The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study

By W. E. B. Du Bois | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION TO THE 1996 EDITION OF
THE PHILADELPHIA NEGRO

Elijah Anderson

The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study by WE. B. DuBois was originally published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 1899. One of the first works to combine the use of urban ethnography, social history, and descriptive statistics, it has become a classic work in the social science literature. For that reason alone it is an important study that deserves to be read by students of sociology and others interested in the development of the discipline in particular or in American intellectual history in general. WE.B. DuBois is a founding father of American sociology, but, unfortunately, neither this masterpiece nor much of DuBois's other work has been given proper recognition; in fact, it is possible to advance through a graduate program in sociology in this country without ever hearing about DuBois. It is my hope that this reprint edition will help rectify a situation undoubtedly rooted in the racial relationships of the era in which the book was first published.

This fine book, however, is no mere museum piece. Both the issues it raises and the evolution of DuBois's own thinking--which can be traced between the lines--about the problems of black integration into American society sound strikingly contemporary. Among the intriguing aspects of The Philadelphia Negro are what it says about the author at the time, about race in urban America at the time, and about social science at the time, but even more important is the fact that many of his observations can be made--in fact are made--by investigators today. Indeed, the sobering consequences of America's refusal to address the race problem honestly, which DuBois pre-

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