Introduction to United States Sociology (W.E.B. Du Bois): Professor Colin Samson



okay today what I want to do is talk about a second figure that we're going to be using as an illustration of a vision of American society and that's WEP the boys last week the last two weeks we've looked at Alexis de Tocqueville the boys comes about a generation after Tocqueville if you can imagine all the things that Tocqueville was talking about in American society he was talking about at least in at the end of his book what he was talking about slavery he was talking what might happen with the end of slavery and and he he didn't have very high hopes for relationships between blacks and whites in America at the end of slavery talk Dubois comes after slavery so he's born around the time that he's born in 1863 so he's bought 1868 so he's born just after the ending of of slavery he's comes from Massachusetts he grows up in a predominantly white community these are people the community that he's grows up among our people the descendants of the English Puritans but he didn't have any English ancestry he says in various of his autobiographical writings that I'm French Dutch and African ancestry and as he put it I was born with a flood of Negro blood a strain of French a bit of Dutch but thanks God no anglo-saxon so he was highly race conscious and he was hired he was pleased that he didn't have any English ancestry in him he's a remarkable figure in American intellectual life in social Thord of the u.s. in in in the struggle for African American rights he was the first african-american to receive a doctorate from Harvard but that was only after he was first denied entry to Harvard as an undergraduate and that was despite his very strong academic credentials and some people think that this was the beginning of his first racial consciousness because he noted that white students that he went to high school with who who achieved much lower amount than he did got into Harvard but he didn't as a black student and so he was denied entry into Harvard but he ended up going to Fisk which was a black college in Tennessee and so it was a segregated College only for african-americans but he sort of turned a negative into a positive so he made this a positive experience by going to the south it was a transformative experience for him in the summers he taught in the black communities in the south he got to know the situation of black people in the south after the ending of slavery and he got to kind of know the world views of both the black people and the white people in in the south and a lot of this was kind of source material for his book so I'm gonna talk about this as I go along but he used a lot of his own experience in life as as material for his social observation for sociology and his academic writings but also for his activism as well as getting a doctorate from Harvard he before that he went to Europe and he studied in Berlin and he studied in Heidelberg and in Heidelberg in Germany he also studied in Paris he completed two undergraduate degrees so just think about that you know you're here at the beginning of your first undergraduate degree it's gonna be three years imagine if you oh you've got another one after that his experiences in Europe also accredited with giving him an international outlook you know so traveling around the world gave him a sort of a perspective that he wouldn't have had had he have just stayed in Massachusetts although there were other major black intellectual figures at the time such as Frederick Douglas who wrote the famous slave narrative and Booker T Washington who I'm going to talk about about later many regard the boys as the father and by the way it is pronounced the boys not Dubois this is some of them people try to correct me but he always pronounced it the boys and it was he's always known as the boys in the US he he excelled in many different fields of academia and of public life he is widely recognized as a sociologist today but he was also a very good historian and he actually at one point had a position as a professor of classics he taught at various universities but as a result of discrimination he was nearly always consigned to minor universities in in the south so he taught at Atlanta University and he had very short spells at Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania as well as being an academic he was also an activist and a journalist he took up a variety of causes so the civil rights african-american education african-american economic independence he dealt with the issue of segregation and at a more global level he dealt with the issue of decolonization he was one of the founders of the pan-african Congress which is a group of leaders and intellectuals from Africa from the Caribbean and from the the the Americas that hold international gatherings he was also one of the founders of the n-double a-c-p which was one of the most important organizations in the civil rights movement he had a very long life he was born during the administration of Andrew Jackson in 1868 who was the first post-civil war president and then he died in 1963 during the administration of lyndon b johnson at the height of the civil rights movement so he saw a lot in the hundred years of his life he died not in the United States he died in Ghana and he spent his last year's in Ghana living in Ghana he was dedicated to sort of African decolonization he was a big influence on many of the African leaders and intellectuals in Ghana the leader was in Crewe Murr who was the person that led the leader that led Ghana to independence when he died he had a state funeral in Accra the head of Ghana it was attended by numerous heads of states from Africa and elsewhere his wife received condolences from mouths see tongue in China and from Nikita Khrushchev in the Soviet Union and I think he is this is a image of his funeral procession it's hard to imagine any kind of sociologists today that would have a funeral procession like this and the the news of his death a quarter of a million people gathered in Washington DC the the Lincoln Memorial okay so he was definitely a notable person he was definitely very well known during his long life his articulate Krita systems of race and racism and race relations in the US and occasionally his embracing of socialist and what some people even saw as communist idea of deals led to direct conflict with the American government so during the 1950's some of you might know from you know reading American history there was the McCarthy period there were witch hunts against anyone that was suspected of being left-wing or or communist and the boys was one of them he was refused a passport his wife was refused a passport and this was based purely on his political beliefs so when we start kind of hearing stories like this we can be a little bit skeptical about some of the things the claims that were made for instance in the dominant narrative of Matt of America which is this narrative of democracy which is one of the things that Tocqueville articulated so they're supposed to be constitutional guarantees in the bill of rights for the freedom of expression so why would you then deny someone a possible because of their political beliefs so you can see here the democracy is clearly not absolute okay now let's look at some of his intellectual orientations where was he going with his work what did he say in his work as I said he was the first black sociologist he developed many different kinds of sociology his most important book is the one that you really in your lifetime you should all read it it's a fantastic book the souls of black folks and you have a segment of this in your reader today we would probably call it an essay or a book of essays it has a strong literary flavor is highly interdisciplinary he never confined himself to the conventions of any one academic discipline as well as being sociological the book is Phyllis the book is political Dubois unlike a lot of academics today is never afraid to be forthright in describing not only how he sees the world but what he thinks should be done about it the very few academics today was will will mention any kind of practical means to do something about the the kind of social observations that they're they're making but he's one of them that does this in his writing his prose is fluid it's never stilted he's strident he's direct there's a kind of also ethnographic element in his his work and you'll see this next week when we come on to Nels Anderson who was a kind of ethnographer of hobos in that his work has the hallmarks of a very good anthropologist someone who's very good at making detailed micro-level observations and many of these derive from the time at least in he mentions them in the souls of black folks derived from the time when he was a school teacher and he worked in the American South traveling around and teaching at various mostly black schools and he sees himself as standing outside both the black world he is black but he's a northerner he's not a southerner so that implies a whole different kind of history a whole different kind of baggage that he brings to it and he's obviously not white either and he often referred to himself as an outsider looking in you know he was outsider even in his own in even where he grew up in in Massachusetts he was an outsider at Harvard he found Harvard cold and sterile he said the library was really good but he found few friends and virtually all the students at that time were white he experienced what one author caused loneliness of a black man in a white university he so he uses a lot of these kind of first-hand experiences but he was also capable of systematic and focused work as well and one of the main examples of that is his book which was published in 1898 called the Philadelphia Negro and in the Philadelphia Negro the voice asks a question why is it in a city like Philadelphia that has such great concentrations of wealth that virtually all the black population are poor a very good question you've got a very wealthy City on why are these people rooted in poverty generation after generation and he decides to kind of look at that through kind of a combination of methods urban ethnography social history statistics he knocks on doors he goes door-to-door talking to people interviewing people but on the whole his work in this area has not been recognized for its achievements in in in sociology and until recently the boys did not figure in mainstream sociology so for example I did my undergraduate and PhD degrees in sociology in the United States in Arizona and in California and I can't remember even in Berkeley which actually one of my supervisors was african-american professor I can hardly remember the boys being mentioned certainly not on the curriculum for undergraduates right I think it may be today but rather what you have is that some people have observed is that the boys was actually the first person the first sociologist to use statistics in a very systematic way right but if you take sociology even here at Essex maybe I don't know you at all that the father of scientific sociology statistical sociology is emile durkheim he published his classic study suicide after the philadelphia negro so we can think about I'll let you speculate what might be the reasons for that for this kind of lack of recognition the his his work also anticipated other kinds of directions and sociology such as ethnography urban sociology and we're going to talk about that throughout the rest of the course but I should say that he never writes only as a sociologist if you read and I hope you do the entirety of the souls of black folks you'll see that he combines psychology anthropology economics philosophy even music you know he has various reflections on music he's never a narrow professional specialist and partly because of that partly because of his more ecumenical Catholic broad intellectual orientation he has been much more influenced and influenced in interdisciplinary studies and he himself attempted to redirect the university curriculum so he's often credited with being say the founder of what was what arose in the US and 1960s Black Studies or african-american studies as it's called today or ethnic studies these interdisciplinary areas that use sociology anthropology history philosophy statistics whatever and try to bring bring them out okay what are some of the themes in the souls of black black folks well one of them and he's known for this concept is double consciousness there's a kind of a a double so a twinned concept double consciousness on the one hand and the veil on the other and he's known for this and for coining the term double consciousness let me tell you a little bit about that soon it emerges in especially the first chapter which is called of our spiritual strivings and he begins at chapter by reflecting on what he calls the Negro problem and his own position as a problem in America and he removes that when White's approach him they look at him as if to say how does it feel to be a problem he sees many white liberals as patronizing he sees others as bigoted and racist he doesn't seek out the company of whites in his personal life he says that very few whites took him as who he was took him to be a scholar and an intellectual and so he develops this idea of double consciousness and the veil and he says that in the United States black people look at white Americans as if they're looking through a veil so they're always on the other side of this veil and it obscures their vision of whites but it also obscures White's vision of of black people and he emphasized this many times through personal anecdotes through social observation and what he emphasized was the immense difficulties of communication between whites and blacks in the United States it's always through this veil and why do we have the veil how did the veil get there anyone want to guess I know you're all English what would place that what would make it difficult for whites and blacks a term in 20th century to communicate with each anyone absolutely slavery you've got this you know you've got an elephant in the room it's slavery White's enslaved blacks for several hundred years that's what what gives that's what that's what is responsible for the veil and he says actually eventually that his own experiences of discrimination and the denial of opportunities made him in the end he doesn't want to tear down the veil it says III held all beyond it in common content and lived above it in a region of blue sky and great wandering shadows and he tells us also in this also black folks the moment when all of this dawned on him that the veil exists he was invited when he was a schoolteacher in the south to a white families home for dinner and so he was quite chuffed at the idea that he would go and have dinner with a white family only to find that they had already eaten and he had to eat alone in the kitchen and then this is their the veil descended the awful shadow of the veil and other times he talks about black people as being prison souls within the veil of shackled men forced to articulate themselves through their relationships to white and if some of you I'm sure are aware of a lot of African American literature people like James Board when Maya Angelou Toni Morrison is a good example of this so these themes come out in a lot of this kind of this kind of literature as well okay the existence of the veil gave a peculiar psychological orientation to African Americans and he referred to this as double-consciousness and he says again in his very kind of poetic way the Negro is a sort of seventh son born with a bale and gifted with second sight in this American world a world which yields him no true self-consciousness but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world you only see yourself through how other people see you it is a peculiar sensation this double-consciousness this sense of always looking at one soul through the eyes of others of measuring one soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity one ever feels his tunis an American American a negro two souls two thoughts two unreconciled strivings two warring ideals in one dark body whose dogged strength alone keeps them from being torn asunder very kind of poetic language there that he uses to understand this phenomena and he says that it can cut different ways right that it can be very stressful it can wreak havoc with the courage and faith and deeds of 10,000 people as he says but it also can be kind of positive in that he thinks that sort of and this is the reference to the seventh son which actually if any of you listen to blues music or muddy waters you know I am the seventh son it's a sort of the idea of the person is that born with a certain kind of perceptiveness a certain kind of otherworldly psychic perceptiveness gifted with second side so he's saying that actually african-americans have a kind of because they are always having to judge themselves by how they imagine White's judged them they are able to sort of they're they're able to see the world and kind of multi-perspective in a way that whites are not and that actually this double-consciousness has something to offer America if only whites would listen what if only they would listen we can offer them a lot the african-american can offer them a lot he says at one point there are today no truer exponents of the pure human spirit of the Declaration of Independence than the American Negro okay so what was his diagnosis for black/white relationships in the United States how would things play out the most famous quote the most famous remark in the souls of black folks is the problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line the full quote I said that's the other quote I just gave you about you know the special qualities of African Americans the sweet melodies the poetry the fairy tales you know under that African Americans have this kind of imagination that exists in what he called a dusty desert of dollars and smartness and that was one of his also observations about the United States is it it was very materialistic it was a culture that was based on money and buying and materialism and consumption yet the African American could offer his something beyond that is saying so then the famous quote is the problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa in America and the islands of the sea and here he's saying that this will always be the problem this color line but he's what he's saying also is that it's a global phenomenon and it relates to colonization so unlike many American academics he was not just focused on America he was very conscious of what was going on in the rest of the world and he drew parallels between the colonialism that was exercised by the British and the French and other European powers over Africa and Asia and other parts of the world you know at that time that he was writing it was just actually after the Berlin conference where the European powers have carved up Africa they'd actually met to decide which parts of Africa belong to the British the French or whatever and so he's you know commenting on all this so he's kind of a global sociologist and I think to a certain extent he's a sociologist of whiteness he in some ways his insights into whiteness are just as profound as into blackness because they're always in relation to one another in the u.s. because of slavery it's always relational you can't see them separately okay so he is also I would say a social historian of the United States and much of his other work besides the souls of black folk is about history he has a famous book there was the basis of his PhD dissertation on the slave trade and the ending of the slave trade which is which is very very good and and worth reading as well but also as a historian he's he's worried about the post slavery period what will happen you know what will happen after the emancipation of the slaves and here he notes it's going to be a Herculean task you've got four million people that were enslaved how can they become confident self-sustaining citizens of the supposedly democratic order that they are surrounded by he thought it was a noble policy to try to uplift the slaves but what he saw all around them was around him was attempts to make them into second-class citizens and he noted that a number of the policies that were set up after emancipation through what was called the Freedmen's Bureau were half-hearted attempts they were constantly compromising with southern whites they were constantly lowering the expectation of freed slaves there was a promise of 40 acres of and a mule for the for the slave families that were were released from slavery but that never really materialized for very many of them no practical steps were taken to enforce emancipation and as he says it became a bitter disappointment for african-americans uh what he said was needed was healing and reconciliation which is a lot of his ideas are very contemporary you know we talk about reconciliation today there's truth and reconciliation committees that have been set up all around the world to deal with the history to deal with the consequences of various kinds of atrocities and he says this is what we need in America and just let me kind of end on this that he thought that education was the means to do this and he thought that setting up segregated schools was bad with a bad idea having blacks in one school and whites in another school was not a good good a good policy and that it just simply the black schools as he knew from his own experience had a lower budget than the white schools some of them didn't have books some of them didn't have black blackboards they were just producing what he called a kind of a black youth that fell into I think the pod something that reckless bravado listless indifference or reckless bravado and what he then got into a debate about education and he got into a debate about education with another African American leader the time called Booker T Washington and they didn't exactly see eye-to-eye Booker T Washington's much faith a famous book was up from slavery he in a speech in 1895 Washington assured white Americans that blacks would accept social separation and that he devotes claimed that what Washington was doing was peddling a sophisticated form of subordination by encouraging training schools vocational schools help with sharecropping which was basically a system of feudal tenant farming for black people and that this would basically in effect set up you know apartheid kind of situation in in in the south and what Washington did is that he pioneered a form of industrial education at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama basically to teach there were the few libraries but it was basically to teach African Americans the trades carpentry blacksmithing stone masonry other kinds of work like that the boys said you know this is not bad in and of itself but it can't be everything and first of all that he's made a mistake by not insisting that black people vote black people don't even have the vote and you're talking about all of this we need to have the vote first and that we need to abolish all of the measures that Southern whites are taking to stop black people from voting so that's the first requirement of justice and he was a bitter critic of the justice system in America so for blacks there is no justice system it's kangaroo courts it's lynching he himself had observe served the the aftermath of a lynching in Atlanta and that was also one of the things that really I think made him such a passionate person to actually have seen a black man hanging actually from the grocery store in Atlanta okay let's try and what did he what was he proposing so he's a critic but what is he proposing now one of the things that he's proposing which I think it's relevant to you all here today is higher education and universities and he believed in the values of the Enlightenment he believed in the use of reason and and science hard work the ballot box political participation he himself had benefited from an excellent education in Paris and Berlin in at Harvard and so we saw the university as having a central place in the elevation of African Americans and he believed that the universities should be the battleground where black sees reason to counter the unreason of many of the prevalent beliefs in the United States such as the belief in racial supremacy the necessity of discrimination and segregation etc and as he put it America will demand broad-minded upright men both white and black and in its final accomplishment American civilization will triumph and if anything would remove the veil if anything is going to break the color line he thought it would be education educating people so he says only by a union of intelligence and sympathy across the color line shall justice and right triumph and that comes at the end of the souls of black folk so he kinda ends with this kind of positive proposal okay I think I'm gonna end there but you know I hope it's inspired you to read a lot more about you know someone who has an incredible legacy as a scholar as an activists and a model for how people should conduct their affairs thank you

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