W.E.B. Du Bois and the Birth of Modern Sociology
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A bid to restore a brilliant black scholar to his rightful place in the history of sociology.

Morris (Sociology and African American Studies/Northwestern Univ.; The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement: Black Communities Organizing for Change, 1984, etc.) contends that the activist and polymath W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) started the first school of scientific sociology at Atlanta University at the turn of the last century. Due to endemic racism in the academic world at that time, the achievements of Du Bois and his followers were "erased from the sociological record," while the distinction of pioneering the field was awarded to Robert Park and the "Chicago school" of sociology, which the author considers much inferior to the work of the Atlanta scholars. Morris cites plentiful examples of jaw-dropping racism from the works of the Chicago school, much of which rested on theories of eugenics and social Darwinism; Du Bois aimed to use his objective sociology to dismantle these pseudoscientific bases of racial oppression. Morris asserts that he "offers, for the first time, a comparison between the Chicago school of sociology and Du Bois's Atlanta school, clearly showing that the latter theorized the novel view that race was a social construct and supported this position with pioneering methodologies and empirical research." The book contains a solid core of information about Du Bois' work, his clashes with Booker T. Washington and supporters of the "Tuskegee Machine," and his systematic exclusion from white-dominated scholarly networks. It is, however, frequently repetitive and sometimes lapses into terminology like "intellectual nonhegemonic school" and the cant of academic political correctness. The author accepts too readily the proposition that racism alone sufficiently explains Du Bois' exclusion from the sunny uplands of academe, without considering the effect that his subject’s increasingly radical politics and abrasive personality had on his contemporary reputation. His argument also necessarily requires frequent comparisons with the work of other sociologists, which are of little interest to general readers.

Inside baseball for sociologists.

Pub Date: Aug. 27th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-520-27635-2
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Univ. of California
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2015


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