Source: National Park Service Photograph
SEPARATISM, RACISM, AND
SOCIAL EXCLUSION: THE
BLACK THINKER - An examination
of W. E. Du Bois’ Life
Paul Andrew Bourne
October 6, 2006
The historical contributions, significance and potency of a particular sect of people within
our space appear to lack impetus, whenever we begin to examine, analyze, and/or delve
into the contributions of the same people to various arenas of world history. It seems that
a black force covers the inputs of Blacks in our annals. The issues of racism, colonialism,
separatism and apartheid become black, belittling, intense and even opaque during any
discourse that must assess the worth and value of the Blacks in academics,
entrepreneurship, engineering, and/or inventions. History has been good to the Blacks by
deliberately blacklisting them from discoveries before, during and after civilization. This
paper does not seek to substantiate, blackout or whitewash the truths of racism or even
endorse any of its tenets but is primarily concerned with re-writing history without a
colour coding schema. One Black scholar, of noble beginnings, has contributed
infinitesimally to sociology by introducing the rigours of empiricism to the discipline in
the study of social man, but, today, has not been lauded, merited or even recognized as
having aided the subject’s parameters, breadth and moreso evolution. Dr. William E. B.
Du Bois’ research on the Philadelphia Negroes played a pivotal role in concretizing a
schema that sociology can be studied with the same degree of scientificness like that of
the natural sciences. Despite his contribution to the doctrine of social sciences, he is
somewhere in nowhere. This thesis, in using Du Bois’ blacklisted position, from a
discipline that he so aptly helped to form, shows the ease to which the mega-structure is
able to ‘blackout’ the enormous worth of any group that it so desires to ostracize from
any area of society. Dr. Du Bois, a sociologist and Pan-Africanist, was able to bridge the
divide between academics and general daily existence of man. The value added to
sociology as a result of his birth is embedded in his decisions, choices, monographs, and
organization that has and continue to foster discourse of some societal issues. Dr. Du
Bois was an applied sociologist, among other things, who understood the importance of
scholarship in explaining social phenomenon, while seeking to objectively measure what
is, instead of accepting an established truth. This scholar was the first academic to utilize
discourse analysis to examine aspects of racism, and social injustices, and by so doing
highlighted how structures are used to justify social happenings. This paper uses
historical comparative analysis to illustrate the mega-structure’s function in meriting who
it chooses, while disbarring others. The value of this schema is evident as to how Marx,
Comte, Spencer, Weber, Durkheim and others were elevated to supremacy in sociology,
with Du Bois being blacklisted. Dr. Taylor spoke to this in Stolen Legacy as an aspect of
the schema of the plantocracy and the elitist dominance to reduce the worth of the Blacks
in all spheres of our society.
Keywords: Paul Andrew Bourne, Mega-structure, Sociology, Contribution, Empiricism,
Scientificness, William E. Du Bois, Orville Taylor, Study of the Philadelphian Negroes,
historical contributions, civilization, sideline, Pan-Africanist.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The sociology of neglect
The non-academic side
...Du Bois, to his admirers, was by spirited devotion and scholarly
dedication, an attacker of injustice and a defender of freedom (Hynes
On February 23, 1868 in a minute village of New
England, Great Barrington, Massachusetts, New
England, United States, in which a few African
Americans reside, a child was born named W.E.B.
(William Edward Burghardt) Du Bois. He was born to
Alfred and Mary Silvina Burghardt Du Bois. One of
the socio-economic challenges that hinders the
evolution of the Blacks in a society is the role (or the
(Source: Library of Congress)
lack thereof) that fathers play in the socialization process of their children, and the
sociopsychologic deficiency that results because they are not cognizant of their role as
parents. Du Bois was no exception as his father, Alfred, left the marital home for
somewhere else while William was still an infant; so, he was raised by his mother, Mary
(see for example, Franceshi, 2005; Hynes (2003); McKissack 1990; FBI, 1942). History
reads that he was the only child for his mother, Mary Du Bois, who emphasized the value
of education and diligence as a vehicle for social mobility and success.
The path that Dr. Du Bois’ life took was not an easy one, but it is a make for a
delightful read. History records that he was the first Black American to have graduated
from his class and the foremost African American to have graduated in Great Barrington
from Great Barrington Secondary school, at the time (Du Bois 99). Due to the fact that
Fisk College (now University) was not located in Great Barrington but to the South, Du
Bois had to relocate to Nashville, Tennessee. While there, he was exposed to first hand
overt segregation and racism. Although he was experiencing segregation and blatant
racism, he was still able to surround himself with educated African-Americans and liberal
whites who were instrumental in awakening a social consciousness within him that
influenced his life thereafter. He later posits that, “I was tossed boldly into the ‘Negro
Problem’ . . . I suddenly came to a region where the world was split into white and black
halves, and where the darker half was held back by race prejudice and legal bonds, as
well as by deep ignorance and dire poverty” (Du Bois, 1976, 108). This may have begun
the social consciousness of his race and may even have propelled that willingness that he
displayed in using himself as that vehicle for the black and white halves of society - that
there is social equality in competency of the races irrespective of their skin pigmentation.
On graduating from Fisk College, (now University), which was a black
institution, in 1888 with an A.B (now B.A) degree in Philosophy. Between 1888 and
1890 he entered Harvard University as a junior and received a second A.B degree cum
laude (FBI, 1954, 5). Du Bois did post graduate work at Harvard University between
1890 and 1892 in which he pursued and successfully completed a M.A degree in
philosophy and history.
He was boiled with anger by ex-president Rutherford B Hayes’s assertion that he
(Rutherford Hayes) could not find a commendable black student to take advantage of a
fund to educate Negro students (Hynes, 2003). This assertion angered Du Bois greatly,
so he applied directly to Hayes for the scholarship, and was successfully allocated the
grant (Slater Fund Fellowship for Graduate Study Abroad).
While Du Bois was at Harvard University, he distant himself from the system as
he felt the purpose of him being there was to “Improve the condition of the race as a
whole” (McKissack, 1990, 30). Du Bois was so adamant about social segregation,
exclusion and racism that while at Harvard, he chose not to socialize with many of the
other Harvard students, choosing instead to spend his time with the African-Americans in
Boston, encasing himself in a completely coloured world. It was during that period that
Du Bois solidified his belief that education was the cure for his people. This undoubtedly
would have been as a result of his early socialization with his mother and which would
justify why, he believed that “the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the
colour line, the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in
America and the islands of the seas” (Weinberg, 81). As such, Dr. Du Bois theorized that
education was the only way the African-Americans could save themselves from poverty,
exclusion and racism – could this be an explanation for monographs such as - ‘The
Talented Tenth’, ‘The Souls of Black Folk’, ‘The Philadelphia Negro’, ‘Dark
Princess’, ‘Colour and Democracy’, ‘Black Reconstruction in America’, ‘Black Folk
Then and Now’, ‘Darkwater’ and ‘John Brown’.
In 1896, Du Bois was awarded a PhD from Harvard. His dissertation reads the
‘Suppression of the African Slave Trade to the United States of America, 1638-1890’. It
was published in 1897 and became the first volume for the Harvard Historical Studies.
From various sources (see for example, FBI, 1942, 1958; Bridgewater State College,
2006), Dr. Du Bois was the first African American to have received a Ph.D. in history
from (Harvard). Prior to the completion of his PhD at Harvard, because of financial
constraint, he stopped one semester short from completing a Doctor of Philosophy from
the University of Berlin, Germany (1892-1894).
(Harvard graduation, 1890. The six class day speakers; Du Bois is at the far right)
It was between 1892 and 1895 while finalizing his doctorial dissertation that Du
Bois brilliantly postulated that it was highly probable that the race phenomenon can be
subjected to scientific scrutiny. This inevitably placed Du Bois in an irreparable conflict
with the social Darwinism, and the hereditarianism research programme which attempted
to verify it. During 1897 to 1914, he conducted numerous studies of the Blacks and the
Blacks in society in America. This resulted in 16 published research papers. He began the
investigations believing that social science could provide answers to the race problems.
Gradually he concluded that in a climate of virulent racism, social change could only be
accomplished by agitation and protest. These were the dominant ‘ideoshanal’ and
research paradigms on race matters with Anglo American social psychology of the time.
Both actively capitulated and apologized for racism, both vigorously supported class
exploitation; each claimed that social structure and social behaviour for the consequences
of inherited genetic characteristics.
According to Hynes, Du Bois was fashioned into the end product that he became
from studying in Berlin (Hynes, 2003). It appears that Du Bois was not simply driven by
knowledge but he wanted to change the man made social structure that drove some
people for normally participating in society into isolation and inferiority. This is
embedded in the ‘Soul of Black Folks’ in which he stated that:
I. The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men. The
problem of education, then, among Negroes must first of all deal with the Talented
Tenth; it is the problem of developing the Best of this race that they may guide the
Mass away from the contamination and death of the Worst, in their own and other
races. Now the training of men is a difficult and intricate task. Its technique is a
matter for educational experts, but its object is for the vision of seers. If we make
money the object of man-training, we shall develop money-makers but not
necessarily men; if we make technical skill the object of education, we may possess
artisans but not, in nature, men. Men we shall have only as we make manhood the
object of the work of the schools—intelligence, broad sympathy, knowledge of the
world that was and is, and of the relation of men to it—this is the curriculum of that
Higher Education which must underlie true life. On this foundation we may build
bread winning, skill of hand and quickness of brain, with never a fear lest the child
and man mistake the means of living for the object of life. . . .
II. If this be true—and who can deny it—three tasks lay before me; first to show from
the past that the Talented Tenth as they have risen among American Negroes have
been worthy of leadership; secondly, to show how these men may be educated and
developed; and thirdly, to show their relation to the Negro problem. . . .
III. From the very first it has, been the educated and intelligent of the Negro people that
have led and elevated the mass, and the sole obstacles that nullified and retarded
their efforts were slavery and race prejudice; . . . (Du Bois, 1903)
From Du Bois’ monograph (as previously forwarded), the social realities of the then
Blacks can only be transformed through the education of competent Blacks. This would
follow the educated Blacks using the garnered knowledge to aid the social development
of their race. The Black race redemption does not lie in the spirituality, but is driven by
an understanding of that which exists and how the educated among the Blacks will foster
this renaissance. The lever to the process will not be based on primary education, but the
collaboration of diligent work and education with a vision of the social reality of the race
in order to inject fuels within the less educated Blacks as to how they will need to fashion
a programme to elevate themselves from the bondage, exclusion and dependency that
they have come to accept as normal. Du Bois believed that this could only be
materialized by what he referred to as the ‘Exceptional men’.
It was while in Europe (University of Berlin) that Du Bois’ social consciousness
of the injustices of particular groups of people began unfolding. But this time, it emerged
from a global perspective (i.e. in Asia, Africa, Americas and the political development of
Europe). This then explain Williams’ interest in the merger of economics, history and
politics in the study of his people.
I have extensively pursued a plethora of monographs inclusive of Du Bois’ works
and I must admit that there is no substantial documentary evidence to support Hynes’
claim that Williams was deliberately prevented from completing a PhD. from the
University of Berlin because of race phenomenon. According to Hynes (2003)
Du Bois had completed a draft of his dissertation and needed another semester or
so to finish his degree. But the men over his funding sources decided that the
education he was receiving there was unsuitable for the type of work needed to
help Negroes. They refused to extend him any more funds and encouraged him to
obtain his degree from Harvard. Which of course he was obliged to do. His
doctoral thesis, The Suppression of the African Slave Trade in America, remains
the authoritative work on that subject, and is the first volume in Harvard’s
Historical Series (Hynes, 2003).
Hynes argued that the University of Berlin (in Germany) was considered to be the
‘world’s finest institution of higher learning’ during Du Bois’ tenure at that school. If
this were the case, then, he could not be allowed to complete such a milestone within the
context of the structure that speaks to an inferior class (i.e. the Negroes). What followed
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois
Laura Wheeler Waring,Oil on canvas, not dated, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, gift of
Walter Waring in memory of his wife, Laura Wheeler Waring, through the Harmon Foundation. Taken
The evolution of Du Bois’ life gradually emerged after the completion of his PhD.
Willie’s first job commenced at Wilberforce University, where he taught Greek and
Latin. This appointment was short lived as Du Bois joined the academic staff of Atlanta
University (now Clark Atlanta University – 1897-1910), Georgia, in 1897 following a 2-
year stay at Wilberforce University, while spending one year (1896/97) on staff at
Pennsylvania University as an assistant instructor in sociology (McDonnell 1981, viii).
It was during his tenure at Wilberforce that he married Nina Gomer who was a
student of his at the time. The marriage lasted for 53 years. Mrs. Nina Du Bois died 1950
(McDonnell, 1950, viii). Mrs. Nina and Williams Du Bois had two children. Their first
child was born in 1898 and died 2-years afterward but a second child Yolande was born
in 1901 and died in 1960. Willie’s marriage to Nina was not to be his only such social
relationship as in 1951 (i.e. 2/14/51) he wed Lola Graham (born 11/11/1899). Mrs. Lola
Graham Du Bois (also known as Shirley Graham, or Lola Shirley Bell Graham) was first
married to Shadrach T. MC Cants (on 7/16/1918). She was professor of music at Morgan
College. This did not alt his illustrious career in any form as while at Atlanta (1896-1910;
1934-44), he founded the department of sociology in which he lectured as professor for
sociology and history (FBI, 1942; Hynes 2003). On the second time around at Atlanta
College, Dr. Du Bois was head of the sociology department between 1934 and 1944.
One source noted that Du Bois was head of the department of history and economics
(Bridgewater State College, 2006).
Du Bois at his desk in the Crisis office, circa 1915
Du Bois began his academic and public careers at a time when the forces of
reaction had achieved political, ‘ideoshanal’ and cultural supremacy in the United States.
It was within this background that he began his long journey in pursuit of the truth. He
taught that this truth could be studied through scientific investigation. Scientific rigor
and an unbending partisanship to the cause of African-Americans equality defined the
part he chose. In retrospect, Du Bois’ scientific effort has prevailed over both Herbert
Spencer’s and Francis Galton’s research programme of scientific racism. W. E. B. Du
Bois brought back the German scientific ideal from the University of Berlin and was one
of the first to initiate scientific sociological study in the United States.
Dr Du Bois thrust eagerly and indepthly into research. He believed that the race
problem (segregation and white racism) was one of ignorance. So, he was determined to
unearth scientific knowledge as much as he could, thereby providing the "cure" for color
prejudice. Williams’ unrelenting research led into historical investigation, statistical and
anthropological measurement, and sociological interpretation. The outcome of this
exhaustive endeavor was published as The Philadelphia Negro (Hynes, 2003). "It
revealed the Negro group as a symptom, not a cause; as a striving, palpitating group, and
not an inert, sick body of crime; as a long historic development and not a transient
occurrence" (Hynes, 2003). The Philadelphia Negro study was of its kind but this was
not the only tenet of this project as it was the first time in America that such a scientific
approach to studying social phenomena was undertaken. Hynes (2003) posited that this
elevated Professor Dr. Du Bois to the status of father of Social Sciences.
(McDonnell, 1981, ix)
The ease to which common sense replaces scientific inquiry is high, but I am
cognizant of such a social reality. With this knowledge, I expanded the literature from
Hynes in order to establish Professor Dr. Du Bois experiences and in the process
investigate a relationship between his pigmentation and his exclusion from the apex of
sociology. It can be construed from McDonnell’s monograph that Du Bois is equal to all
of the other founding father of sociology. Instead of the paths taken by Du Bois, what
else should he have done?
On the completion of the study (the scientific observation of The Philadelphia
Negro), he accepted a position at Atlanta University to further his teachings in sociology.
For approximately thirteen (13) years, Du Bois wrote and intensely studied the Negro
morality, urbanization, Negroes in business, college-bred Negroes, the Negro church, and
Negro crime. William Du Bois also repudiated the widely held view of Africa as a vast
cultural cipher by presenting a historical version of complex, cultural development
throughout Africa. His works left no issue unturned in an effort to promote and help
social reform. Many argue that because of Du Bois’ outpouring of information "there
was no study made of the race problem in America which did not depend in some degree
upon the investigations made at Atlanta University."
Du Bois was not primarily concerned with the study of race in particular the
coloured caste from a supercilious depth but through empiricism. One of his contentions
is the utilization of science as a systematic inquiry in the study of social facts. He had to
grapple with “present condition of sociological study” (The Atlanta Conference, 1905,
85-89), because the discipline was new and had not taken full disclosure of techniques,
methods and methodology. Hence, Professor Dr. Du Bois was just experimenting with
the sociological science through reliable methods of observation, because he believed that
this was an ‘enlightening way’ of systematically investigating the race phenomenon. The
publication of the Philadelphia Negro emerged from this era in addition to his
dissertation. This justifies the recognition of his dissertation by Harvard, as it was
published as the first book in evolution of social science studies. Many writers argue that
to date, Du Bois’ dissertation is the sole research to date that extensively and
scientifically studied the race phenomenon (see for example, University of Chicago 2006;
Hynes, 2003; FBI, 1942, 1958: University of Michigan, unknown; University of Virginia
W E B Du Bois, the scientist, the social reformer, the advocate of black equality
and the pioneer begin the introduction of scientific racism must be among the fathers of
sociology. Furthermore, in Tony Monteiro’s view:
In retrospect, Du Bois's scientific effort has prevailed over both Herbert Spencer's
and Francis Galton's; that is, the research program of scientific racism. This in
spite of the fact that scientific racism continues to rear its ugly head, as revealed
in the publication of The Bell Curve. Du Bois's emphasis upon class and social
structure as the primary causal factors of social behavior, social action and social
conflict, subsequently propelled a tradition in American social science that
Franz Boas, to the Chicago School of Sociology and up till the present. Professor
E. Digby Baltzell argues that Franz Boas in The Mind of Primitive Man (1911)
was echoing the findings of Du Bois when he wrote that "the traits of the
American Negro are adequately explained on the basis of his history and his
social status...without falling back upon the theory of hereditary inferiority."
Du Bois's historical research, beginning with the Suppression of the African Slave
Trade (1895), through Black Reconstruction (1935), Black Folk Then and Now
(1939) and The World and Africa (1947) laid a materialist foundation in
American and African historiography. His masterwork in philosophy The Souls of
Black Folk (1903) remains a central achievement in moving American philosophy
beyond the strictures of pragmatism and positivism (Monteiro, 1995)
Du Bois’s literary production is rather massive. According to Herbert Apthker,
“it is on a Dickenson scale”. Yet more than this, his contributions in many respects laid a
scientific materialist foundation for sociology and historiography. His most important
works have that rare quality that brings paradigmatic; setting the broad philosophical and
conceptual outlines of disciplinary research. In this respect, his work in both sociology
and history established an alternative research programme. The Du Boisian’s paradigm
is a consistent alternative to sociobiology, the assimilationist and the declining
significance of rare paradigms. Du Bois’ scholarship in history, sociology, social history,
political economy and literature has the quality of taking on fundamental questions in a
scientific and courageous manner. This gives a time less quality to his most important
work and many of his historical predictions. Of this kind is Du Bois’ brilliant prediction
at the beginning of this century that “the problem of the twentieth century is the problem
of colour line.” The lasting significance of this prediction is that of making it. He did not
absolutize the issue of race by suggesting that it is not the only problem of this century,
nor did he separate race from the modified problems that emerged in the twentieth
century. But what his scholarship and research sought to do was to verify the interactive
relationship between race, class and the multi-level configuration of the social structure
of modern society. Du Bois saw race in a global context. He connected the problem of
race to the colonial system and the world economic system. Du Bois was one of twenty
nine (29) men who formed the Niagara Movement that was later merged with a white
liberalism to form the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People
(NAACP) in 1909 (Broderick).
Du Bois prophetically saw the world
with a new colonialism and the same
old human slavery which once ruined
us, to a third world war, which will
ruin the world. As a result, he also
called for the outlawing of nuclear
weapons. The richness of Du Bois’ work can be a problem in his works such as the The
Suppression of the African Slave Trade (1896), The Philadelphia Negro (1892), and The
Black Reconstruction as few of them. In The Suppression of the African Slave Trade, he
evinces an approach to history writings that does not include advocacy or partnership.
This masterpiece was out of print and publication for some fifty (50) years. What an
irony? In 1954, the Social Science Press re-established the publication of The
Suppression of the African Slave Trade. Within that Edition, Du Bois included a
‘postlude’ which is a short explanation of some omissions he made in the book. He
considered a particular naiveté with respect to human psychology which reflected the pre-
Freudian epoch of the book’s production and the other weaknesses. He gave most of the
weight to the ‘Marxian analyses’. He acknowledged the existing emphasis in the book
but indicated the absence of the concept of class domination of the state, class struggle
and class interest as basic to the historical process.
Du Bois’ blackness and the fact that he was an African-American did not cripple
his ability to explore beyond the natural but was the hallmark on which he sought to show
the equality of the Africans, as it relates to scholarship. The Philadelphia Negro clearly
shows the scholastic aptitude of this black man (Du Bois) as was set out to be proven by
Du Bois. The Philadelphia Negro is the first major work of Americas and by extension
the world in regard to empirical sociology and remains unsuppressed in it methodology,
research design, conceptualization, scope and rigor (Katlz). Although the Philadelphia
Negro is basically ignored by most scholars in the field, it is the pre-eminent model in
sociology. The Philadelphia Negro can be considered to be part of a larger scientific
project which included Du Bois’ Atlanta studies. Between 1897 and 1910 Du Bois
headed a team of researchers who rigorously studied the race question in the United
States and the situation of the African-Americans. He took charge of the Atlanta
University’s annual sociological conferences. This conference was attended by imminent
scholars such as Max Weber and Franz Boas who would present scholarship papers. As
such, Du Bois’ scholarship became a central part of the movements of reform and against
poverty and racism. In this Du Bois stated that the final design of the work is to lie
before the publics. He believed that the body of information may be a safe guide for all
efforts towards the solution of the Negro problems of great America. By 1896, Du Bois
already understood what many conservatives and liberal sociologists have not yet
digested “ghettorization” and poverty are not the creations of the poor but are as a result
of the processes controlled by economic and political forces far removed from the ghetto
and the poor themselves. He posits poverty, “ghettorization” and crime are symptoms of
institutional and structural racism.
In spite of Du Bois’s marvelous scholastic achievements, a generation later, in
favourable reviews in Harris and Spencer’s The Black Worker, critiqued his Philadelphia
Negro for a certain ‘provincialism’ which intended to view the oppression of black
people from the view of religion, humanity and sentiment; rather than from the position
of socio-economic realities and alignments. Du Bois a scholar from the school of
William James, George Santayana and Hegel, was fully aware of the epistemological
crisis facing philosophy at the end of the nineteenth century. The Souls is a unique Du
Boisian effort to philosophically address the problem of race and the failure of American
pragmatism to provide a philosophical framework for a social science of race. Another
work by this intuitive scholar was Black Reconstruction. The book received a positive
reception and an enthusiastic response from the Afro-American periodicals and journals.
His long association with Pan African efforts, the imminent historian Rayford Logan,
said that Black Reconstruction revealed that Du Bois was both a merciless critic and a
constructive historian. According to Logan the real value of this epoch making book is
that it is the first Marxian interpretation of this crucial period. Du Bois also sought to
make clear that Reconstruction was an episode in the entire worldwide struggle of the
rich against the poor. The book did not only review and approach the specificity of the
land question in the south but the entire matter of property right; indeed, he called one of
the most pregnant chapters in the book “Counter-Revolution of Property”.
Du Bois rejected the naïve optimism of American exceptionalism and idealism of
hegelimism. In The History of the American Negro he argued, is the history of this strife,
this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and
truer self. In this merger, he wished neither a lost of the older self. He maintained that
real history should be confronted head on, and thus sought to construct a philosophy of
real history and of human action. Charles Wesley, a historian, portrayed Du Bois as a
“Lyric historian, the literary knight with a plumbed pen”.
THE SOCIOLOGY OF NEGLECT
Why the visible marginalization of Du Bois in sociology? It would appear that both
contemporary and traditional sociologists have not seen it fit to epitomize Du Bois to the
premier status of being one of the founding fathers of the discipline. Despite his
unprecedented contributions to the discipline and the materialist foundation that Du Bois
has offered to this branch of the social science, his legacy is somewhere between the
opaque lines in all sociological texts and the untold story of the captured. This essay has
outlined the scholarship of Dr Du Bois as it relates to the scientific approach of the study
of issue as race and the invaluable legacy that he has felt for the study of other social
phenomena that were once conceived as unscientific. Then why is W E B Du Bois not
mentioned in the same sentence with persons like Max Weber, Karl Marx, Emile
Durkheim, Saint-Simon and Auguste Comte.
In 1956, I shall not go to the polls. I have not registered. I believe that democracy
has so far disappeared in the United States that no "two evils" exist. There is but
one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say....
(Du Bois 1956)
Williams’ stance would have created a rush of retaliatory ‘bad’ within the
hegemonic class as this would inform the premise of his anti-appreciation for the
democracy exhibited in his country. From Du Bois blatant disregard for the mega-
structure system, by not wanting to vote, symbolizes a clear trampling of the democracy
as established by the elitist. Du Bois was a socialist in a capitalist society, and this meant
that he was exhibiting social deviant behaviour, which informs the structure’s ostracizing
him from social greatness as this is controlled by them. Embedded in Du Bois’ actions is
a state of wanting to topple that which existed, a situation that would not favour the state
of white separatism and those who control the economic power. Marx was a socialist
who was an Anglo-Saxon and European, which are different from the properties of Du
Auguste Comte is lauded for his contributions to sociology and epitomized to the
helm of the discipline because of firstly coining the term sociology and secondly laying
the materialist foundation that the subject would be studied with the same scientific
rigours as the natural sciences. Did Auguste Comte use empirical evidence to validate
his position that social phenomena could be externalized and as a result be studied with
the same scientific rigours as the natural sciences? Answer – No. Then, why is he
among the fathers of the discipline? Answer – he was the first individual to establish the
notion of a discipline known as sociology and in addition he distinguished characteristics
that are fundamental to the establishment of the study of the discipline.
Marxian theories represented a significant growth of the postulations of some of
the greatest representatives of beliefs, economic idea, and socialism. Those positions are
the essence, a fusion of German philosophy, English economic thought, and the best of
French socialism (Rob Sewell, 1994). As such, Marx matured under an atmosphere of
Hegelianism and its unavoidable influence – through radical Hegelianism and the Young
Hegelians (Jim Blaut, Hegelian and Marxist Dialects, 2002). That influence became
apparent in Marx’s dialectical approach to understanding the fundamental sociological
question: “How is society Possible?”
The theoretical intercourse that occurs within Marxian thought is made apparent
through the many manifestations of the dialectics within society. For distinguished
sociologist, Karl Marx, the role of the dialectic is in analyzing the antagonistic and
contradicting forces within society. So, conflict then becomes one of, if not the most
important concept used in Marxian thought to explain or show the existence of the
dialectical nature of society. It should be noted that, a dialectical relationship also existed
in Marxian theories, between the structures or infrastructure and the superstructure, the
bourgeoisie and the proletariat (that is, the oppressor and the oppressed, the exploiter and
the exploited), ‘class consciousness’ and ‘false consciousness’, and even between conflict
Therefore it becomes essential in examining and distinguishing ‘the roles of
dialectics and conflict in Marx’s sociology on a whole’, to define the key concepts of
Marxian thought. Reason being this is important in understanding the question being
asked. According to the Dictionary.com, 2003, dialectic is the “contradiction between
two conflicting forces viewed as the determining factor in their continuing interaction.”
As such, by extension therefore, conflict or class struggle may be defined as the “struggle
between capital and labour” (Bob Jessop, Karl Marx, Key Sociological Thinkers, 1998).
Therefore, it is the resulting contradiction caused by antagonism within the dialectical
relationship. This suggests that social change, broadly defined, is the post facto
occurrence of class conflict.
The role of dialectic, therefore, is in analyzing the relationship between two
opposite forces. So, conflict then becomes the central theme of the dialectical
relationship, and social class conflict that leads to social change. This is the basis of
Marxian theories: but, “it is more complicated than this simple and faceless explanation
which calls for more in depth analytical exploration of the matter”.
THE NON-ACADEMIC SIDE
Du Bois with delgates from the Junior NAACP, Cleveland, 1929
Could Du Bois’ early socialization and experiences have led to the development of
particular ideals and ideas that he exhibited in his life’s works and decisionmaking?
Among many of the choices, opportunities and challenges that he experienced, Willie
was also a ecosociopolocrist (the merger of the tenets of economics, sociology and
history in the study of the social world with the view of disentangling the mega-structure
in order to foster an informed understanding of the oppressive nature of what obtains, that
the oppressed actors may be able to chart a path of renaissance). The photograph above
is a justification of the many institutions which arose from gleaned information arising
from ecosociopolocrist studies carried out by Professor Dr. Du Bois.
Williams was an applied ecosociopolocrist who blended academic and societal
needs in an effort to comeback the challenges faced by an oppressed people at the time.
The formation of the Niagara Movement (began 1909), the National Association of the
Advancement of Coloured People, the Pan-African Movement and other sub-projects
were areas within the general scope of Du Bois wanting to propel the racial separatism
that existed, and how the issue must be addressed.
As he was introduced to the scientific methods of inquiry taught to him at the
University of Berlin, Du Bois brought this to America and was the first scholar to
integrate this in his work in the study of social phenomenon. This ushered him into not
only a social consciousness, but how the issues must be studied and led to a more
practicable approach in addressing social inequality, separatism and injustices. It meant
that Williams saw the world through a different pair of eyes from that of Booter T.
Washington, Marcus Garvey and other separatist.
Taylor, a scholar and black sociologist in Jamaica, surmise that blacks have not
been placed on the zenith of many fields, despite their inventions and contributions,
primarily because of separatism, elitism, racism and the wider social context of social
cohesion established by those in the plantocracies, social power and the hegemonic
structure of our world reality. To an extent my mental acuteness favours Dr. Taylor’s
monograph (Taylor 2003) but I will go further to say that William was carefully
ostracized owing to intended confusion that the social order envisage would have
occurred if he were allowed to carry out his ideals.
I am not postulating nor am I theorizing that the investigation carried out by the
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Du Bois earmarked his demise, whitewash or
accidental removed from the annals of sociology as one of its founding fathers.
Nonetheless, this paper proposes that a scholarship is not sufficient a condition for
inclusion in upper echelons of academia as it is only a microcosm of a wider social
reality. The examination of Williams ___________________
THE GENESIS AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE MARXIAN DIALECTICAL
The origin of dialectical thought did not begin a few years ago but came about
over some two (2) thousand years ago. This new phenomenon at the time was
systematically developed by Hegel, and was further advanced by Marx and Engel. Karl
Marx’s notion of the dialectic is traceable to Hegel, and characterizes every single
element of his theory (Key Sociological Thinkers, 1998).
Due to Marx’s contribution to politics, economic and sociology, it may be, easily,
accepted and misconstrued that he is the only contributor to the development of the
dialectical approach to some theories. As such, Hegel’s work can be said to be
significant in at least three (3) respects to the core of Marxian theories (Any Austin,
Hegelian and Marxist Dialectics, 2002). These include the Hegelian theory of change
(that the transformative overcoming of natural and socially inherent limitations); Hegel’s
theory of the “objectification of the material work through human labour” (Andy Austin,
2002); and Hegel’s attack on the liberal conception of the individual. Therefore it is
Hegel, more than any one else, who can be seen as the “genesis of the anthropological
hardcore of Marxian materialism’ – (Andy Austin, 2002).
Whereas Hegel postulated materialism’ the idea that “the intellectual world of
reason and views ultimately determines history” Marx on the other hand, argued that it
was the “economic world that provided the key to understanding and transforming
historical development” (Key Sociological Thinkers, 1998). Such an intellectual
discourse is unambiguously expressed in the philosophical dispute between idealism and
realism (mind and matter debate).
Therefore, while Marxian methodology is rooted in Hegelian dialectics, Hegel can
be considered to be a ‘philosophical idealist’. Furthermore, Marx accepted Hegel’s
vague understanding of the historical dialectic. He, however, unequivocal rejected and
criticized Hegel’s ‘idealism’ and ‘false positivism’, which implicitly justifies the status
quo (Michelson, 1994). According to Marx, “Hegel has only found the abstract, logical,
speculative expression for the movement of history” (Marx, Economic and Philosophical
Manuscripts of 1844 …). Similarly, in his Capital: A Critique of Political Economy
(1867), Marx bluntly stated that the dialectic suffered a “mystification …in Hegel’s
hands” and “it must be turned right side up again, if you would discover the rational
kernel within the mystical shell” (pp. 45).
Concurrently, Marx attempted to turn Hegel’s notion of the dialectic “right side
up”, by transforming it from a dialectic of idealism to a dialectic of human development,
where “history is demystified and understood as humanity’s own creation and
development of itself through labour” (B. Ollman, 1971). As such, Marxian
methodology is a materialist dialect where it views social reality as a historical process
MANIFESTATIONS OF MARXIAN MATERIALIST DIALECTICS
In answering the fundamental sociological question (as to the origin or existence of
society), Marx employed a materialism approach. He began by analyzing human
activity, and argued that consciousness is a product of that (economic) activity (Key
Sociological Thinkers, 1998). Thus, in the Preface to (A Contribution to the Critique of
Political Economy, 1859), he argued that “it is not the consciousness of man that
determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness”.
According to Marx, society is the relationship acted out by individuals in coming
to terms with the material conditions of their subsistence (Haralambos and Holborn,
2002). For Marx, there needed to be a material makeover of society, rather than a change
in consciousness, for the achievement of human freedom. In using the economic world
or ‘historical materialism’ to analyze this transformation and development, Marx
purported the very social institutions originated from or exists in economic behaviour
(Classical Sociological Theory, 1997). This may explain why Marx is credited with the
position of ‘historical materialism’ or ‘economic determinism’.
Furthermore, Marxian notion of the dialectic becomes even more recognizable in
his discourse concerning the components of the mode of production or the economy,
which are: the means of production (ideological elements), and the relations of
production (material elements), otherwise called the ‘structure’ or ‘infrastructure’ and the
‘superstructure’, respectively (Macionis and Plummer, 1998, pp. 62).
In recognizing that there is a dialectical interplay at all times between the
structure and the superstructure, Marx purported that the economic system was the
foundation of the institutional order and everything else was (religion, government, arts
and marriage) was seen as a derivative superstructure built upon the base of economics
(Masters of Sociological Thought, 1971).
The clear dichotomy in the mode of production or economy is actually a
manifestation of his use of the dialectic. Thus, this manifestation of dialectical
intercourse is also apparent as Marx goes on to discuss class, thus analyzing social
conflict and social change.
In the Communist Manifesto, it is argued that ‘the history of all hitherto existing
societies is the history of class struggle’. Thus, concurrent with his ‘historical
determinism’ or historical materialism’ dialectics approach, Marx went on to look at class
conflict as being the driving force of social change from one historical epoch to the next.
In distinguishing the five (5) different historical epochs or stage of societies to
which every society exist or existed belong: Primitive communism, ancient slavery,
feudal society, capitalism and ultimately communism societies. Marx forwarded a
position that class society began when the structure and-or superstructure was no longer
communally owned, and thereby moved to privatization of resources (Classical
Sociological Theory). As such, class emerges and along with it, class conflict (due to the
separation of wealth in the mode of production), there also emerged a dialectical struggle
that characterized the relationship between the rulers and the ruled, the oppressor and the
oppressed (Master of Sociological Thought, 1971).
It is this dialectical struggle that leads to social change, which occurs either when
the oppressors are overthrown by the oppressed, or there is the “mutual ruination” of both
(Macionis and Plummer, 1998). Similarly, as there appears to be a distinct manifestation
of dialectic between structure and superstructure, Marx pays much attention to the
concept of a dominant ideology, in analyzing class-consciousness.
This dialectical struggle is made manifest in the superstructure where the
dominant prevailing “false consciousness” (as seen by Marx) of the bourgeoisie, either
suppress or impede the true class consciousness of the proletariat. As such, the value
system of each class strives for hegemony. A two (2) sided struggle emerged at the
superstructure level that drives social change. This explains the dialectical interplay
when conflict seeks to threaten the equilibrium in society.
Further analysis of the dialectics of history within Marxian sociology reveals a
certain dialectical relationship between and within the two (2) [alternative (end) stages]
of society: capitalism and communism. The focus on this realization as well as one’s
criticisms of Marxian thought concerning them will be explained in the two (2) concepts
of “dialectical capitalism” and “classless consciousness”.
DIALECTICAL CAPITALISM: NEW ANALYTICAL CURRENTS
The concept of “dialectical capitalism” is critical realization of the notion of capitalism,
being a presupposition of conflict within society. Therefore, capitalism is a support of
the fact that dialectics existed in this stage of society. For there to be value consensus, a
collective conscience, or class consciousness, then concurrently there is recognition of
the existence of conflicting values, conflict, and false consciousness. As one cannot exist
without the other, then the realization of one is the recognition of the other. The fact is,
even where integration or collaboration exist, individuals will always strive for self-
preservation, irrespective of the needs of others. It is that which causes conflict.
However, even with the existence of conflict, a disgruntled proletarian class and
the increasing socio-economic lacunae between classes, it appears that such a conflict has
become institutionalized and engrafted in advanced capitalist societies (Haralamlos and
Holborn, 2002). Thus, there may not be any threat to the present social order. The result
is that, it appears that the proletarian class, far from being a class of itself, is dissolving in
the “class consciousness” of the ruling class, which has created an emerging middle class,
making the class structure of capitalist societies even more complex.
While the abovementioned arguments may explain to an extent a number of
situations in societies, it can be asserted that even with the “false consciousness” of the
proletarian class and the super complex structure of the capitalist societies, there will be a
group within the groups, that will not be contented with what they have, will also want to
overthrow the others. Similarly, even if this does not occur, and all classes fall to the
fallacy of the “collective conscience”, then the mutual ruination of the classes thereby
within itself will be a cause for social change.
Another criticism of Marxian dialectical thought came from Max Weber himself,
another founding intelligentsia within the discipline. In Max Weber’s study ‘Of ascetic
Protestantism’, he argued that beliefs, values, ethics and attitudes also drive the
development of capitalism, and not the economic factors (Haralambos and Holborn,
2000). Such a criticism appears rather baseless, as Marx in Capital and Communist
Manifesto, did make it clear that change also occur at the super-structural level.
Although Marx prioritized the economic factors (after all he was an economist), they
form only one aspect of the dialectic of history. Therefore the economy is primary, but
not the sole determinant of change, as those who own the mode of production also control
the thought processes of society (and even that is still economic in its origin).
COMMUNISM: CLASSLESS CONSCIOUSNESS
Considering (hypothetically) that capitalism came to an end, Marxian thought would
assert that it is the final stage of societal evolution. Here lies, what may seem to be a
colossal pool of foolishness, cascading down from an active volcano with fierce less in
mild stupidity, in Marxian theories? It appears that the postulations as purported by Marx
is dialectical and contradictory in nature.
The concept of “classless consciousness” is an abstract criticism of Karl Marx’s
predictions on how society will change. This is abstract in pure philosophical construct.
The fact is history has yet to substantiate Marx’s view of communism and how society
would transcend and eventually radical transform to communism. Though one is sure
that the historical materialist and economic determinist he was, he would say that “these
things take time, just wait on another evolution or revolutionary epoch.” Today marks in
excess of one hundred years since Marx’s theories were first purported to the world. Is
this time, and is it sufficient time given the World Trade Organization (WTO) position
that the gap between the rich and poor economies has significantly widened? The WTO
in 2000 forwarded an argument in a position paper that poverty has increased in the
world. Then, what has happened to Marx’s position that society would change to
The concept also assumes that Marx’s notion of communism is no different from
“valued consensus” or the “collective conscience”. In proposing a classless society, Karl
Marx is in fact supporting Functionalist claims – in that there is a consensus in values of
the proletarian class upon their realization of their “false consciousness” that will cause
him to utilize a collective will and action to overthrow, subdue and dissolve the
bourgeoisie into usurping ‘proletariat consciousness’, thus forming a classless society.
Hence, a ‘classless consciousness’ will take over and allow for the sustaining and
maintaining of a communist society – but is this really feasible and probable given the
structures in our society?
Perhaps, perhaps not – in his postulations, Marx forgot the individualistic,
possessive, territorial, materialistic values and attitudes of man that drove him from a
classless society (Primitive Communalism) to a class society (Ancient Slave Owning). It
may make for fascinated readings and information truths for a position paper to be
written on the psychological state of man in his/her pursuit of happiness, the role that
materialism plays in that cognitive state. This, therefore, may add an intellectual answer
as to the importance of materialistic values in how man organizes him/herself in society.
The notion of religion that Karl criticized as it relates to the ‘pie in the sky’ is
arguably the same he offered through a philosophic, economic determinist guise. I must
hasten to add that this author has no religious idealism or religious epistemology.
Although an abstract thought, it is arguable as to whether or not communism’s last hope
and Marx’s avenue of solace and theoretical redemption is in religion, where the notion
of a ‘here after’ may be the ideal communist society. Or, is this just an abstract
theoretical academic construct that has no bearing on realism. However, even such
postulations seem to be punch-drunk, and well out of the realm of sociological theorizing.
This, now, lends itself for further research as needed answers must be sought that will
explain the probable ness of Marx’s idealism.
In retrospect, although Marxism theories on the whole was influenced by
Hegelian idealism and dialectical thoughts, it was by rejecting and criticizing Hegelian
dialectical idealism that Marx postulated a notion of dialectical materialism in explaining
how society exist over time.
Difficulties, however, arise in accepting the Marxian view of the origin of society
from a material economic basis. Juxtaposed against this view is the Functionalist view
that societies exist when there is working out of ideas and plans to get or even know that
you have material needs – some form of social contract. This is, however, still debatable.
Furthermore, Marx did not adequately forward reasons for the emergence of
private ownership within (Primitive communism) classless societies. What drove men to
seek the private acquisition of wealth as opposed to still looking out for others? In the
same way there was a change from classless to class society, how then can Marx expect
to maintain a classless society such as communism? Marx must have forgotten the
unpredictable behaviour of man even without class conflict. Even within the Soviet
Union up to the 1989, and this nation represented socialism and to some communism,
some men were more equal than other. Within that nation many of the organisms that are
evident in capitalist countries like the United States, Great Britain, France, and Italy to
name a few were evident in that society. Thus to support Communism, Marx supported
“value consensus” or the existence of a pre-capitalist dominant consciousness that will
unite society. Given the materialistic values and idealism of man today, is Marx’s
consensus assumption possible?
It is, however, unambiguously clear that dialectic and conflict goes hand in hand
in Marx’s sociology on the whole and their role clear and fundamental essential to
Marxism theories. Therefore, dialectics in context is the Marxian process of change
through the conflict of opposing forces, whereby a given contradiction is characterized by
a primary and secondary aspect; the secondary aspect succumbing to the primary, which
is then transformed into an aspect of a new contradiction (Dictionary.com).
Similarly at the foundation of dialectics is the theory of change and conflict which
fuels progression through mounting antagonism between what Marx calls the mean and
relations to the mean production. It is the relation of these social productions, which
“constitute the economic structure of society” (Preface, 1973, i )
Another sociologist who is lauded with the accolade of being one of the founding
fathers is Emile Durkheim. According to Dr Orville Taylor (2003:17), Du Bois’ empirical
scientific research was the first empirical work with the discipline of sociology in the
American sociology. In his view,
In 1896, he was commissioned to carry out a study on the African descendants
in the Philadelphia area. The study comprising more than fifteen months of work,
eventually became the first real empirical work in American sociology, The
Philadelphia Negro. This work is of particular significance for the historical
development of sociology as a science. Within the chronology of sociology’s
emergence as a science it is positivist. Even more important is the fact that it was
not only an attempt to apply a scientific methodology to the study of social
phenomena, but it utilized social facts, popularized by Durkheim in his Rules of
the Sociological Method (but traced back at least as far back as Ibn-Khaldun), to
explain the condition of Blacks in Philadelphia. His conclusion is as doctrinal to
the discipline as one can get. In regard to the Blacks he Declared, “His strange
social environment must have immense effect on his wealth and
pauperism. That this environment differs and differs broadly from the
environment of his fellows …” (Du Bois 1971a:284).
From Dr Taylor’s writings, Du Bois’ works predated the contributions and
empirical writing of Emile Durkheim who is among the fathers of sociology. Both the
traditional and contemporary sociological thinkers argued, Emile Durkheim’s empirical
work on suicide used the science of positivism to establish a generalization of suicide in
sociology. Durkheim’s work on suicide was similar that of Du Bois who predated him.
Then, why is Du Bois not a founding father of the discipline given the fact of his
pioneering contribution to the study of sociology? The answer lies in the same
phenomenon that he spent his life studying.
We will now critically analyze the works of Emile Durkheim. The study that
helped to propelled him to the zenith of sociology is that on Suicide. In his work,
Durkheim’s main aim was concerned with the concept of social solidarity, how societies
‘hand together’ to function as one synchronized entity. He strongly recommended that the
social life of the individual should not be studied distinctly from a biological or
psychological approach. His approach in studying society was that of the deductive
method. He believed that society makes the individual what (s) he is. Whatever rules
society makes the individual has to abide by them so that society will function as one
entity and as a whole. All structures of the society also are inter-related and functions as
one unit at large. As a result, he goes on to distinguish a social fact from a psychological
fact. A social fact, he states as a phenomenon that is larger than the individual who has
two main characteristics – externality and constraint. Externality refers to the outside
factor and constraint comes from within the individual. On the other hand, a
psychological fact as cognition which has to do with the mind, thinking or thought
processes of the individual.
Durkheim posits that “Crime represents a social fact and not all men in a given
society are criminals.” By this Durkheim means that crime is an issue that comes from
the societal level and stems automatically from the society. Society causes crime and the
social variable within it causes crime. However, not all men are criminals and crime can
only be associated with some men and not all. Using his social fact that constitutes the
externality and constraint, externality would refer to all the factors in the society that
causes the individual to resort to illegal activities. Such main factors are unemployment,
economic instability or depression, poverty among other factors but these being the most
important. All these elements are produced by man based on the decisions they make
within society, and a negative action will arise because man has no choice but to resort to
criminal activities. Therefore, Durkheim would conclude that crime is caused by the
society and not from the individual. However, the individual has a choice of not
participating in criminal activities based on his level of constraint that comes from within.
Deviancy can be viewed as a social fact and can be compared with crime. The end
product of deviancy is crime. Society and the individual are both responsible for their
acts of deviancy. Exteriority can be traced to deviancy in that man’s behaviour has
breached the norms and values of one’s society.
Durkheim like W E B Du Bois used the science of positivism as a tool to propel
this branch of social science as being able to use the principles of the natural science. In
Durkheim’s contribution to sociology, his study on Suicide is of utmost importance to the
field. It helps society to analyze critically the factors influencing man to commit suicide.
In studying this phenomenon, he describes four types of suicide – Anomic, Egoistic,
Altruistic, and Fatalistic Suicides. He believed that Suicide should not be analyzed from
a psychological perspective only but also from a sociological perspective which must
take into consideration social factors.
Durkheim also focuses his study on mechanical and organic solidarity. According
to Durkheim, simple societies with undeveloped division of labour have strong and well-
defined states of the ‘conscience collective’ and a mechanical form of social solidarity.
By this he means that because their society is so small and closely intertwined or knitted,
individuals do not need to specialize in different skills or modes of production. They are
only familiar with one mode of production. Before the industrial revolution took place,
the society was made up of only Pre-Industrial Families where the members would
participate in cottage industries and all other business transactions were done only by the
family members. However, as society became complex more ideas relating to the modes
of production developed causing the specialization of goods and services. As a result,
division of labour came about to equate with the needs of competitive goods and services.
With the complexity of the society, individualism came about. People became more for
themselves with the habit or principle of independency and self-reliance.
Once again Taylor (2003:18) provides us with analytic arguments that within
themselves add powerful answer as to why Du Bois may have been sidelined by
American sociologists. In his views,
There is every reason to suspect that Du Bois’ academic contributions would have
been stifled because, first of all, his ideas and research opposed the orthodoxy.
America was not ready, more than 60 years before the civil rights movement, for
a social science which challenged racism. At this juncture there can be found
some utility for the work of Marx, who himself, because of this revolutionary
ideas was not taught in American social science. Marx notes that the class which
controls the means of material production also controls the means of ideological
reproduction. In simple works, a White ruling class, with its allies in academia,
excluded the work of Du Bois from its central role in sociology?(Taylor, 2003,
Taylor’s (2003:18) monograph showed that Marx offered a powerful theoretical
explanation for Du Bois’ exclusion from the founding fathers of the body of works
known as sociology. Marx position was unambiguously clear in that the capitalists
controlled both financial resources and ideological thoughts and so Du Bois’ work that
sought to topple the status quo could not be placed in the forefront of ideological bases as
its purpose was to recreate and destroy the capitalists’ position on which they have
invested everything. In Taylor’s (2003:18) view,
While America had to wait 40 years for the emergence of its conservative
defender Talcot Parson, before it had a sociology which represented its ideology.
Parsons resuscitated the ghost of Spencer and Durkheim and their organic model,
and advanced the notion of socialization but steered clear of the race issue. Like
the classical theorists, he presented a colour-blind sociology which makes
assumptions about the value consensus, suggesting that roles are for the benefit of
society on the whole. From this approach we find the work of Kingsley Davis and
Wilbert Moore (19450 who implicitly justify racism by suggesting that society is a
meritocracy and the unequal divisions within society serve the interest of the
whole. In the end sociology, as it was in the nineteenth century, is a defence of
the status quo (Taylor, 2003:18)
Karl Marx’s argument undoubtedly answers the position of the capitalists as it
relates to Du Bois. Despite the fact that Professor Dr. Du Bois’ research on The
Philadelphia Negroes used empiricism and all the scientific rigours to theorize its
findings, and was the first sociological research in America of its kind, and being non-
capital (an exponent of communism) may explain why this pioneer was not idealized
worldwide by capitalists’ world. Dr James Jackson states that Du Bois, the scholar and
scientist, was equally a man of action. He chose to keep the banners and goals of full
equal rights flying high. Jackson later, so rightfully stated that W E B Du Bois was a
great fighter for the African people, a true scientist, thinker and humanist. He (Du Bois)
held aloft a bright torch of poetic inspiration that lightens the way and illuminates the
path of all who struggle for freedom. The question that Du Bois posed and dealt with
along the way of his arduous life will find resolution on the path that he chose the route
of the great humanist and social scientist.
From what has been forwarded and discussed, William Edward Burghart Du Bois
is a founding father. He led a life of principle and example. Du Bois is responsible for
many of the cherished memories that black people share. In addition to memories, he is
instrumental in garnering many of the human rights that Black Americans enjoy today.
Du Bois was the driving force behind the non-physical confrontational approach taken by
Dr Martin Luther King. In that, he believed in education and not physical confrontation
as the answer to the Africa-American problem. Du Bois knew what he wanted and
worked relentlessly to achieve his ultimate goal: the establishment that the black are
equally competent and that their position is as a result of a created environment. He
came about when there were a lot of sociological questions to be answered and he indeed,
answered much of them including that of racism. Du Bois should also be credited for
giving some insight on how the fundamental question of life should be answered. The
work of W E B Du Bois The Philadelphia Negroes will always carry an air of prestige
and honour for all black to see. He had other works such as The Soul of Black Folks and
Black Reconstruction to name a few writings, which Dr Du Bois has left behind that,
have made indelible mark on our societies and by extension history.
In concluding with Auguste Comte, Emile Durkheim, and Karl Marx being
elevated to the pinnacle of founding fathers of sociology, with the discussion brought
forth herein, Dr W E B Du Bois is undoubtedly a pioneer and a founding father of the
discipline named sociology. In the FBI (1942, 7) document, Du Bois was stated as a
professor of a Negro university. Embedded in this proclamation is a separatist demeaning
of the academic status of Du Bois by the FBI as to infer that value of his scholar must be
low as it is only at a black university. This implies that Williams’ worth should be
measured based on the place he taught; and that more weight would have been given in
the event it was a Caucasian tertiary institution. Whereas no other documentation implied
that Professor Dr. Du Bois was only a mere professor of a Negro university, the FBI’s
monograph summarized how the hegemony perceived Williams, and may justify the
measures that saw him being whiteout from the annals of greatness within the discipline
of sociology. In an effort to substantiate my assertions, here is a quotation from the FBI
(1942) document on Professor Dr. Du Bois:
From the FBI documentation and the quotation above, Du Bois was not compared
to any Caucasian in Atlanta but with the same inferior people at the time. The writings of
the FBI can be interpreted as Professor Dr. Du Bois, is a Negro academic, of which he is
the best of the worst stock. This statement is not only racial but emphasizes the depth of
separatism that existed in America at the time; and the struggles of the Black race. Here
is another quotation that showed the belittling of the worth of Professor Dr. Du Bois, and
implies the mega-structure stance against an educator:
In Ideaz, Dr Orville Taylor (2003:19) summarized the political and sociological
dilemma unlike none other, when he wrote that:
Yet, the so-called founding fathers were affected by a number of other political
and economic developments that they were only able to see in a limited context
and exclusive of the African influence. The very pillar of modern society that the
classical theorists take as the main subject matter for their theories is
conceived of in an anti-historical fashion, bereft of the contribution of and the
relationship with African population (Taylor 2003, 19).
The statements above offer many explanations for the marginality of the Blacks
within our society as they live within a White world. So, Du Bois’ exclusion from the
high echelons of sociological scholarship is not an accident, but it is as a result of his
blackness and the purpose of his works. He sought to challenge the White establishment
by his life’s works. Who was Du Bois to challenge an ordered status quo? As such, Du
Bois’ empirical works, although they were significant and the first of their kind in the
sociology of America, the Whites, being the controllers of the financial resources, were
able to easily sideline the black scientist. Therefore, to Professor Dr. Du Bois, let the
peace to which you fought be your comfort. As the Africans for which you fought have
elevated themselves within various scholarships in an effort to exhibit the depth of the
race. In the new world, brother Dr Du Bois, we recognize your epistemological construct
and scholarship left behind as materialist pillars upon which we shall endeavour to build
and encourage other blacks to read hereafter.
According to Hynes (2003):
But, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, history cannot ignore W.E.B. Du Bois
because history has to reflect truth and Dr. Du Bois was a tireless explorer and a
gifted discoverer of social truths. His singular greatness lay in his quest for truth
about his own people. There were very few scholars who concerned themselves
with honest study of the black man and he sought to fill this immense void. The
degree to which he succeeded disclosed the great dimensions of the man (Hynes,
Dr. Martin Luther King’s monologue encapsulates Dr. Du Bois’ blatant
opposition to the social structure and his quest for a revolution of what obtained as he
believed that there is equality among all races. This was in keeping with the social order
of the hegemonic class, as they had established the society of white separatism doctrine
and racism, to which Dr. Du Bois was challenged using his very life and contributions to
scholarship. Despite Professor Dr. Du Bois’ academic social research, he is still not
elevated to the status of an icon in sociology. I believe that this means that the history
books should be rewritten, and that the present hegemonic caste be revamped. This
implies toppling what presently exists. The underlining rationale is simply the
reformation of a non-social exclusion structure that benefits all and not only the
supporting structure. The contributions of William Du Bois are hidden in his grave as he
is awarded many accolades but what eludes him, is the history for which he found. The
annals must be refashioned as Professor Dr. Du Bois has expounded on the definition
coined by Auguste Comte without a call to the bar of sociologists. The very matter to
which he dedicated his life to address has changed but has remained primarily the same –
ostracization of the Black race from the foundation of civilization, history and discovery.
The discipline of sociology owes an ethical responsibility to Du Bois to elevate him to
the zenith of the pioneers of the subject. One of the questions which continue to
whitewash my psyche is the blatant disregard for scholarship by scholar. In that,
contemporary sociologists themselves have unknowingly (or knowingly) trampled on the
legacy of Professor Dr. Du Bois by neglect of non-recognition of his value and position
in the discipline of sociology. I will leave you with the responsibility of answering the
following question ‘Did social exclusion, racism and segregation end in the 21st century?’
I hope that within you, was awoken the spirit of Du Bois, and the issue of then
and where we should belong now. According to Zuckerman (2004):
W E B Du Bois was a political and literary giant of the 20th century, publishing
over twenty books and thousand of essays and articles throughout his life. He was
one of the most imaginative, perceptive, and prolific founders of the sociological
discipline. In addition to leading the Pan-African movement and being a leading
activist for civil rights Du Bois was a pioneer of urban sociology, an innovator of
rural sociology, a leader in criminology, the first American sociologist of religion,
and most notably the first great social theorist of race (Zuckerman, 2004)
From Zuckerman’s monograph, the obvious thing on Du Bois’ non-recognition to the
apex of the subject matter of sociology is the power of the mega-structure that existed
then and continues to exist now.
I will provide some information taken from the North Carolina Central
University’s website from which my question will emerge ‘what is happening to the
contributions of Dr. Du Bois to the space of sociology in sociological texts and claim of
him being a father of the discipline? According to North Carolina Central University
DURHAM, N.C. — Robert Wortham, professor in North Carolina Central
University’s (NCCU) Department of Sociology, and Anna Owens, an NCCU
graduate student in sociology, have had articles published in Sociation Today’s
special issue devoted to the sociology of W.E.B. Du Bois and the Atlanta School
The special issue is co-edited by Wortham and George Conklin, also a NCCU
professor of sociology.
Wortham’s article “An Introduction to the Sociology of W.E. B. Du Bois”
provides a general introduction to Du Bois' methodological approach to the study
of African American quality of life, while Owens’ article, “Suggested Further
Readings by W.E.B. Du Bois,” contributes an annotated bibliography, which
addresses some of Du Bois’ key sociological studies during this early period
The special issue addresses Du Bois’ use of census, original survey and
ethnographic data in the study of African American quality of life, the work of the
Atlanta Sociological Laboratory, his understanding of the interaction among race,
class and gender as well as the impact of religion on the sociological imagination.
Sociation Today, which is housed in NCCU’s Sociology Department, is a web-
based, open-access refereed journal. The articles appear in the spring 2005 issue,
Volume 3, Number 1 and can also be located through the NC Sociological
Association web site at http://www.ncsociology.org and
W.E.B. Du Bois was a prolific writer and a social activist. He is particularly well-
known for his book The Philadelphia Negro in which he anticipated many modern
methods of social analysis. Du Bois was also one of the founding figures of the
American sociological tradition and may have started the first “School of
Sociology” in the United States.
Prior to assuming the editorship of The Crisis, the NAACP’s official publication,
Du Bois spent twelve years developing an undergraduate and graduate program in
sociology at Atlanta University and directed the research activities and
publications of the “Atlanta Sociological Laboratory (NCCU, 2005).
I ask of ‘thee’ that you make the spirit of Du Bois’ mission kindle with
objectification in your scrutiny of the world while you seek to comprehend or study any
social phenomenon. I implore ‘thee’ to embrace the search for ‘truths’ be it socially
constructed or natural so that you may have an understanding of what is and not what has
been fed to you. In order to grapple with our mission as a people, irrespective of
pigmentation, Monteiro offered us a premise to which Du Bois fought. He said that “He
[Du Bois] was a founder of the World Peace Council and fighter against the Cold War.
He fought in the early part of this century for the rights of women, including the vote for
Black and white women” (Monteiro, 1995). Embedded in this monograph is the purpose
of academics, to use the knowledge within our discipline to solve societal issues.
Appiah, Anthony. 1985. "The Uncompleted Argument: Du Bois and the Illusion of
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September 26, 2006 from http://www.bridgew.edu/HOBA/Du Bois.cfm.
Broderick, Francis. 1978. W E B Du Bois: Negro Leader in a Time of Crisis.
California: Stanford University Press.
Byerman, Keith E. 1981"Hearts of Darkness: Narrative Voices in The Souls of Black
Folk." American Literary Realism 14 (1), 43-51.
Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. 1867. Karl
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October 23, 2003.
Clarke, John Henrik, et al. 1970. Black Titan: W.E.B. Du Bois. Boston Press.
Collins, Randal. 1994. Four Sociological traditions: selected readings, New York:
Oxford University Press, London.
Communist Manifesto. Marx, Karl and Engel, F.
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Comte, Auguste. 1974. The Positive Philosophy. New York: AMS Press.
Corder-Bolz, Judy, et al. 1978. Sociology: women, men and society. West Publishing
Company, 50 West Kellogg Boulevard. P.O. Box 3526. St. Paul, Minnesota
Coser, Lewis A. 1971. Masters of Sociological Thought. New York: Hartcourt Brace
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Consciousness." Sturdy Black Bridges: Vision of Black Women in Literature. Eds.
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arranging the mass of accumulated material
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Michael B. Katz is Sheldon and Lucy Hackney Professor of History at the University of
Pennsylvania and author of Improving Poor People: The Welfare State, the "Underclass,"
and Urban Schools as History, among other books. Thomas J. Sugrue is Associate
Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of The Origins of
the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit (Katz, and Sugrue, 2006)
Wilberforce University (formerly Wilberforce College)
This tertiary level educational institution was formed in 1856 by African-Americans. It
was the first of its kind (i.e. the first university to be owned and operated by Black
Americans. The school got its name from the 18th century English statesman who was an
abolitionist, Sir William Wilberforce. Wilberforce is affiliated to the A.M.E. church, and
is associated with the United Negro College Fund (Wikepedia, 2006)
Wikepedia. 2006. Wilberforce University. Retrieved on September 28, 2006 from