W.E.B. Du Bois and Black Heterogeneity: How The Philadelphia Negro Shaped American Sociology

Abstract

Published in 1899, The Philadelphia Negro provides an important template to examine both the use and promise of heterogeneity as one of the earliest pillars in the establishment of American sociology. In this paper, I locate the notion of heterogeneity within W.E.B. Du Bois’s classic The Philadelphia Negro to demonstrate both the historical roots of the concept and also Du Bois’s use of the concept as key to his production of new sociological knowledge. As will be shown, Du Bois explicitly and implicitly disrupts existing notions of heterogeneity and of a monolithic Black population by emphasizing the intraracial variation thereof; thus Du Bois’s The Philadelphia Negro intervention amplifies the role of heterogeneity as a tool for uncovering variation that produces incisive sociological theorization and analysis.

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Acknowledgments

The research presented in this article benefited from the generous financial support of Yale University, the American Sociological Association’s Minority Fellowship Program, and UCLA. The author would like to thank and acknowledge Zandria F. Robinson, Charles Camic, Jean Beaman, Christopher Wildeman, ASA’s History of Sociology section, and the reviewers for their encouraging and thoughtful feedback.

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Correspondence to Marcus Anthony Hunter.

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Hunter, M.A. W.E.B. Du Bois and Black Heterogeneity: How The Philadelphia Negro Shaped American Sociology. Am Soc 46, 219–233 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12108-014-9249-2

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Keywords

  • W.E.B. Du Bois
  • The Philadelphia Negro
  • Heterogeneity
  • Race
  • Urban America
  • Politics