the W. E. B. Du Bois Papers housed in the Special Collections and University Archives at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. It was brought to our attention by Robert Brown, who provides an introductory essay including an analysis of the likely date the essay was penned. We present it to our readers with the permission of The David Graham Du Bois Trust.
This essay explores W. E. B. Du Bois’s evolving sense of disillusionment with the liberal paradigm in an effort to stimulate critical thinking about an American political culture consumed by both the fear and purported legitimacy of private competition. Du Bois always encouraged sustained critical appraisal of an American society torn between winners and losers, the favored and the damned. As his thinking developed into the 1930s, he focused more squarely upon the logic of capital accumulation, or the structural imperative to expand power in the service of private interest, and always in response to a suspicion or fear of the other—the competitor. I suggest that Du Bois’s claims about the racially biased character of the competitive society, as well as his argument, put forth in a series of speeches and writings on “Negro education,” that Black colleges ought to facilitate the critique of this society, may have some normative import today as widespread, often unreflective acquiescence to the principles of competitive liberalism seems poised to exacerbate and further legitimize racial and economic inequities.
Using previously untranslated Chinese sources, this article adds dimension and insight into the visits of W. E. B. and Shirley Graham Du Bois to the People's Republic of China in 1959 and 1963. After discussing Du Bois's earlier writings and visit to China in 1936, the article reveals the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) awareness of Du Bois's favorable commentary on the nation during the 1950s. Using articles from the People's Daily (Renmin ribao) and other Chinese sources, I argue that the CCP and the Du Boises gained mutual benefit from the visit outside of the “arranged reality” of such political tourism. The CCP gained increased legitimacy among African nations as a nation of color. Du Bois widened his famous dictum about the importance of the color line in the twentieth century to include Asians. In a preface to a 1959 Chinese translation of the Souls of Black Folk (published to commemorate his visit), Du Bois amended his argument about the color line to emphasize the international struggle of the working classes. In addition to discussion on W. E. B. Du Bois's writings about China following the 1959 visit, I focus on Shirley Graham Du Bois's interactions with the Chinese, their knowledge of her scholarship about Paul Robeson, the celebrated Black American singer, actor, and communist, and her politically sympathetic actions toward China. After the death of her husband, Graham Du Bois sustained involvement with China throughout the Cultural Revolution until her death in 1977 and interment in the Babaoshan Cemetery for Revolutionary Heroes in Beijing. Her burial fixed an appropriate identity with China. While her husband's grave site was in Ghana, an unfriendly military government controlled that nation and the United States was no longer her home country. China became her permanent home.
As a graduate student, Du Bois studied with two of the most important figures within what is today remembered as the German historical school of economics—Gustav Schmoller and Adolf Wagner. By taking seriously Du Bois's early ambitions in the field of economics, and rereading his early work as a social scientist in the context of early twentieth-century economic thought, the following article makes the case that Du Bois should be credited with having made several important contributions to U.S. economics. The article suggests that our failure to remember Du Bois as an economist is a joint consequence of two independent causes. The first is the racist attitudes of the U.S. academy of his time that simply would not accept a highly qualified African American as a colleague. The second is the sweeping changes that have so profoundly modified the method, form, and substance of U.S. economics over the past century.
Using the critical tools of social science, W. E. B. Du Bois
challenged the White supremacism of his era. During the late nineteenth
and early twentieth centuries, he presented his views on social inquiry in
various programmatic pieces (e.g., “The Study of the Negro
Problems” and “The Atlanta Conferences”), all the while
conducting empirical research on the conditions and experiences of African
Americans. This essay examines the ways in which Du Bois's
programmatic statements were elaborated in his early works of social
science, notably: his goal of scientific truth, the specificity of his
research scope, and the research topics for investigation. Three of Du
Bois's projects—The Philadelphia Negro; The
Negroes of Farmville, Virginia; and the Atlanta University
Publications—are detailed. In addition, this essay derives several
insights from Du Bois that address issues common to debates in the
philosophy of social science, such as the controversies over researcher
neutrality and the rigor of politically engaged scholarship.
What would it mean to treat W. E. B. Du Bois as a “living political thinker,” Tommie Shelby asks. The formulation of the question indicates one answer: acknowledging Du Bois's twofold legacy for political theory and philosophy. On the one hand, his body of work as a political theorist is rich and provocative enough that it ought to be, as Robert Gooding-Williams (2009) urges, the subject of serious inquiry in its own right. On the other hand, engaging Du Bois as a political theorist enables contemporary scholars to reflect on the political challenges of our own time, even when Du Bois offers answers we would not own for ourselves. Perhaps most crucially, taking Du Bois's work seriously requires a rigorous engagement with the past and an active refutation of declarations of a “postracial” age that belie yawning racial inequalities, the continuing devaluation of non-White lives, and the unredressed injuries—to American citizens, to the polity itself, and to women and men well beyond U.S. borders—of White supremacy. All of the participants in this symposium would, I think, endorse this view in its broadest strokes. But to inherit Du Bois as a political thinker is also to participate in an ongoing and often contentious conversation about race, democracy, and Du Bois himself. Accordingly, my comments will focus on two clusters of issues. The first is raised by Rogers Smith's and Tommie Shelby's vigorous disagreement with the idea of Black reparations that I explore in the second chapter of Democracy's Reconstruction. The second involves a set of unresolved tensions bequeathed by Du Bois and addressed in Gooding-Williams' extraordinary book and Cristina Beltrán's meditations on the Afro-modern political tradition and Latino politics today.
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois is considered one of the most prolific and brilliant scholars of our time. While his contributions to civil rights, sociology, history, African American studies, and urban studies are universally recognized, his legacy in the public health and epidemiology discourses is not as widely acknowledged by contemporary health researchers. His seminal work The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study (1899) and his report “The Health and Physique of the Negro American” (1906) may be considered early harbingers in general of public health—and more specifically, social epidemiology—research. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Black and White differences in mortality and morbidity were largely attributed to notions of biological racial inferiority. Efforts by Du Bois to challenge these predominant notions resulted in the systematic empirical investigation of social factors contributing to Black health risk and health disparities. More than one hundred years after Du Bois's pioneering scholarship, racial/ethnic and social disparities remain a central challenge for public health and medical professionals. Given the persistence of health disparities and the increasing focus on neighborhood social and physical environments as fundamental factors contributing to health inequalities, this paper seeks to historically situate Du Bois's scholarship, describe the methodological and conceptual significance of his seminal studies, and articulate the importance of incorporating Du Bois's legacy to advance the next generation of racial/ethnic health inequality research.