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The Du Boisian Legacy in Anthropology

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DOI: 10.1177/0308275X9201200303


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Critique of Anthropology

The Du Boisian Legacy in Anthropology

Faye V. Harrison
Critique of Anthropology 1992 12: 239
DOI: 10.1177/0308275X9201200303

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The Du Boisian Legacy in Anthropology

Faye V. Harrison
University of Tennessee-Knoxville

W.E.B. Du Bois was an exceptional intellectual with distinguished
mastery over multiple disciplines of the social sciences and humanities. His
race and his political orientation as a vindicationist defender of the Black
race precluded his recognition by the Euro-American intelligentsia as the
major pioneer that he indeed was. Post-Civil Rights Movement American
academia, largely owing to the mobilizations and vigilance of Black
students and scholars, has, however, bestowed some degree of recognition
and honor upon his memory and legacy. Over the past two decades a
considerable literature has grown attesting to the profound political and
intellectual significance of Du Bois’ contributions. Robinson (1983) and
Bond (1988) are among those who emphasize his role as an historian. His
The Suppression of the the African Slave Trade to the United States of
America, 1638-1870 (1896) and Black Reconstruction (1935) clearly
demonstrate his skills as an historiographer with keen abilities in develop-
ing a theory of history that could stand ’as a critique of American
historiography with its racial biases, domineering regionalisms, and
distorting philosophical commitments’ (Robinson 1983:277). However,
although holding a PhD in history from Harvard, Du Bois’ scholarly
versatility is clearly reflected in a body of work that crosses over the
conventional boundaries of several social science and humanities disci-
plines. His oeuvre ranges from historiography, philosophy, and political
analysis to sociology, ethnography, and fiction. Despite his enormous
breadth and salience, Du Bois’ intellectual contributions and gifts have not
been sufficiently acknowledged nor engaged by American scholarship,
neither its mainstream nor critical variants.
Green and Driver (1976,1978) and Key (1978) have brought attention to
Du Bois’ sociological writings and to his rightful place as a ’founding father’
of American sociology. Anthropologist St Clair Drake (1987) pointed out

Critique of Anthropology © 1992 (SAGE, London, Newbury Park and New

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that in the early 1970s the American Sociological Association acknow-

ledged Du Bois as a preeminent Black sociologist by establishing the Du
Bois-Frazier-Johnson Award. This bestowal of ’establishment legitimacy’
on Du Bois’ work signalled a ’profound change in attitude on the part of the
leaders of the American Sociological Association’ (Drake 1987:2). Yet,
this shift in posture has resulted in Du Bois’ inclusion only in an
African-American pantheon, not in the authorized intellectual genealogy
of mainstream American sociology.
Taylor (1971), Lange (1983), Diggs (n.d.), and Harrison (1988) have
underscored the anthropological salience of at least some of Du Bois’
work. Their emphasis upon Du Bois as anthropologist and ethnographer
differentiates their positions from those of Davis (1983) and Drake (1980,
1987), both of whom belonged to the first generation of African-American
anthropologists. While definitely recognizing Du Bois’ wide-ranging multi-
and inter-disciplinary impact upon the Black intelligentsia during the first
half of the twentieth century, an impact that profoundly influenced their
own work, Davis and Drake, nonetheless, considered Du Bois’ social
science scholarship to be sociological.
In his examination of the relationship between anthropology and the
Black experience, Drake (1980) discussed Du Bois’ vindicationist scholar-
ship in the context of the pseudoscientific racism that early professional
anthropology buttressed. Vindicationist intellectuals sought to combat
social Darwinist anthropology and, consequently, produced a literature
that can be seen as an intellectual antithesis to much of early anthropology.
This Black antithesis later converged with Boasianism, which coincided
with and validated ideas that Black leaders already had (Drake 1980:12).
For example, the assumption of the psychic unity of humankind, so central
to Boasian anthropology, was integral to much of vindicationist thought.
Du Bois’ 1904 ’Credo’, which, next to The Souls of Black Folk (1903), was
the most well known of his writings, stated:

I believe in God who made of one blood all races that dwell on earth. I
believe that all men, black and brown, and white, are brothers, varying,
through Time and Opportunity, in form and gift and feature, but differing in
no essential particular, and alike in soul and in the possibility of infinite

development. (in Foner 1970:142)

Drake stressed the point that Du Bois and other vindicationists (e.g.
Carter G. Woodson) were vigilant consumers of professional anthro-
pology, producing fervent critiques of the racist variants and eagerly
developing arguments with citations to and quotations from Boas and
other anti-racist scholars. Black vindicationists used and helped popularize

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among Blacks the results of the more progressive anthropological research

(Drake 1980:12). Du Bois, like Drake and other early African-American
anthropologists, employed whatever intellectual tools were necessary and
appropriate for vindicationist praxis. Thus, he was primarily a vindi-
cationist and only secondarily a historian, sociologist or anthropologist
This paper restates and expands the positions that Taylor, Lange, Diggs,
and Harrison have taken by demonstrating that Du Bois, whether
regarded as historian, sociologist, or anthropologist, influenced the works
of a number of first-generation African-American anthropologists, among
them Irene Diggs, Allison Davis, St Clair Drake, and quite possibly the
physical anthropologist, Carolyn Bond Day.
In light of the fact that anthropologists readily acknowledge the debts
owed to Herodotus, an intellectual ancestor whom we share with history;
Durkheim and Weber, whom we share with sociology; Freud, whom we
share with psychology; Dilthey, whom we share with philosophy; and,
increasingly, such politically radical theorists as Marx and Gramsci who
were once adamantly repudiated, Du Bois the historian and sociologist

certainly deserves to be unveiled in the genealogy of African-Americanist

anthropology, especially the variant African-American anthropologists
have produced. However, Du Bois’ critical approach to the problem of the
twentieth century - namely race or the color line - and to the study of the
Black segment of humanity can also be seen as being ’anthropological’ in
many important respects. Nonetheless, Du Bois and the legacy he helped
spawn have been distanced from the center(s) of anthropological auth-

Du Bois as pioneer anthropologist

Taylor, Diggs, and Harrison encourage us to view The Philadelphia Negro
(1899), the numerous Atlanta University Studies, the three Department of
Labor Studies, and The Crisis magazine as anthropological texts, with
1910-34 Crisis editorials and articles treated as a sub-genre of ’anthro-
journalism’ (Diggs n.d.).
While Boas and his students certainly played a critical and crucial role in
placing scientific racism on the defensive, African-American scholars
actually assumed the responsibility for establishing a firm scientific
approach to the study of Blacks (Lange 1983:135). The social scientific
investigation of African-American life ’developed independent of and in
negation to American anthropology’ (Lange 1983:137). Du Bois led the
anti-racist struggle within the intellectual community. Although his work
was peripheralized by the White academic establishment in the US, it was

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respected by prominent intellectuals in England and Germany (Green and

Driver 1978). For instance, when Max Weber visited the US in 1904, he
arranged to meet Du Bois. In a journal Weber edited and published in 1906
(Archiv fur Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik), Du Bois’ article (’Die
Negerfrage in den Vereinigten Staaten’) was the only contribution by an
American social scientist (Green and Driver 1978:48, 307). Also, in 19111
when Du Bois presented ’The Negro Race in the United States of America’
at the Universal Races Congress in London, which Franz Boas and Ferdi-
nand Toennies also attended, the Manchester Guardian considered his
paper to be the best one presented at that distinguished international
forum (Ibid. :22-3).
Du Bois and his Atlanta University sociology students produced the
earliest empirical sociology and ethnographic studies of African-
Americans (Lange 1983:137). Lange claims that despite neglecting linguis-
tics and material culture, the Atlanta University Studies ’constitute a
scientific analysis of an ethnic group within the US that rivals any ethno-
logical survey of its time’ (1983:136). The 18 monographs published in this
series between 1896-1914 were the first ’to make factual, empirical evi-
dence the center of [intellectual] work’ on Blacks (Green and Driver
1978:12). These studies covered a broad spectrum of issues and concerns,
from physique and health - very much at the heart of contemporary
physical and medical anthropology - to patterns and strategies of economic
cooperation, from morality and religion to family organization and edu-
cation, and from rural subsistence to urban crime.
Even before his first tenure at Atlanta University, Du Bois - as a lowly
’assistant instructor’ affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania - con-
ducted 15 months of intensive fieldwork which resulted in the 1899 publi-
cation of The Philadelphia Negro. This book appeared 14 years before
Robert Park’s career began at Chicago, and 24 years before the publication
of Anderson’s The Hobo (1923), ’the first in a series of well-known [ethno-
graphic] studies... done by American sociologists (Hannerz [1980:31]
quoted in Harrison (1988:114]). Diggs (n.d.:4) points out that
[blotch the method and theoretical point of view of Franz Boas’ The Mind
of Primitive Man (1911), of W.I. Thomas’ and Znamecki’s Polish Peasant in
Europe and America (1918-1921), of the school of urban sociology ... of W.
Lloyd Warner’s school of community studies at Harvard and Chicago, which
resulted in Black Metropolis and Deep South, as well as the classic Yankee
City series; the method and theoretical point of view of all of these studies are
to be found in The Philadelphia Negro.

Taylor (1971:608) takes the position that Du Bois initiated ’[B]lack

urban anthropology’ with his Philadelphia field investigation in which he

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employed both sociological and anthropological methods and techniques:

’participant-observation, map-making, census-taking, [interviewing thou-
sands of] informants from various age levels and both sexes, and from each
of the social classes ... identified along with a number of voluntary
associations’ (Taylor [1971:608] quoted in Harrison [1988:114]).
Taylor (1971:609) goes on to state that the research problems that
Spindler (1969) proposed for the urban anthropology of US minorities
were presaged in Du Bois’ turn-of-the-century community study. Du Bois
was concerned with ’the consequences of the differential enculturation and
socialization of [the urban-bom and migrants from the south]’; changes in
leadership roles and mechanisms that articulate the dominant authorities
and African-American leadership; the adaptation of communities; the
impact of traditional and generally rural forms of social organization on
urban social relations; the influence of changing external conditions on
local ideological systems; and the problem of sociocultural identity and the
presentation of self (Taylor 1971:610; Harrison 1988:114).
Du Bois, like Boas, was critical of arm-chair theorizing and speculative
thinking about univeral laws. He sought to uncover the ’Truth’ by focusing
on more ’limited fields of human action, where observation and accurate
measurement [were] possible ...’ (Green and Driver 1978:35). Du Bois
believed that direct and prolonged observation and historical depth were
integral to research on Black problems. Social descriptions and expla-
nations had to be grounded on an accurate and adequate historical base,
because present conditions are not understandable without some reference
to the past (Ibid.: 1978:36).
Green and Driver claim that Du Bois’ inductive methodology and his
concern for social justice and policy were influenced by the German

sociologist, Gustav Schmoller, under whom Du Bois studied while in


Schmoller’s methodological approach favored the use of induction to

accumulate historical and descriptive material. He saw the goal of social
science as the systematic, causal explanation of social phenomena, and he
believed that social scientific facts, based on careful inductive analysis, could
be used as a guide to formulate social policy. (Green and Driver 1978:6)

Muller Milligan (1985) argues that the American pragmatism of William

James and Charles Sanders Pierce also influenced Du Bois’ empirical
approach to uncovering Truth.
While Du Bois began his career believing that scientific research through
revealing Truth would destroy racism, by 1911, when he left Atlanta for the
editorship of Crisis, he recognized that objective research alone was

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ineffective. At this point in his life he assumed the role of partisan

intellectual-activist and became the most influential intellectual in Black
America (Davis 1983:129) and possibly in the Black world. This far-
reaching impact certainly affected the few Blacks who became anthropolo-
gists. Furthermore, it should be acknowledged that Du Bois’ intellectual
influence extended beyond the color line to liberal whites as well. Muller
(in this collection) has uncovered archival material that suggests that Du
Bois may have influenced Boas’ perspective on race and culture. However,
if this were indeed the case, the father of American cultural anthropology
failed to acknowledge his African-American colleague.’

The Du Boisian Legacy in African-American anthropology

Caroline Bond Day

It is reputed that Caroline Bond Day pursued studies at Harvard in
physical anthropology under Ernest Hooton at Dr Du Bois’ en-
couragement (Drake 1980:16; cf. Ross 1983:9).2 Ross argues that whether
Du Bois actually directly influenced Day is ’not ascertainable’ (1983:9), but
the curriculum and the general learning environment at Atlanta University
where Day was educated (from 1905-1912) had certainly been fashioned
by Du Bois (Ross 1983:10). Drake (1980:16) argues that the possibility of
Du Bois’ influencing Caroline Day ’is consistent with the intellectual
temper of the times.’ Day published A Study of Some Negro-White
Families in the United States (1932), a physical and social anthropological
study of a sample of racially mixed middle- and upper-class Black families
in Atlanta. In view of White America’s ambivalence toward miscegenation
and its tendency to see the progeny of mixed racial heritage as ’degenerate
and unreliable’ (Drake 1980:16; also see Drake 1990b:8), Day’s study can
be seen as an attempt to vindicate the mulatto. During the early decades of
the twentieth century, this thrust was an integral part of the broader
struggle to vindicate the Negro. Drake states:
For most ’race leaders’, defending those who had some obvious white blood
was considered just as important as defending Africa and blacks against their
detractors if Afro-American solidarity was to be achieved. (1980:16)

Irene Diggs
One anthropologist whose intellectual ties to Du Bois can be easily
determined is Irene Diggs (see Bolles 1989). Diggs studied sociology and
anthropology at Atlanta University and received the university’s first

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master’s degree under Du Bois in 1933. She worked as Du Bois’ research

assistant for eleven years (1932-43). During this period she helped
research material for five of his books, among them Black Reconstruction
(1935) and the social history of Africa and her diaspora, Black Folk Then
and Now: An Essay in the History and Sociology of the Negro Race (1939) -
which was an updated version of The Negro (1915). With Du Bois Diggs
co-founded the journal, Phylon: A Review of Race and Culture. Regarding
Du Bois’ influence on Diggs’ scholarship, Bolles explains that:

A driving force throughout Du Bois’ work of that period, which would

become discernible in Diggs’ own work on Latin America and the African
diaspora, was a conviction of the necessity of African historiography to fill an
incredible void of information, and the need for serious study of peoples of
African descent in the New World from historical and cultural perspectives.
During the early 1940s Diggs pursued anthropological studies at the
University of Havana in Cuba under the direction of Fernando Ortiz. In
1944 she received her doctorate. While in Cuba she developed her interest
in ’the impact and continuities of African cultural elements in [Latin
America]’ and in comparative race relations (e.g. Diggs 1971), particularly
in ’the functional differences in race relations operating in Latin America
in comparison with those found in North America’ (Bolles 1989:61). In
1946 she ventured further south of the Caribbean to Uruguay and other
parts of South America, where she concentrated on archival research on
and participant observation in the African-Uruguayan and African-
Argentinian communities (Diggs 1951a). Her concern with expressive and
aesthetic dimensions of cultural life, which was reflected in her earlier work
on African-Cuban music, dance, rituals and festivals (1951b, 1951c, 1954),

’gained further momentum [while based in Uruguay]’ (Bolles 1989:62).

This humanistic orientation is consistent with Du Bois’ interest in ’the souls
of black folk’ - and in creative writing. Du Bois the social scientist was also
Du Bois the novelist and cultural critic.
Diggs’ work is firmly located within the tradition of Black vindicationist
scholarship. She can be seen to have extended or applied Du Bois’
analytical concerns and methodological orientation to the study of Latin
America. The emphasis of much of her work is on historical patterns and
historical figures, such as Zumbi, a leader of the Palmares Maroons of
Brazil (1953), and Zambo-Peluca, a Chilean mulatto militia leader
(1952b). Her Black Chronology from 4000 BC to the Abolition of the Slave
Trade (1983) reflects a Du Boisian influence, notably the concerns treated
in Du Bois’ social history of Africa and the African diaspora. In continuity

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with her earlier work with Du Bois at Atlanta University, Diggs is

committed to compiling and making accessible historiographic and biblio-
graphic information on the global Black experience. Diggs’ contribution to
the study of race/ethnic relations extends beyond Latin America and the
African diaspora to the Middle East context of Arab-Jewish conflict in
Israel (e.g. 1952a). This comparative tendency underscores her anthropo-
logical perspective, but it is also consistent with Du Bois’ view of the world,
which recognized important commonalities across lines of color.

Allison Davis
Allison Davis was drawn away from a promising academic career in
English literature to social anthropology because the latter seemed to
promise analytic tools that could be applied to the fight against racism, the
fight to free the race from the ideological and structural chains of White
supremacy, particularly as they were manifested during the depression.
Trained at the London School of Economics under Bronislaw Malinowski,
and at Harvard and later Chicago under W. Lloyd Warner, Davis earned
his PhD in 1941 from the University of Chicago. He was hired not by an
anthropology department but by the School of Education at the University
of Chicago. Like the majority of early Black anthropologists, his major
contributions were absorbed into sibling social sciences and interdisciplin-
ary topical areas; in Davis’ case, educational psychology and childhood
While Davis’ 1930s Deep South research project was clearly influenced
by Warner’s concern with social class as the principal integrative structure
of American societies, and his later work in personality development and
intelligence influenced by Freudian and behavioral psychologies, his work
as a whole also evidenced strong influences from Du Bois. In fact, in his
1983 book, Leadership, Love, and Aggression, published in the year of his
death, he himself noted Du Bois’ profound influence upon his generation
of Black scholars. In the book’s acknowledgments section, Du Bois was
mentioned ’for his profoundly tragic understanding of the Negro people
entombed in the American &dquo;glass cage&dquo;’ (1983:xi). Davis asserted that Du
Bois was one of the first to utilize the concept of social class in investigating
Black life and probably the first to describe accurately the psychological
effects of Blacks’ pariah caste status upon both Blacks and Whites
(1983:150, 151).
Davis was the senior author of Deep South: A Social Anthropological
Study of Caste and Class (1941), one of the earliest full-fledged, self-
identified anthropological community studies in the US. This classic

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ethnography was perhaps the earliest to apply anthropological methods

and concepts to the problem of racial inequality. The Deep South study was
originally designed as a Southern extension of Warner’s New England
’Yankee City’ studies. While in ’Yankee City’ social class had been the
major principle for allocating political-economic power and sociocultural
prestige, it was postulated and demonstrated that in the deep South ’a dual
caste system with each caste having social classes within it’ served this
function (Drake 1980:21).
Deep South represented the convergence of at least three major
intellectual influences - the anthropological trend Warner developed to
study the structure and dynamics of American urban communities and
subcultures, the Black vindicationist tradition that had set the stage for Du
Bois to produce The Philadelphia Negro decades earlier, and Marxist
perspectives on racial and class exploitation and on social transformation.
Drake claimed that in Deep South, Davis - like his counterparts across the
social sciences - was grappling with reconciling Marxist notions with the
various mainstream social science approaches (Drake 1980; Bond
1988:771). This attempt at synthesis and the attendant conceptual and
theoretical tensions are clearly evidenced in at least a couple of chapters in
Deep South as well as in Davis’ 1941 PhD dissertation and a derivative
article published in 1945: ’Caste, Economy, and Violence’ (Bond
Although Deep South never received the attention given to Dollard’s
Caste and Class in a Southern Town (1937) and Powdermaker’s After
Freedom: A Cultural Study in the Deep South (1939), the book illuminated
the economic underpinnings of Southern race relations in a way no other
work published around that time did (Harrison 1988:115). According to
Drake’s assessment, the book’s principal intellectual contribution lay in its
analysis of the political economy of race in ’town and country.’
[Davis suggested] that the whole system runs for one fundamental purpose:
tokeep a labor supply intimidated so that the surplus value could be reaped
from the laborers. (Drake 1974:52)

Deep South characterized Mississippi’s race relations while simultaneously

elucidating the broader economic context of agricultural land tenure and
property relations within which Southern urban life is embedded (Harrison
Davis’ anthropological political economy can be understood in part in
terms of its intellectual debts to Du Bois’ historiography of slavery and
reconstruction as subsystems of American and world capitalism (Robinson
1983:281). For example, in Du Bois’ 1935 Black Reconstruction in

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America, he was able to develop a sophisticated analysis that underscored

mass praxis, class and race consciousness, ideology, and contradiction

(Robinson 1983:277) while ’sympathetically [confronting] Marxist thought

in critical and independent terms’ (Ibid.:289). Davis was an inheritor of
this unique Du Boisian synthesis of radical and mainstream analytical
elements (see Bond 1988:771).
Davis’ anthropological psychology has been even less visible to anthro-
pologists, even those working within the scope of psychological anthro-
pology. This is unfortunate, because unlike anthropologists (e.g. Benedict
1934) who had conceptualized personality and culture in static, ideal-typic,
and unidimensional terms, Davis demonstrated the complexity of factors -
including race, class, gender - that contribute to personality development.
Davis’ personality development work began while he was doing research
in the deep South and working at Dillard University in New Orleans.
Children of Bondage (1940), published a year before Deep South, marked
the beginning of what was to become the central concern of his work as an
anthropologist. Co-authored with the psychologist John Dollard, Children
of Bondage sought to determine the distinctive problems Black youth
faced in their psychological development. In this book Davis and Dollard
drew upon the Davis-Warner caste/class model as well as upon psycho-
analytic and behavioralist psychology to analyze the learning process in the
socialization of Black children and adolescents living in Natchez, Mississ-
ippi and New Orleans, Louisiana. The study was designed to examine how
systematic racial oppression affects the psychic development of Black
children, particularly those belonging to the lower class. Another objective
was to counter the biological determinist view of the relationship among

race, personality, and social status. Davis and Dollard considered socializ-
ation research critical for developing a theory of and a plan of action for
social change.
Children of Bondage demonstrated the centrality of social class in the
socialization processes affecting Black children. Davis and Dollard
pointed out that human habits are conditioned by the sanctions of class
position enforced by family, clique, and the larger class environment
(1940:259). They differentiated social class from the concept of economic
class, although the two certainly intersect. They defined social class as
those empirically identified groups wherein people associate intimately
(1940:261). They explained that people are of the same class when they
1. eat or drink together as a social ritual;
2. freely visit one another’s families;

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3. talk together intimately in a social clique; or

4. have cross-sexual access to one another, outside of the kinship group.
Based on these criteria, they identified six classes: upper, upper-middle,
middle-middle, lower-middle, upper lower, and lower-lower. Three
quarters of all Blacks were lower class in the Mississippi and Louisiana of
the 1930s. While their conceptualization of class has been criticized by
Marxist and non-Marxist scholars alike, the emphasis placed upon class
differences was an important contribution that forcefully called into
question stereotypic assumptions about Blacks. The monolithic depiction
of a homogeneous African-American sociocultural life was exposed as a
social science fallacy.
In a later co-authored book, Father of the Man: How Your Child Gets
His Personality (1947), Davis compared class-structured socialization
processes in both Black and White families in Chicago. The book revealed
that ’differences between social classes [were] greater than those between
color groups’ - although the latter differences were not at all insignificant
(Davis and Havighurst 1947:215). The study also demonstrated that early
personality development is not irrevocable. Offering the bulk of its
interpretations ’in modified Freudian terms’ (Drake 1980:23), the study
evidenced a breadth of anthropological and humanistic knowledge by
integrating comparative data from the anthropological literature on Native
Americans, Arabs, New England elites, and Southern sharecroppers. It
also contained numerous allusions to philosophical and literary works (e.g.
those of Shakespeare, Yeats, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Sterling Brown).
The book’s intertextuality, a ’postmodernist’ feature with which many
contemporary anthropologists are now concerned, should make it worthy
of some overdue attention.
Davis’ work in its later phases retained the basic social anthropological
emphasis on structure, but his post-Deep South work also treated classes as
subcultures characterized by distinctive classways learned during socializ-
ation (Drake 1980:23). In his Psychology of the Child in the Middle-Class
(1960) he defined culture as a psychological system; this signalled a marked
departure from the conventional social anthropological approach. His
research on personality development showed that lower-class classways
combined with society’s negative evaluations of them impede or interfere
in lower-class children’s learning of the middle-class culture presented
through the school system. Related to the question of the effect classways
have upon learning was the important research Davis and his students
conducted on intelligence testing. This research underscored the cultural
and class biases of intelligence testing (1948, 1951). According to Davis’

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research results, IQ tests measure cultural training and traits of character

such as motivation, attention, and drive for middle-class success rather
than mental capacity.
In Psychology of the Child in the Middle Class (1960) Davis’ concern with
the parallels between the unequal relations between children -especially
adolescents - and parents, between males and females, and between
Blacks and Whites was made explicitly clear. In this book he explored the
sociopsychological processes involved in rearing middle-class children and
adolescents to assume ’the most complex intellectual and moral responsi-
bilities in our society’ (1960:3). The competitive drive, so central to
middle-class achievement, is learned at home and in school, where
children’s anxiety and aggression are converted into socially directed
initiative (Ibid.:5-6). Davis was especially interested in understanding
children’s emotional responses in status-relationships, or those social
relationships in which the ranks and privileges of the parties involved are
culturally defined as unequal. According to his analysis, adolescents
represent a prime example of how unequal status affects human behavior.
He explains adolescent confusion and hostility, a subject to which
Margaret Mead devoted considerable attention in Coming of Age in
Samoa (1928), in terms of American society’s restricting adolescents to
childhood status. While physiologically adult, middle-class adolescents are
not allowed the privileges and responsibilities of adulthood. The powerful
social blocking of the adolescent’s drive for autonomy results in disorganiz-
ation and confusion.
The adolescent understands what is meant by a status system. Wherever the
adolescent turns in the effort to gain definiteness, competence, and
autonomy as a man and woman, he is sytematically blocked by our society
(except possibly in the lower-lower class). He cannot develop his abilities in
any major areas of social and economic life, because those areas are
preempted by adults and forbidden to him. In those societies which permit
their adolescents to work, to marry, and to establish a home of their own, this
same age-group shows little of the neurotic and childish behavior found in
most of our adolescents.... (Davis 1960:15)

Davis was well aware that in family and age-privilege hierarchies children
eventually grow up and assume the privileged status of adults. However,
the derogation of feminine status within the family remains constant
(1960:36). This lifelong inferiority represents a cultural attack on the
female ego. Sexual and color-caste statuses are the only lifelong forms of
rank (Ibid. :38).
Davis’ devotion to early childhood and adolescent socialization seems to
reflect his interest in the emotional and psychological consequences of

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structured inequalities, whether obtaining in the middle-class family or in

the economically depressed setting of an urban ghetto. Even his studies of
childhood and adolescent personality development and learning patterns
among middle-class Whites can perhaps be seen as allegories concerning
the phenomenon of racial caste.

St Clair Drake
St Clair Drake’s debt to Du Bois’ activist intellectual legacy is made quite
explicit in his Black Folk Here and There: An Essay in History and
Anthropology, Volume I (1987) and in his interview with George Bond
(1988). In response to Bond’s query about the major intellectual influences
on him after his Hampton Institute experience, Drake pointed to
Quakerism, Marxism, and added ’I also read the The Crisis and was shaped
by Dr Du Bois’ (Bond 198:767). Later in the interview he amplified this
point when discussing his contact with several Black intellectuals at the
University of Chicago. He remarked that ’Dr Du Bois, through The Crisis,
was of course the most influential black intellectual among young activists’

(Bond 198:771).
Drake joined the ranks of American anthropology owing to the
encouragement and example of Allison Davis, who had taught him English
literature at Hampton Institute (see Drake 1974). Although heartened by
what the Boasians were doing, he felt that they did not go far enough in
combatting racism. He became an anthropologist in hopes of employing
anthropological perspectives as instruments of change (see Baber 1990;
Harrison 1990a, 1990b; and Jordan 1990). Drake underwent his initiation
into the profession while a research assistant with the Deep South project in
Natchez, Mississippi (see Drake 1974). His charge was to study ’the
bottom’, the Black lower class. Unlike his colleagues, he was dissatisfied
with restricting his activities to research. Consequently, he involved
himself in grassroots efforts to organize sharecroppers against the in-
vidious agrarian system that shaped or misshaped their lives. Later when
studying and doing research in Chicago, he participated in efforts to
organize unemployed workers. Inspired by Du Bois and other Pan-
Africanists, including his own father who had been an international
organizer for Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Associ-
ation, Drake later taught, administered a sociology department, and
conducted policy- and development-related research in Ghana during the
early post-colonial period (see Brokensha 1985; Drake 1960; Drake and
Omari 1963). There he worked with Kwame Nkrumah and his Pan-
Africanist advisor George Padmore. Among the policy-related problems

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with which he was concerned were elite-chieftaincy conflict and the

consequences of government-dictated rural-urban migration. When
Nkrumah was overthrown by the first of a series of military coups, Drake
returned to the US and focused his research on issues of race relations and
social unrest (Drake 1966). During this time he organized against the
racially biased urban renewal policies designed to benefit the University of
Chicago at the expense of the Black community (see Baber 1990).
Drake consistently managed to balance academic career and political
involvement. In one instance this meant prioritizing his political-ethical
convictions over opportunities - and academic pressures - to publish the
results of his research. Drake’s heartfelt solidarity with the multi-racial and
multi-ethnic ’Tiger Bay’ community in Cardiff, Wales led him to the
decision not to publish his 1954 University of Chicago dissertation,
’Values, Social Structure, and Race Relations in the British Isles.’ This
study of British racial domination and the forms of adaptation and
resistance that characterized Tiger Bay’s response to racist and colonial
oppressions contained information that conceivably the state could have
used against the interests of the port community as well as against
anti-colonial forces both in the United Kingdom and in the colonies.
Consequently, Drake published only a single article (1955) related to that
particular phase of his career.
Drake is probably best known for Black Metropolis: A Study of Negro
Life in a Northern City (1945), which he co-authored with sociologist
Horace Cayton. This classic study was the product of the first research
project to involve professional anthropology in a large metropolitan area
in the US (Harrison 1988:112). Like Davis and the Gardners’ Deep South,
Black Metropolis was influenced by Warner and his unique fashioning of an
anthropology of urban and stratified societies. However, as Diggs (n.d.)
asserts, Black Metropolis should also be recognized as a textual descendant
of Du Bois’ The Philadelphia Negro. Drake and Cayton’s treatment of the
social history and political economy of labor migration from the agricultu-
ral South to the industrial north, their analysis of the complex social
stratification both within and outside the black ghetto, their concern with
the formation of sociopolitical groups unified around a consciousness of
race and racial oppression, and their acknowledgment of the international
nexus of racial/class exploitation are reminiscent of many of Du Bois’
concerns in Black Reconstruction. Indeed, it could be argued that Black

Metropolis, as a study of Black adaptation in the industrial north,

represents a logical sequel to Du Bois’ social history of post-bellum
socioeconomic change and race relations.
Drake’s work on a whole reflects a ’commitment to understanding the

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varying forms of domination, adaptation, and resistance affecting black

peoples’ lives over [both] time and space’ (Harrison 1988:116; Jordan
1982, 1983). The analytical tools he employed in this pursuit included
comparative history and the paradigm of the Black World or the African
Diaspora, both of which are found in Du Bois’ writings, especially in his
The Negro (1915) and its updated version Black Folk Then and Now: An
Essay in the History and Sociology of the Negro Race (1939).
The diaspora framework fashioned by Du Bois and refined by Drake
allows for a diachronic and global perspective on Black life that is sensitive
to and cognizant of the role racial exploitation has played in the expansion,
consolidation, and ’modernization’ of capitalism. Drake’s diaspora con-
struct permits temporal and socio-spatial variations in forms of racial/class
oppression. While this perspective considers global conditions to be
important factors in the general plight of Black folk, it does not assume that
the ultimate structure of domination is all-determining or that capitalist
social relations account for all aspects of Black life. Drake’s concept of
diaspora seeks to grasp the dialectical interplay between macro- and
micro-level conditions, system and event, and structure and agency
(Harrison 1988:118).
Although the contemporary African diaspora is largely a by-product of
the modem world system, dispersed African populations and communities
have a history that predates Western colonialism and capital-labor
relations. An early Old World African diaspora spanning from the
Greco-Roman world to various parts of Asia emerged in the context of
ancient empires and long-distance trade. This pre-colonial Black World is
the focus of inquiry in Drake’s two-volume Black Folks Here and There
(1987, 1990a).
Drake intended that Black Folk Here and There: An Essay in History
and Anthropology, which in a sense represents the culmination of his
career as an anthropologist, should advance the vindicationist, Pan-
Africanist scholarship that Du Bois helped shape and specifically to follow
up on themes that Du Bois raised and developed in Black Folks Then and
Now in which he had presented a:
... narrative of African history prior to European overseas expansion,
followed by an analysis of the slave trade and of colonial imperialism in
Africa, and of antiblack discrimination throughout the world after the
abolition of slavery. He contrasted the depressed state of 20th Century
Africa with the artistic, intellectual, and social creativity that existed in
various parts of Africa prior to [colonialist plunder]. (Drake 1987: xviii)
This contrast gives the text its ’then’ and ’now’ frame of reference. Consist-
ent with the vindicationist tradition, Du Bois depicted Ancient Egypt as an

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African civilization that, according to the beliefs of ancient Egyptians and

Homeric and classic Greeks, was influenced by the Ethiopian kingdom of
Meroe. Du Bois also brought attention to the fact now supported by
Martin Bemal’s Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civiliz-
ation (1987) that some early Egyptologists had acknowledged the basic
African character of Egyptian culture, but their scholarship had been
Rather than analyze the early Black World in Egypt, Europe and Asia
from a ’then and now’ perspective, Drake:

... selected several problems...and examined them through time in a

number of localized situations in Europe, Africa, and southwest Asia. Some
of these situations are also compared with each other in the same time
period. This treatment of data constitutes the ’here and there’ dimension, in
contrast to Dr Du Bois’ ’then and now’. (1987: xxiii)

Drake ended his inquiry with the sixteenth century - ’a historic watershed
in global relations between black and white people. [He considered] that
before that time neither White Racism nor racial slavery existed, although
color prejudice was present in places’ (1987:xxiii). Drake brought an
impressive body of data and an erudite command of social science and
humanistic methodologies to bear on the discourse concerned with the
historical development of racism.
Three months before Drake died in 1990, the Society for Applied
Anthropology bestowed upon him its Bronislaw Malinowski Award. Now
is the time to redress the virtual negation of Drake’s contribution to
anthropology and to the study of the Black World as well as to unveil Du
Bois’ legacy in the anthropology that African-Americans have helped to

Recently Lutz (1990) has pointed out that much of women’s scholarship
has been erased by canon-setting patterns (e.g. citations and literature
reviews in journals like Annual Review of Anthropology) within pro-
fessional anthropology. Earlier Harrison (1988) discussed a similar pattern
of peripheralization with respect to the contributions of African-American
and radical scholars. She argued that the core-periphery relations that
obtain among scholars have had a differential effect on careers as well as
influenced the very character of anthropological discourse and practice.
These relations of unequal authority and power are constituted within the

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broader context of institutionalized racism and sexism. Although intellec-

tual peripheries are formed in large measure by exclusion and discrimi-
nation, they have historically been significant loci of important critical/
creative work and counter-hegemonic praxis. The periphery within which
Du Bois and his intellectual descendants have worked has been an
important intellectual front for anti-racist and anti-imperialist struggle.
Despite the Du Boisian legacy’s intellectual and political salience, it has
also been largely invisible in critical anthropological discourse. While the
sociocultural terrain of the world system is one conditioned by what can be
viewed as a form of global apartheid (Haviland 1990), neither conventional
nor critical anthropology has had much to offer the study of racism and the
construction of racial differences (Harrison 1991:3). The virtual rep-
lication of racialized core-periphery relations among leftist scholars is a
serious problem that must be redressed before an authentically critical
anthropological project can emerge.3
If anthropology can now more openly accept reinterpreted - and
sometimes much diluted - categories and perspectives from the Marxist
tradition,’ which has historically been stigmatized, then, is the discipline
willing to unveil and face up to Du Bois as a critical interlocutor - or as an
ancestor who deserves a legitimate and equal place in the discipline’s
genealogy? The Du Boisian legacy’s approach to research and scholarship
as a form of activism; its emphasis on historical and comparative methods;
its treatment of racism and the imposition of the color line as a central
problem of the contemporary world; its concern with race’s intersection
with class at both the national and international levels; its placement of
slavery, reconstruction, and twentieth-century forms of racial exploitation
within the broader contexts of domestic and global capitalism; and the
critically creative reconciliation and synthesis of divergent theoretical
perspectives can be accepted as ’gifts’ if the hitherto peripheralized works
of Du Bois, Day, Diggs, Davis, Drake, and others are genuinely
recognized as intellectually and politically integral to the development of
an authentic, critical anthropology.

I would like to acknowledge and thank a number of people for the helpful comments,
references, manuscripts, and books that they shared with me to help make this
article possible: Hubert Ross, Irene Diggs, George C. Bond, A. Lynn Bolles, Karen
Brodkin Sacks, Antonio Lauria-Perricelli, and Donald and Tola Epperson. Much of
the inspiration that led me to write this article came from what the late St Clair Drake
taught his students about anthropology and the Black experience.I am forever

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indebted to his teachings and, indirectly, to those passed down from his mentor,
Allison Davis.
1. Boas’ relationship with Du Bois needs to be more closely examined in order to
assess the extent to which he may have been influenced by Du Bois and other
African-American intellectuals. Thanks to Walter Jackson’s research (1986), we
now know more about the ongoing dialogue that Melville Herskovits had with
African-American scholars, who challenged him to transcend the assimilationism
that informed and limited his early research on African Americans.
2. Du Bois probably encouraged Day to acquire skills and credentials from
Harvard’s physical anthropology program rather than Hooten’s theoretical and
ideological approach, which stressed the biological differences between ’radically
different races’ (Ross 1983:3).
3. It is noteworthy that a small number of what Moore (1988) has called ’third phase’
feminists (e.g. Caulfield 1979 and Sacks 1989), concerned with de-essentializing
gender and explicating how it is conditioned by class, race, and ethnicity, have
been more inclined to acknowledge and build upon the contributions of peoples
of color. Such an appreciation of Black and other ’Third World’ scholarship is
conspicuously absent, for instance, in Ulin’s (1991) portrayal of the critical
anthropological project of late capitalism. For further discussion on the Eurocen-
tric bias of much critical anthropological discourse, see Harrison (1991).
4. Anthropologists such as Wolf (1982), who have utilized and reinterpreted Marxian
categories and perspectives, have succeeded in ’mainstreaming’ some of the
issues originally put on the anthropological agenda by those working within a
variegated Marxist/Neo-Marxist tradition, an intellectual periphery. Due in great
measure to the influence of Marxists, anthropologists of varying theoretical
persuasions are now concerned with the impact of external determinants upon
cultures and social systems.

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