Scholarly Reparations: W.E.B. Dubois

Scholarl reparations: the influence of Du Bois in sociological thought in the US and in Germany. We were taught that American sociology originated with the Chicago School -as a scientific enterprise, rather than a philosophical one; that The Polish Peasant (1918) by W.I. Thomas and Florian Znaniecki was the first great piece of American sociological research; and that the systematic study of race relations and urban sociology originated with Robert E. Park and his students. “The Scholar Denied” shows that the Chicago school was not the founding school of sociology in the United States. Neither Small, Park, Thomas and Znaniecki nor their students originated scientific sociology.

The real credit goes to W.E.B. Du Bois. Moreover, and perhaps more contentiously, The Scholar Denied suggests that Park plagiarized Du Bois, and that venerated sociologists like Max Weber were perhaps more influenced by Du Bois rather than the other way around.

Du Bois can no longer be seen as the “first black sociologist”. He must instead be seen as the first scientific sociologist who is the rightful progenitor of American sociology itself.

”The origins of scientific sociology in the United States can be traced to The Philadelphia Negro by Du Bois, completed in 1897 and published in 1899 (nineteen years before the publication of The Polish Peasant). Du Bois insisted upon “scientific research”, systematic study and the discrimination in the selection and weighing of evidence”. Replete with historical and comparative analysis, The Philadelphia Negro (1897) and later The Negro Artisan (1902) resulted from “extensive interviews, with all families in the ward…surveys, archival data, and ethnographic data from participant observation.”

On African American sociological thought influencing German sociological thought:

Du Bois studied in Germany between 1892-1894. While known in Germany at the time, Max Weber was not a famous sociologist in the US (and he would not be until after the Second World War), he was four years older than Du Bois and “they were both essentially graduate students.” By the time Weber had traveled to the US in 1904, Du Bois had already published influential works (not only The Philadelphia Negro but also the widely popular The Souls of Black Folk). Weber wrote to Du Bois on a number of other occasions, extolling the virtues of 'The Souls of Black Folk', urging it be translated to German, and inviting Du Bois to come to Germany. Weber asked Du Bois to write something on caste relations for Weber’s journal, Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft and Sozialpolitik. The invitation resulted in the 1906 publication of “Die Negerfrage in den Vereinigten Staaten” nestled between articles by Robert Michels and Georg Simmel, and its theorization of race in the US as a caste system shaped Weber’s own thinking on caste stratification.
12. Januar