Exploring W.E.B. Du Bois’ Sociological Approach

Instructor: Allen Hillery
Tuesdays, 5:30 – 8:10 PM
Course Code: MHC 364
Modality: Online

W.E.B. Du Bois was a writer, scholar and civil rights activist who pioneered a new way to use sociology. In his quest to dispel social darwinism, he architected America’s most sophisticated quantitative research on race and the Black population. This interdisciplinary course takes us on a journey through Du Bois life’s work. Through books, articles, blogs and data visualizations, we will explore the steps he took for his studies in Philadelphia and Atlanta. Students will be able to experiment with some of these ideas with a project that has them choose an area of NYC to see how socio-economics and external conditions shape the community.

What will we learn
William Edward Burghart Du Bois was born free on February 23, 1868 in Great Barrington, MA. He grew up in a community that encouraged his intellectual pursuits. Du Bois completed his graduate work at the University of Berlin and Harvard University. Becoming the first African American to earn a doctorate from Harvard, Du Bois set out to use his knowledge to empower others. As he began his professional career in a Jim Crow South, that moment would define him and his life’s work. We will use Aldon Morris’ “The Scholar Denied: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Birth of Modern Sociology” as well as Du Bois’ “”Philadelphia Negro”” to explore:
– What the experience of building Du Bois’ groundbreaking sociological framework was like.
– How Du Bois’ sociological approach helps us quantify a community and measure growth.
– How the Du Bois visualizations from the 1900 World Exhibit in Paris told a powerful story of Black resilience in America.
– The importance of data storytelling and the impact it can have on social justice.

As we walk through Du Bois’ process of creating a sociological study, students will choose a NYC community to create a proposed study. The study will provide a demographic profile of the selected community followed by a historical background. It will then identify a problem and set up a framework to analyze the community. By the end of the course, you will have an appreciation for Du Bois and his impact on sociology.


Preliminary Syllabus