Du Bois And His Theoretical Contributions As What I Learned In Sociology

April 27, 2022 by Essay Writer


For this paper, I have chosen to write about Du Bois and the historical issues, theoretical contributions, and the contemporary relevance of his sociological work. Du Bois was very influential in the sociological field, he gathered a wide range of theoretical ideas and embedded then into his empirical studies. With a focus on the African American race, arguing that race was more than just a subtopic. I have selected this topic and although racial differences are not quite behind us, they are not as conspicuous as they were in the past, however, it is important to stand with those who are silenced. I was interested in further expanding my knowledge about black nationalism, and how Du Bois became the best spokesperson for African American rights. This particular topic is of interest to me because I find that African Americans are still treated with racism and disrespect and realistically speaking, this issue has gotten better over the years, but it is not something that will disappear within the next few years either. It’s important to further develop our knowledge about the slight differences that happen every year that will improve the lives of these racialized ones.

Historical issues

During his time Du Bois made important contributions to sociology, and his work impacted many. His body of work took many forms over the years including an autobiography, poems, essays, book reviews, short stories, newspaper articles and many more. For a long time, Du Bois’s work was unrecognized and lacked reference in any book that was devoted to classical sociological theory, he was best known in the sociology field for his empirical study of The Philadelphia Negro. He was engaged in many contemporary theories that had an effect during his time and will continue to affect contemporary society. Throughout, the years that Du Bois was doing his research and working on his theoretical concepts, he was inspired to fight for African Americans that we’re carelessly mistreated due to white supremacy. Being an individual of color himself, Du Bois was more than motivated to find some way for African Americans to merge their black identity with their American one (Ritzer, 2018, 439). Although Du Bois’s work went unrecognized for years this did not stop him from, advancing his research and coming up with the most influential theory known as the double consciousness. This concept had an impactful effect on the people of his time because it aimed to speculate that there was major discrimination happening and someone needed to bring it to attention. His work had an impact during his time because once he found that it was no longer efficient to look at the picture from just once race, Du Bois took a broader perspective that would help him understand why, black people we’re never put on the same level rankings as white people (Ritzer, 2018, 441). Although he was not recognized for this concept, appeal to white self-interest, was one that had a heavy impact during his time because it was an eye-opener for many. Du Bois argued that “such discrimination is morally wrong, politically dangerous, industrially wasteful and socially silly” (Ritzer, 2018, 451). This simply means that even when African Americans had the chance to be better trained, the whites were unwilling to help them and see them succeed even though it is to their advantage to have an economy with better trained black people. Later in the history of sociology, Du Bois became well known for his concepts of the double consciousness and the Veil, however, he never reached wide-scale recognition for his work. Nevertheless, he has long been an influential leader within the black community, which is the only thing that ever meant anything to Du Bois considering what he spent his whole life researching and fighting for. Being acknowledged within this community and knowing that people are appreciative of what you’ve done meant something to Du Bois.

Theoretical contributions

Du Bois wrote about 3 very important, very influential concepts known to sociology; The veil, the double consciousness, and the race concept. Little too few men have influenced the lives of African Americans in the way that W.E.B Du Bois did during the 19th and early 20th century. Du Bois paved the way for the pan-African and black power movements because of all his theoretical contributions to the sociological field. After his publication of The Philadelphia Negro Du Bois was seen to be offering a view of society from the standpoint and perceptive of all racialized persons (author, year, pg). One of his most famous concepts is The Veil, a literal translation of it being a piece of material worn by women to protect or conceal their face, however, in sociological terms; he meant that there was an evident barrier between the races, meaning the whites and blacks. Du Bois issued an important quote about the veil, with one specific line speaking out for itself “to those voices from within the Veil, for they portray the most human hurt of the twentieth century” (author, year, 456). He recognized that the people of color we’re suffering and that the veil was not something that would be easily destroyed or cut, instead it was a long-term for the veil to be lifted, and it would not be occurring anytime soon. Du Bois worked his whole life on resolving the issue that the veil visually represented – the manifestation of the color line. African Americans struggled their whole living in the shadows of the veil, allowing it to determine their economic, political and social opportunities. He was generally optimistic, hoping that he would venture within the illusion of the veil with the ambition to give the white people a little insight into the lives of black people in America. His optimism of lifting the veil did not stop him from hitting roadblocks along the way feeling that it was an opaque object which is near impossible to lift, and it would not be something that would go away any time soon (author, year, 457). Along with the important theoretical concept of The Veil, he closely related the concept of the double consciousness to it, he explained that African Americans were seen as outsiders within. More specifically, black people were “always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others” (author, year, pg). When Du Bois discussed the double self of an African American, he was aiming to argue that people hope to attain the identities of both American and Negro. He wanted to create a place where people of color we ‘rent spat on by their fellow peers and had wide doors of opportunities to further advance their career and their personal lives. This too was mentioned in the book he published called The Souls of Black Folk in 1903. Feeling that an individual’s identity is split into two, it makes it difficult to make unify them into one. Therefore, Du Bios further explained that Blacks have lived in a society that has repressed and dehumanized them for so long, citizens found it difficult to unify their colored identity with their American identity. As a result of this damaging, toxic society blacks are suffering from negative self-image because of the mistreatment they are receiving from American citizens. Du Bois was a man of many concepts connecting back to how the African Americans struggled to live their lives in the shadows of those who hold power over them, which is similar to his concept that he called, the race concept. He started by stating “different races complement each other, and humanity would achieve its greatest potential when all races were permitted to flourish” (author, year, 454). By this, he meant that all races we’re there to complete one another and that humanity would bloom like a flower during spring if we learned to love others without pointing out our differences. Du Bois reached a point during his time where he viewed African Americans as superior to whites because they brought culture and meaning to the American society. However, no matter the mistreatment that blacks received from the Americans, he never pitied them but instead, he always said that it was the African Americans who should be the ones to step up and smooth things over with the whites. Exploring this specific theory, Du Bois found it appropriate to look outside the states and to places like Asia and the Islands of the Sea but not just at one specific race that being the negro race. He wanted to branch off and look at all races, instead of quarantining his research to just the African American. With that being said he had mentioned a need for a black organization to keep everything in order and to discuss things like careers and opportunities that were not so evident for them as they were for the whites. But after further research into all the races from around the globe, Du Bois thought it was important to have a unified organization for all the races because with time he realized that there was no “pure” race (author, year, 455). Du Bois continued to build onto his concept of race, and he was aware of the important role that it had in terms of creating an identity, “he also clearly saw that it was a construction built out of cultural, economic and political forces, most of which operated against persons of color” (author, year, 455) In simpler terms, Du Bois had internalized that no matter what he researched to find equality between the people of color and the whites, racialized people will always be at a disadvantage if white supremacy exists.

Contemporary relevance

The concepts and theories that Du Bois stood by during his time when arguing about the rights of the African American will be of use for sociologists of today who are trying to also resolve issues like the veil. One of his key points was not viewing race as a subtopic for sociological theory and research but as a problem of interest to black Americans and policymakers (author, year, pg). Concerning contemporary society, the theories Du Bois argued like the veil and the double consciousness are very similar and present in modern-day society because people of color are still experiencing, negative impacts of what Du Bois called “the veil.” Many opportunities that are open to white people are not offered to those of color and if black people even tried to reach the level of the white, society finds more than one way to shun them away. His work provided a foundation for sociologists of modern-day to branch off of without having to do what Du Bois endured; going door to door to collect data because of the absence of an assistant. Not only will his work help sociologists of today to understand the social world that exists, but it will also give them a clearer image of how the social world was back then; the struggles and the successes. The Philadelphia Negro had aspects that deeply analyzed the issue of crime amine African Americans and Du Bois discovered that earlier statistics found that there was a higher crime rate for negros. He argued that African Americans were arrested for less cause and we’re given longer sentences than white people. He went into detail, discussing the exquisites of why and how and found out that blacks blame the whites for most of the unfortunate conditions they are living in. The research he had gathered about the crime rates in his book are enough to help sociologists today who are struggling with the same concept. Although Du Bois never mentioned how this issue can be resolved, if modern-day sociologists were to combine their research with the research he had gathered during his time, they will come to a solution and if not within the next 10 years, the generation after this one will continue to work on it. Crime, however, wasn’t the only contemporary social problem he looked further into, he examined problems such as illiteracy, racial prejudice, and discrimination. All of which are problems that contemporary society faces daily, especially with those of color. His work ethic has inspired many modern-day sociologists to always stand up for what they believe in and fight for what is right. Had his work not been influential on present-day sociologists we would not have seen people of color rising and taking on roles such as presidents in hopes of changing the world to a better place where racialized people are offered the same level of opportunities as white rather than having them do the dirty work without the slightest bit of acknowledgment. While Du Bois was in Germany completing part of his research, he was also writing The Souls of Black Folk, which would be deemed the most useful tool in contemporary society because it was written using personal and shared experiences. There is nothing more than personal experiences that help individuals to think outside their comfort zone. Sociologists of today are can use the tools that Du Bois spent so many years composing, to advance the society and how people think of it, to change the way people of color have been treated for so long.


From starting this assignment to wrapping it up, I learned a lot from reading about Du Bois and his contributions to the sociological field. First and foremost; those of color will always be a step down in comparison to those who are white, opportunities that flash to white people are not the same opportunities that are offered to black people. The historical issues, theoretical contributions and contemporary relevance of his work were some of the most important during his time because he gave the world insight on how blacks are bottom of the barrel in society, whereas white people are given golden opportunities to advance their lives whether that may educational or recreational. I am personally optimist about the future of society because, even if major changes are not happening right before our eyes, people of color are starting to rise to power, they are changing what they demanded to be changed. Du Bois’s ideas we’re not only relevant and compelling at his time, but concepts like the veil and the double consciousness are worthy of further research from contemporary society because there is still quite a lot to be researched, even though Du Bois spent countless years coining these theories to help people of his time understand the struggle that African Americans are enduring.   


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