W.E.B. Du Bois on Crime and Justice: Laying the Foundations of Sociological Criminology

W.E.B. Du Bois on Crime and Justice: Laying the Foundations of Sociological Criminology

W.E.B. Du Bois on Crime and Justice: Laying the Foundations of Sociological Criminology

W.E.B. Du Bois on Crime and Justice: Laying the Foundations of Sociological Criminology


This is the first book to discern the contribution of Du Bois' work to criminology and criminal justice through a comprehensive review of his papers, articles and books. Beginning with reflections from his childhood, the author traces Du Bois' ideas on crime and justice throughout his life. This includes a unique analysis of Du Bois' experience as an object of the criminal justice system, a review of his FBI file, his 1951 trial and his pioneering social scientific research program at Atlanta University. The book illustrates the depth of Du Bois' interest in the field and reveals how he was a pioneer in key areas of criminology and criminal justice. The book contains five appendices which include four original papers written by Du Bois as well as maps from The Philadelphia Negro.


The function of a foreword has become rather blurred in recent decades. They are often omitted and such preliminary comments are absorbed into a preface or introduction. Yet, forewords can serve to provide a cursory, even if non-scholarly glimpse generally by an outsider to the project of what is to follow. As such, the foreword is apt to be a personal note written by one who sees the book and author in a larger context, and perhaps possessing some individual awareness or relationship to the author.

Dr. Gabbidon first came to my attention while a doctoral student in criminology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. At that time, I was the coordinator of the Ph.D. program, and although he managed to stay clear of my classes, I became aware of him as an enterprising and aspiring scholar. Dr. Gabbidon still remains most notable around the halls where he was once a graduate student, not just because of his scholarship, but clearly because of his dogged determination to complete the Ph.D. He lived in Baltimore during his doctoral student days and commuted the four hour trip to southwest Pennsylvania by automobile, not an easy task in winter months.

For some time now, he has held a passion for unraveling in novel directions the long and complex life of Du Bois. Du Boisian scholars have dotted the academic map, yet few of the writers have recognized his potential relevance and linkages to the still developing discipline of criminology. W. E. B. Du Bois, recognized and awarded for decades as a Renaissance man by serious thinkers, has not been clearly and adequately scrutinized as a criminologist, even if after his death at the age of ninety-five in 1963. For much of Du Bois’s career, criminology had barely made it to the curricula of even a small number of major universities in the United States. What was discussed in regards to crime and justice was from the perspective of anthropology, economics, political science, history, and sociology, among other overlapping social sciences. As an inexhaustible writer, it was in such multiple disciplines as these that Du Bois excelled, even if often from behind the scenes as a black writer and researcher in a predominately black college.

Historical analysis is not everyone’s cup of tea. But, it is a necessary and an illuminating way to retrospectively push further the academic horizons. By better understanding how early scholars perceived of their world, and how they reacted to their own set of problems, allows contemporary thinkers to better gauge the present. Scrutinizing the writings of Du Bois provides an opportunity to assess the trials and tribulations of one of the nation’s most accomplished writers and social activists in . . .

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