The First American School of Sociology : W.E.B. Du Bois and the Atlanta Sociological Laboratory book cover
1st Edition

The First American School of Sociology
W.E.B. Du Bois and the Atlanta Sociological Laboratory

ISBN 9781138476776
Published January 12, 2018 by Routledge
136 Pages

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Book Description

This book offers an original and rounded examination of the origin and sociological contributions of one of the most significant, yet continuously ignored, programs of social science research ever established in the United States: the Atlanta Sociological Laboratory. Under the leadership of W.E.B. Du Bois, this unit at Atlanta University made extensive contributions to the discipline which, as the author demonstrates, extend beyond 'race studies' to include founding the first American school of sociology, establishing the first program of urban sociological research, conducting the first sociological study on religion in the United States, and developing methodological advances that remain in use today. However, all of these accomplishments have subsequently been attributed, erroneously, to White sociologists at predominately White institutions, while the Atlanta Sociological Laboratory remains sociologically ignored and marginalized. Placing the achievements of the Du Bois led Atlanta Sociological Laboratory in context, the author contends that American Jim Crow racism and segregation caused the school to become marginalized and ignored instead of becoming recognized as one the most significant early departments of sociology in the United States. Illuminating the sociological activities - and marginalization - of a group of African American scholars from a small African American institution of higher learning in the Deep South - whose works deserve to be canonized alongside those of their late nineteenth and early twentieth century peers - this book will appeal to all scholars with interests in the history of sociology and its development as a discipline, race and ethnicity, research methodology, the sociology of the south, and urban sociology.

Table of Contents


1. From the cotton field to the classroom

2. ‘We study the problems that others talk about’

3. The contributions of the Atlanta Sociological Laboratory to the discipline

4. Crashing thru the gate(keepers)



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Earl Wright II is Professor in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at Rhodes College, USA, and recipient of the 2016 Charles S. Johnson Award from the Southern Sociological Society. He is the co-editor of Re-Positioning Race: Prophetic Research in a Post-Racial Obama Age and The Ashgate Research Companion to Black Sociology.


‘An important, compelling, and much-needed book on one of the greatest and yet least-known chapters of sociology in America. Highly recommended for anyone interested in W.E.B. Du Bois, race, or the social sciences in America - or all three.’

Phil Zuckerman, Pitzer College, USA

‘Wright is the first sociologist to present a well-documented, carefully crafted, and insightful critique of the methods of the individual Atlanta Sociological Laboratory studies conducted and edited by Du Bois. In doing so, he has made the case why, based on their research questions, methodologies and theoretical assertions, these studies have a rightful place within the canons of mainstream sociology.’ 

Rutledge M. Dennis, George Mason University, USA

‘The book represents an important contribution to the growing literature on the life and work of W.E.B. Du Bois. It is the first work of its kind to focus on the contribution of the Atlanta Sociological Laboratory led by Du Bois. The author’s explanation of the failure to give recognition to this pioneering accomplishment is insightful and provides remedies to undo the "miseducation" of generations of sociologists.’

Delores P. Aldridge, Emory University, USA

'The First American School is a valiant primer for sociologists, historians, and lay students of Du Bois that indexes with cogency and accessibility the contents of the Atlanta Laboratory studies and how they were accomplished. In this function, Wright makes a standalone contribution.'

Kali-Ahset Amen, Emory University, Atlanta Studies