Contempt and Pity: Social Policy and the Image of the Damaged Black Psyche, 1880-1996

By Daryl Michael Scott | Go to book overview

2
No Consensus, No Crisis, No Outrage

The Experts and Black Personality, 1919-1945

During the interwar years, culture and the social environment replaced biology as the means of explaining black behavior. Black criminality, migration, sexual mores, and most other social developments and behaviors were no longer seen as determined by nature. The notion of an African temperament lingered on, but by the mid-1930s few social scientists believed in it and virtually none granted it sociological significance. This shift was the product of a social science community in which the leading experts who specialized in fields that dealt with race and African Americans believed that blacks could be assimilated into the mainstream of American life. 1 The anthropologist Franz Boas, the social anthropologist W. Lloyd Warner, the sociologist Robert Park, and the psychologist Otto Klineberg were all racial liberals as well as leaders in their fields. They believed that blacks could and should be allowed to

-19-

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