Dispatch 145: The Work of African American Sociologist E. Franklin Frazier

Poster from Office of War Information. Domestic Operations Branch. News Bureau, 1943

Poster from Office of War Information. Domestic Operations Branch. News Bureau, 1943

E. Franklin Frazier stands out as one of the early pioneers especially in the field of sociology. His scholarship covering topics ranging from the black family to social reality to social change and race relations continues to inform the work of current-day sociologists and social psychologists.

Among his varied scholarly works, his analysis of racism in his work “The Pathology of Race Prejudice” stands out:

From a practical viewpoint, insanity means social incapacity. Southern white people afflicted with the Negro-complex show themselves incapable of performing certain social functions. They are, for instance, incapable of rendering just decisions when white and colored people are involved; and their very claim that they "know" and "understand" the Negro indicates a fixed system of ideas respecting him, —whereas a sane and just appraisal of the situation would involve the assimilation of new data. The delusions of the sane are generally supported by the herd, while those of the insane are often antisocial.

Yet, — from the point of view of Negroes, who are murdered if they believe in social equality or are maimed for asking for an ice cream soda, and of white people, who are threatened with similar violence for not subscribing to the Southerner's delusions—such behavior is distinctively antisocial. The inmates of a madhouse are not judged insane by themselves, but by those outside.

The fact that abnormal behavior towards Negroes is characteristic of a whole group may be an example illustrating Nietzsche's observation that "insanity in individuals is something rare — but in groups, parties, nations, and epochs it is the rule."

The Pathology of Race Prejudice by Edward Franklin Frazier, The ForumJune 1927, pp. 856-861. (See also The Unz Review direct article link)

In addition to his many accomplishments, he also became the first African American to assume the presidency of the American Sociological Association.

For more information on his life and scholarly contributions, go to here and here.

Dispatch 120: Martin Luther King, Jr. and African American Peace Leaders of the 20th Century

18 years ago I had the privilege of collaborating with my doctoral advisor, Dr. Marvin Berlowitz, and African American History scholar and mentor, Dr. Eric Jackson, on a project designed to bring to life documents written by African American peace leaders of the twentieth century. While some were well-known, a majority either had generally not been seen since their original publication or had been transcribed and boxed away. 

The process of securing rights to many of these powerful pieces at times proved incredibly difficult given the consolidation and elimination of many publishing houses across the country. We struggled with attorneys, got bounced around publishing house bureaucracies, and often discovered when we thought we had it all “in the bag” another round of permissions was needed. 

In the end, the struggle to get these documents was well worth the end result of bringing out voices of men and women who - through non-violence - wielded the weapons of peace and the written word to advance basic human rights and civil rights. 

To this day, one of the most powerful pieces in the book is Dr. Martin Luther King’s “A Time to Break the Silence”. While this was one of the easier documents to obtain as it was one of his more famous speeches, it served as a vital concluding source for our book showing the historical arc as relates to peace and justice among numerous African American leaders. His speech was important on so many levels, including his full-on critique of the Vietnam War. Though there were many who were speaking out against the conflict, King’s speech became central to raising greater consciousness linking class, race, and the machinations of war. His powerful observation in which he pointed out that our government was essentially sacrificing poor families to guarantee liberties in (Vietnam) while not solving for the lack of freedoms in "Southeast Georgia and Harlem" brought a truth to power that only Dr. King could deliver given his national prominence. 

When I first read these words, I was transformed by his clarity, his steady determination to shed a bright light on the hypocrisy of fighting a war that was predicated on advancing freedom halfway around the world while our country could not - in many cases would not - ensure basic liberties for all of its citizens. As King noted: "A time comes when silence is betrayal…we are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation, for those it calls (the) enemy.”

15 years ago, when the book was published, YouTube was not yet an idea. Now, with this technology, we have the words as articulated directly by Martin Luther King. If you have an opportunity today or sometime this week, I urge you to take time to listen to this powerful speech given by a man who truly was this country’s moral conscience. 

(Reposted from Dispatch 40)