Sociation Today® 
The Official Journal
The North Carolina
Sociological Association: A 
Refereed Web-Based 
ISSN 1542-6300
Editorial Board:

George H. Conklin,
 North Carolina
 Central University

Richard Dixon,

Chien Ju Huang,
 North Carolina
 Central University

Ken Land,
 Duke University

Miles Simpson,
 North Carolina
 Central University

Ron Wimberley,
 N.C. State University

Robert Wortham,
 North Carolina
 Central University




Volume 3, Number 1
Spring 2005

William Edward Burghardt
Du Bois and the
Concepts of Race, Class and Gender

Angela J. Hattery
Earl Smith
Wake Forest University

The “Negro” is the clown of anthropology and football of politics.”
  --W. E. B. Du Bois, 1939, Black Folk Then and Now: Essay in the History and Sociology of the Negro Race.

I shall forgive the white south much in its final judgment day.  I shall forgive its slavery, for slavery is a world old habit; I shall forgive its fighting for a well-lost cause, and for remembering that struggle with tender tears; I shall forgive its so-called “pride of race,” that passion of its hot blood, and even its dear old laughable strutting and posing; but one thing I shall never forgive, neither in this world nor the world to come: its wanton and continued and persistent insulting of black womanhood which it sought  and seeks to prostitute to its lust.

--William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, [1920], 1969. “On the Damnation of Women.”


    In this paper we demonstrate the position of the scholar William Edward Burghardt Du Bois on issues related to race, class and gender.  We note his lasting contribution to these debates but in the end focus more of our paper on the issue of gender as of all the three concepts, this is the one he is least well-known for among Sociologists.  To do this we are required to look across a large body of work and as we show later there is no one central place in Du Bois that lays out his position on women.  Our argument is that the marginalization of Du Bois from mainstream academe slows the progress and acceptance of theoretical and empirical work in uncovering the interconnection of systems of oppression that finally takes hold in the 1980s. We begin this essay with a brief biographical portrait of Du Bois. 

    William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (W.E.B.) was born on February 23, 1868.  In his autobiography, Du Bois wrote, 

I was born by a golden river and in the shadow of two great hills, five years after the Emancipation Proclamation which began the freeing of American Negro Slaves.
    W. E. B. Du Bois grew up in Great Barrington, Massachusetts -- a small town nestled in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. His family had lived there for generations and his ancestors had fought in the American Revolution.  Of his early childhood Du Bois could write the following:  "In general thought and conduct, I became quite thoroughly New England." He was laid to his final rest in Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana (city of Accra) on August 27, 1963. [1]  His life span of ninety-five years is a beautiful and rich story of intellectual and scholarly achievements. 
Du Bois influenced the discipline of sociology to the extent that in this essay we re-count his work in the area of race, class and gender conceptually and cognitively in a way that not only recognizes him, pulling him from the dustbin of American sociology for pioneering these theoretical arguments (and empirical studies) but, moreso, showing the contemporaneous nature of his work.

    Being a man of slight build, always impeccably dressed (often wearing a hat, gloves, jacket & tie, clean shoes and at times sporting a small goatee while carrying a cane) and one of America’s most highly educated citizens, W. E. B. Du Bois like so many men of African descent was not taken seriously as a scholar.
His first mainstream university position in his chosen field of endeavor, sociology, was as an “assistant instructor” at the prestigious University of Pennsylvania (1896-1897). [2]  What he did there is interesting as stated in his own words:

  The opportunity opened at the University of Pennsylvania seemed to be just what I wanted.  I had offered to teach social science science at Wilberforce outside of my overloaded program, but I was not allowed.  My vision was becoming clearer.  The Negro problem was in mind a matter of systematic investigation and intelligent understanding.  The world was thinking wrong about race, because it did not know.  The ultimate evil was stupidity.  The cure for it was knowledge based on scientific investigation.   At the University of Pennsylvania I ignored the pitiful stipend.  It made no difference to me that I was put down as an “assistant instructor” [3] and even at that, my name never actually got into the catalogue [4]; it goes without saying that I did no instructing save once to pilot a pack of idiots through the Negro slums. 
    And, although Du Bois was formally trained as a historian [5] his main body of work in the academic setting (that is, outside of the work of “race lifting” as appearing in the NAACP organ the Crisis Magazine and as well, his agitation work, as appearing in speeches heavy of political content, many of which appeared in Political Affairs, The Nation and Freedomways) has been in the area of sociology.  Fact of the matter is that his work pre-dates the emphasis on “social stratification” emanating from the famous “Chicago School of Sociology” at the University of Chicago under the direction of Robert Park by approximately 20 years.

    Du Bois was teaching and conducting research at Atlanta University in the area we may now properly refer to as “racial stratification” without getting due credit for building a school of thought. [6]

    While at the University of Pennsylvania his main responsibility—other than piloting a pack of idiots around the Negro slum—was an undertaking of one of the first systematic urban studies research books ever proposed and completed. [7]  Upon accepting a similar position at Clark University in Atlanta, Georgia, Du Bois put in place a twelve year research plan to “study the Negro.”

    At each occurrence of the next set of papers and published articles, from one generation to the next, scholars repeat over and over and correctly so that Du Bois was a pioneer urban sociologist even though American sociology as a discipline never embraced his work. [8]

    In response to one of the anonymous reviewers, to a central question of Du Bois and why he was absent from academe, it is instructive to note that when Du Bois received his Ph.D. in History from Harvard in 1895, he would have been/or he was one of the most educated Americans. On top of this, between the publication of his dissertation on the Atlantic Slave Trade, up through the Second World War he had conducted research, presented papers, and published more empirical research studies than any other humanities scholar or social/behavioral scientist.

   His work was published in the leading academic journals of his time as well as journals and magazines accessible to the mainstream reader.  Yet, as we note above, he was never accorded a full-time, permanent, first class academic position.  Therefore, in response to the anonymous reviewer of our article, it needs to be said that from the most visible African American intellectual to those scholars who dedicate their lives of learning to teaching in whatever type of institution, it is not until the 1960s that African Americans are allowed to compete for open, mainstream permanent academic positions and this includes positions in the leading departments of Sociology. 

    Furthermore, it is equally important to note that much of the acceptance of Du Bois’ work even though global in its context was relegated by the gatekeepers of new knowledge to the narrower confines of the “Negro Problem”.  The reception and placement of his work is therefore ghettoized and thus virtually ignored by mainstream scholars.  Both his absence at the table, and the ghettoization of his work, contributed to rendering invisible any discussion of the inter-locking relations of race, class, and gender.  We note that the same can be said for research on gender, ghettoized as the “Woman Problem”.  (see Stacey and Thorne 1985).

    This past year we witnessed new interest in Du Bois as his classic set of essays The Souls of Black Folk [1903] celebrated the 100 year history of its first publishing by the A. C. McClurg printing company in Chicago.  Panels at professional meetings have been held [9] and papers have been published all celebrating the long neglected contributions from Du Bois on a range of issues central to American sociology.

    Yet, what is not addressed is not so much the absence of Du Bois from mainstream sociology but rather, why is it that we need to know who he was and what he did?   Conversely, it is not enough to repeat over and over the aforementioned but begin to situate that Du Bois made considerable contributions to the main canon of sociology similar in ways to the work of Max Weber, Karl Marx and Emile Durkheim.

    For Du Bois the real answer lays not so much in who he was but the lasting contributions of his work for understanding long term, systematic, structured inequalities that unfold along race, class and gender lines.

    It is in this paper, then, that we demonstrate this by looking at Du Bois lasting contribution to the race, class and gender debates.  For example, scholars of urban poverty can make use of the methodology of participant observation and face-to-face interviewing employed by Du Bois (almost done entirely by himself in the Philadelphia Negro book) in examining the abject poverty of the 7th ward inhabited primarily by African Americans in Philadelphia in the late 1890s.  These scholars, who are interested in urban poverty in some of the most dilapidated counties in the State of Mississippi, for example, inhabited by both poor African Americans and poor whites, would find that of the 82 counties in Mississippi, 79 fall within the poorest half of all counties in the United States in 2004. [10]

    Hence, in speculating about where a thinker like Du Bois would go today it is worth noting that both (a) geographic regional differences and (b) the passage of time have not diminished the relevancy of his contributions to urban sociology. [11]  We can argue that from within the work by Du Bois that is available to us, and from the historical landscape where he lived and worked, there is reason to believe that if Du Bois were alive today (both as a scholar and activist) there is no doubt that he would have addressed the question of the intersections of race and gender in mainstream American society similar to the way he addressed the burning questions of his day: the relationship between race and class. [12] 

    In this essay we strive to present an analysis of this vision that Du Bois held on positions that impacted race, class and gender – but based solely on his own words and actions. [13]  Since the reading public is more knowing about the Du Bois of race and somewhat of his position on social class, we review these but focus instead on his work related to women.

Du Bois on the Race Question

    Du Bois was in so many respects an intellectual pioneer of the pursuit of knowledge that took him into areas of inquiry that had wholly been neglected or at the time not thought much about.  Such was his analysis of the continuing slave trade into the 1880’s long after slavery as an institution had ended.  Such, too, was his  launching of the Atlanta University Studies to focus on issues—mainly political economy—of the African American population that had been neglected or relegated to the realm of pseudo science that proclaimed the “Negro a Beast” and hence not worthy of full citizenship as evidenced in the 1857 ruling of the Dred Scott case. 

    In the Dred Scott decision of 1857, the Supreme Court turned down a petition for freedom from Dred Scott and his wife Harriet Robinson both enslaved African Americans. Chief Justice Roger B. Tawney, the author of the decision had declared that blacks could never be granted equal protection under the law because they were inferior to whites and forever in the final analysis they would always be inferior to whites. 

   Later, Justice Tawney observed that the “unhappy black race” had always been excluded from civilized government proceedings and that they were forever doomed to be slaves. Tawney went on to say “Negroes were beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations” and, finally, the decision said in part that: "they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect." [14]

    Du Bois’ approach was unique to scholarship at the time, and thus he stands out as one of the founding fathers of Sociology.  Unlike arm-chair research that was popular at the time, Du Bois was clear in his approach, that to really understand the “problems of the Negro” that one must listen to the voices of those under study. 

    Rather than simply accepting the commonly held beliefs and popular myths about African Americans and their experiences, Du Bois set out to systematically investigate their experiences.  In both The Philadelphia Negro and the Atlanta Sociology Project, Du Bois investigated the experiences and lived realities of African Americans living in the urban north and the rural south at the turn of the 20th Century.  By engaging in systematic research in two oppositional environments, Du Bois was among the first scholars to pioneer truly comparative methods.  This comparative approach led Du Bois to be able to make more accurate assessments of the plight of African Americans in various situations in the turn of the century United States as well as debunk the major myths about African Americans.

    As one of the first to use such systematic methods, Du Bois set the standard for ethnographic and interview research in the field of Sociology.  These methods would later be adopted by sociologists and used in investigations of virtually all social phenomena. [15] 

    Du Bois studies were also unique in that he is among the first to consider the voice of the “other”.  Again, rather than simply buying into the beliefs of contemporary philosophers and politicians, Du Bois established standards of objectivity that would shape sociology for the next century.

Standpoint Epistemology

    This is a contribution that is seldom attributed to Du Bois even though he may have been the first sociologist or philosopher to develop the concept of standpoint epistemology.   It is a concept that although it may lack support and utilization in mainstream sociology [16] is quite important to the fields of feminist sociology and feminism more broadly. [17]

    Standpoint epistemology, a term coined by Sandra Harding in the mid-1980s and early 1990s, refers to the argument that there are, in fact, different ways of knowing.  Epistemology, unlike methodology, does not refer to a particular set of rules for gathering data, but rather refers to the notion that researchers come to “know” about phenomena in different ways.  Standpoint epistemology developed as a philosophy of science to explain the ways that insider and outsider knowledge can be gained.  For decades, women and African American sociologists who studied the issues of “their own kind” were rebuked for being “too close” to the subject.  It was assumed that insider knowledge resulted in bias.  Yet, as Harding (1991) notes, the vast catalog of white men studying the problems of society, i.e., those of white men, is never problemetized, even today.  Though Merton addresses this question in his article on “Insiders and Outsiders” [18], he was in fact making a case for “outsiders”.  Merton was arguing that even those not of the group can study (methods) the group and get to know the issues (epistemology).

    Harding’s work, and that of others, seeks rather to rebuke the critique of the “insider”.  Harding (1991) notes, for example, that people’s lives both constrain and shape what they can know and we would argue, how they can know it.  One cannot separate the knower from the knowledge.

    Du Bois recognized that he was both an insider and an outsider in his investigations of the conditions of “the Negro.”  For example, in a book review of one of the premier political scientists of the time, Robert Warner, Du Bois makes a poignant observation that guided most of his insight about studying the life chances of African Americans.  He put it thus:

Mr. Warner impresses me as writing of the Negro group from the outside looking in, which is almost inevitable? I do not say that the only person who can write of England must be an Englishman, or that only Japanese should write of Japan; but I would insist that if a person is writing of a group to which he is socially and culturally alien, he must have some extraordinary gifts of insight.  This Mr. Warner conspicuously lacks.  He is not unsympathetic with Negroes nor in the slightest way inimical, but, on the other hand, he betrays no iota of real comprehension of what it meant to be a Negro in New Haven during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.  The New Haven Negroes deserve a better study than Mr. Warner has given them. [19] 
    Early on Du Bois recognized the power of his status as an insider, and used it to conduct some of the first systematic investigations of the life chances of African Americans.  Similarly, he recognized the need to stay objective, and thus put into place methods we now take for granted that allowed him to maximize his insider status while also maximizing research objectivity:
Initially, Du Bois had believed that one of the main problems black Americans faced was the ignorance about their true nature.  He believed that if he could conduct research and get it published, he could facilitate change.  Eventually he realized that enlightening research was not enough; the real problem was the ‘determination of certain people to suppress and mistreat the darker race.  He ‘could not be a calm, cool, and detached scientist while Negroes were being lynched, murdered and starved.’ [20]
    Our understanding and contention herein is that Du Bois should finally be invoked as the father of standpoint epistemology!   Du Bois exhibited a knack to see further than most. [21] Next, we turn to his work that explicates his awareness of issues related to women. [22]

Race, Class and Gender

    Thanks primarily to the work of African American feminists like Patricia Hill Collins, Deborah King, and Bonnie Thorton Dill, the race, class, gender paradigm has begun to infiltrate mainstream American Sociology and through the work of bell hooks (a.k.a. Gloria Watkins) in the humanities.

    The race, class, and gender approach can be described as one that recognizes various systems of oppression and privilege as existing in a matrix that result in various intersections of each system.  At the individual level, this means that the experiences of black women in the labor force are unique and may be similar to those of black men and of white women, but they are not completely consistent with either.  Maxine Baca Zinn and Bonnie Thorton Dill refer to this as the matrix of domination.  At the structural level, the race, class, and gender framework illuminates the ways in which different systems of domination are mutually reinforcing:  patriarchy is woven with racism (or race supremacy) both of which are woven with capitalism. [23]

    Deborah King refers to this as “double jeopardy” and argues that the inter-weaving of these systems is not additive (race plus gender effects) but rather is multiplicative.  Try to capture that in a standard regression model! 

    Professor Kings’ notion of double jeopardy is virtually identical to that of Du Bois concept of double consciousness.  Listen:

After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world,--a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness,--an American, a Negro; two warring souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.  The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife,--this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self…[24] 
    Du Bois, like Frederick Douglass before him [25], wrote extensively on the women’s suffrage movement and the ways in which it was interlocking with the struggle for African American civil rights.  He felt that African Americans would not see their civil rights bestowed without the same happening for women. Du Bois put it thus:
What is today the message of these black women to America and to the world?  The uplift of women is, next to the problem of the color line and the peace movement, our greatest modern cause.  When, now, two of these movements-woman and color-combine in one, the combination has deep meaning. [26]
    Du Bois is expressing a similar understanding of intersections of  systems of oppression that black feminists have drawn to our attention almost a century later!

    Taken together, Du Bois’ writing on double consciousness and the question of standpoint epistemology, we believe we make the case that Du Bois was perhaps the first American Sociologist to advance the race, class and gender paradigm and his writings could be noted as the basis for the emergence of both black feminist thought and the study of epistemology.  Yet, Du Bois is rarely cited in these works nor is he credited for spawning this line of thinking.  Du Bois was indeed a scholar ahead of his time, committed to changing the role of the subservient woman in America society.

    In terms of the newer race, class and gender paradigm Du Bois may not have had a concise theoretical model that he worked from-- remember his concern was race--but over the long course of his life he did consistently address all three issues and concerns.  Yet, we argue that Du Bois was an outsider and his ability to connect these three ‘systems of domination’ was slowed and does not take center stage until the 2nd wave of feminist scholarship in the 1980s, the first time that both female scholars and Africa American scholars have access to academic positions and are taken serious enough to be published (although both groups had to carve out research/publishing space of their own).  Finally, other than Frederick Engels and Du Bois we can not identify many males who in the 19th and early 20th century could critique the growth of capitalism, the ravages that accompany this growth [27] (poverty, ill-health, racism etc,) and at the same time include systematic critique of the “women’s question?” 

    It is interesting that neither philosophical writing on standpoint epistemology nor black feminism emerge fully until after the civil rights and feminist movements of the 1960s.  Perhaps the academic and political climates were not ripe during Du Bois time (although he is by the middle 1950s clearly using a class analysis in his work – see endnote #27) and it was necessary for political and social change to occur before his ideas could be resurrected and more fully realized.

    What is the role of the White feminists whom Du Bois was reading in shaping his understanding of the “the woman question?”  Du Bois is very critical of the racism in the movement for women’s suffrage and much later black feminists would be critical of the same in the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s.   We ask: was it necessary for white feminist sociology to be recognized and for black feminists to have a critical mass before these ideas could take hold?

    Du Bois heralded these questions and was clearly the forerunner in this debate.  Yet, he remains invisible to contemporary scholars looking to position race, class and gender into the main theoretical and analytical paradigms of modern sociology.  The final words are from Du Bois.

One thing alone I charge you, as you live, believe in Life! Always human beings will live and progress to greater, broader and fuller life. The only possible death is to lose belief in this truth simply because the Great End comes slowly, because time is long.
-- W. E. B. Du Bois, “Last Statement to the World”
    (Read at the 1963 “March on Washington”)

Aptheker, Bettina. 1982. “On the Damnation of Women: W. E. B. Du Bois  and a Theory for Women’s Emancipation.” Pp. in 77-88 in Bettina Aptheker Woman’s Legacy: Essays on Race, Sex, and Class in American History.  Amherst, MA.: University of Massachusetts Press. 

Aptheker, Herbert. (ed). 1973. The Complete Published Works of W.E.B. Du  Bois.  Millwood, New York: Kraus-Thompson Publishers.

Aptheker, Herbert (ed.).  1973. The Correspondence of W. E. B. Du Bois,  Three Volumes, 1877-1963. Amherst, MA.: The University of Massachusetts Press.

Aptheker, Herbert (Ed).  1973. The Annotated Bibliography of the Published Writings of W. E. B. Du Bois. Millwood, New York: 
Kraus-Thompson Org.

Collins, Patricia Hill. 1990. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, 
Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. New York: Routledge.

Davis, Angela Y. 1981. Women, Race and Class. New York:  Random House.

Davis, Angela Y. 1978. “Rape, Racism and the Capitalist Setting.” Black Scholar 9: 24-30.

Du Bois, William Edward Burghardt. 1895. The Suppression of the African  Slave Trade to the United States of America, 1638-1870. New York: Longman Green (Harvard Historical Series Volume #1).

Du Bois, William Edward Burghardt. 1903. The Souls of Black Folk. Chicago: A. C. McClurg and Company

Du Bois, William Edward Burghardt. 1968. The Autobiography of W. E. B. Du Bois: A Soliloquy on Viewing My Life from the Last Decade of Its First Century.  Herbert Aptheker (ed.). New York:  International Publishers.

Du Bois, William Edward Burghardt. 1975. Black Folk Then and Now: An Essay in the History and Sociology of the Negro Race.  Herbert Aptheker (ed.) (originally published in 1939). New York:  Kraus-Thompson.

Du Bois, William Edward. [1896] 1996. The Philadelphia Negro: A Social 
Study. New Introduction by Elijah Anderson.  Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Green, Dan and Edwin Driver. 1978. W. E. B. Du Bois on Sociology and the Black Community. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 

King, Deborah. 1988. “Multiple Jeopardy, Multiple Consciousness: The Context of a Black Feminist Ideology.” Signs 14:42-72.

Lewis, David L., 1993.  W.E.B. Du Bois--Biography of a Race, 1868-1919. New York: Henry Holt.

Patterson, Orlando. 1997. The Ordeal of Integration. Washington, DC.: Civitas.

Stacey, Judith and Barrie Thorne.  1985.  “The Missing Revolution in Sociology.”  Social Problems.  32:301-16.

End Notes

* Dedication:  this paper on William Edward Burghardt Du Bois is dedicated to the late Herbert Aptheker, Ph.D. (Columbia University; History).  It was from Dr. Aptheker that co-author Smith not only learned much about the life and times of Du Bois but was generously given access to the Du Bois Papers prior to their final assembly and initial publication.

[1]  Du Bois death was announced at the podium by Roy Wilkins (Executive Director of the NAACP) at the August 28, 1963 March on Washington.  At the march where Dr. Martin Luther King gave his now famous “I Have A Dream” speech were approximately 250,000 participants. Wilkins said: “Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois is dead…..Regardless of the fact that in his later years Dr. Du Bois choose another path it is incontrovertible that at the dawn of the twentieth century his was the voice calling you to gather here today in this cause.” (see David l. Lewis, 1993, W. E. B. Du Bois: Biography of A Race. p. 2).

[2]  Du Bois did hold previous university teaching posts with the first being a Professor of Greek and Latin at Wilberforce University in Ohio. 

[3]  Autobiography, p. 197.

[4]  This, in and of itself is interesting.  On the debacle see Jesse Burk to Samuel McCune Lindsay, February 17, 1897 W. E. B. Du Bois Papers. Also, Correspondence, Volume I.

[5]  Harvard University Ph.D. – 1896. Dissertation title: The Suppression of the African Slave Trade to the United States of America, 1638-1870. New York: Longman Green (Harvard Historical Series Volume #1).

[6]  See, especially Ernest Kaiser (ed.), 1968. Introduction to W .E. B. Du Bois, The Atlanta University Publications. New York: Arno Press. 

[7]   W. E. B. Du Bois, 1899 [1996]. The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study. Philadelphia, Penn.: University of Pennsylvania Press.  (New Introduction by Elijah Anderson).

[8]  The following paragraph is a response to an anonymous reviewer asking us to explain why Du Bois was not accepted as a part of mainstream sociology.

[9]  American Sociological Association, August 2003 “Special Session”. W.E.B. Du Bois and the Souls of Sociology: A Century of Cultural Uncertainty.” 

[10]  Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia, 1998. Dismantling Persistent Poverty.

[11]  This is the same hypothetical question often posed as to whether or not Joe Louis, in his prime, would have beaten Muhammad Ali, in his prime. Who knows?

[12]  Earl Smith and Dan Green. 1983. “W.E.B. Du Bois and the Concepts of Race and Class.”  Phylon: The Atlanta University Review of Race and Culture 44(4).

[13]  We benefit enormously from the prior research on Du Bois that came with and after the University of Chicago publication by Dan Green and Edwin Driver in their 1978 book entitled W. E. B. Du Bois on Sociology and the Black Community.

[14]  Don E. Fehrenbacher. 2001. The Dred Scott Case: Its Significance in American Law and Politics.
See also,  “The Dred Scott Decision” by Bob Moore, JNEM Historian.

[15]  One anonymous reviewer feels that we overstate the case of Du Bois’ contribution to research methodology.  We note that William James was a philosopher.  We disagree, though, that Du Bois owes his research methodology to Max Weber.  Weber and his wife (Marianne) came to the US to visit Du Bois as Weber was interested in the so-called Negro and wanted to negotiate with Du Bois to have the Souls book translated into German. See, the Aptheker ed. Volume 1 of The Correspondence of W. E. B. Du Bois, wherein on pages 106 and 107, Professor Max Weber is “begging” Du Bois to have his Souls of Black Folk book translated and published in Germany.  Weber may have written about “objectivity” –something that all top sociology graduate programs teach their students--but he didn’t put into practice this scholarship nor did he go out and, house by house conduct empirical work as did Du Bois did as early as 1896. 

[16]  Most introductory textbooks as well as methods text assume the dominant methodological model for the discipline is positivism.  Currently, the few sites of resistance to this general model are under the larger rubric of ethnomethodology.  Few, if any, standard methods texts, let alone introductory texts, make mention of standpoint epistemology.  A quick search of Social Science Citation Index indicates that discussions of standpoint epistemology are limited to articles about feminist methods and race/class/gender as a framework for analysis.  Standpoint epistemology, which has its roots in the philosophy of science (Harding) has not yet entered the dominant methodological or theoretical discourse in mainstream American Sociology.

[17]  Harding, Sandra.  1991.  Whose Science?  Whose Knowledge?  Ithaca, NY:  Cornell University Press.

[18]  Robert K. Merton. 1972. “Insiders and Outsiders: A Chapter in the Sociology of Knowledge.” The American Journal of Sociology 78:9-47.

[19]  W. E. B. Du Bois. 1942. Review of Robert Warner’s New Haven Negroes: A Social History, in American Historical Review, January, 47: 376-377.

[20]  Lucal, Betsy. 1996.  “Race, Class, and Gender in the work of W. E. B. Du Bois:  An Exploratory Study.” Research in Race and Ethnic Relations.  9:191-210.

[21] We ponder this “seeing further” notion as it appears years later from the pen of the Dean of American Sociology Robert K. Merton in his famous epistolary book On The Shoulders of Giants: A Shandean Postscript (1965). New York: Harcourt Brace. 

[22]  There are some serious allegations that Du Bois was a ‘womanizer” and that he neglected his daughter Yolanda. On this see, especially, the biography by Lewis (1993) pages 449-465.

[23] See bibliography entries for Angela Davis and Orlando Patterson on the way that these systems worked to support the lynching culture of the south from the 1880s to the 1930s.

[24] Excerpted from the chapter “Of Our Spiritual Strivings” in his book The Souls of Black Folk. 

[25]  Frederick Douglass, 1848, “Woman Suffrage.” Pp. 517-520 in Philip S. Foner (ed.), The Voice of Black America: Major Speeches by Negroes in the United States, 1797-1971. New York: Simon and Schuster. 

[26]  Bettina Aptheker, 1982. Women’s Legacy: Essays on Race, Sex, and Class in American History. Amherst, MA.: University of Massachusetts Press, p. 81. 

[27]   Du Bois’ critique of capitalism is very clear in the “Preface” to the 1953 edition of the Souls book put out by Howard Fast then editor for the Blue Heron Press.  “But today I see more clearly than yesterday that back of the problem of race and color, lies a greater problem which both obscures and implements it: and that is the fact that so many civilized persons are willing to live in comfort even if the price of this is poverty, ignorance, and disease of the majority of their fellowmen; that to maintain this privilege men have waged war until today war tends to become universal and continuous, and the excuse for this war continues largely to be color and race.” 

© -2005 – Angela Hattery and Earl Smith

 Return to Sociation Today Spring 2005