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The Philadelphia Negro

February 8, 2012

The Philadelphia Negro is the study conducted by W.E.B. Du Bois and commissioned by the University of Pennsylvania. During his study, the University of Pennsylvania greatly limited the resources allowed to Du Bois, as he was not even given an office but only a closet to hold a few materials that he may have needed.

Between August 1896 and December 1897, Du Bois conducted personal interviews with the head of African American households in Philadelphia’s Seventh Ward for the study. He used this gathered information along with census data to report on the social and economic conditions of African Americans in Philadelphia.

Du Bois’ work serves as a successful example of research that transcends disciplinary boundaries. His research is widely considered to be the first empirical study in the field of sociology. Before this, the majority of sociological texts were the work of grand theorists. Additionally, Du Bois’ The Philadelphia Negro is heralded as not simply a compilation of data and observations, but rather a call for action and change.

Lucas O’Connor, CAS ’14


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