Honoring W.E.B. Du Bois’ Scholarship

In February, the University’s Board of Trustees unanimously voted to posthumously bestow civil rights activist and scholar W.E.B. Du Bois with an Honorary Emeritus Professorship in Sociology and Africana Studies.


Most people familiar with Du Bois’ writing may recognize his seminal work, “The Souls of Black Folk.”


His considerable contributions to several fields of study were fostered at Penn, when he worked as an assistant in sociology at Wharton from August of 1896 through December of 1897. Three years later, he had written two major books, “An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy” and “The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study.”


Tukufu Zuberi, professor of sociology and the Lasry Family Professor of Race Relations in the School of Arts and Sciences, led the effort to recognize Du Bois with the professorship and facilitated a daylong conference at Penn to mark the occasion.


The conference included three intellectual panels, an art installation, and musical and poetic tributes. TZ Production Company, which Zuberi helms, documented the conference in a half-hour video “Honoring W.E.B. Du Bois 2012” 


"Dr. William Edward Burghardt Du Bois achieved the highest levels of sociological science, while presenting a case for equality and justice that was accessible to everyone,” Zuberi says. “He was able to rise above the absurd limitations of his time. He dreamed of a world where equality and justice ruled the day. With this appointment, Penn honors his vision at a time when it attempts to address his concerns.”

Text by Jacquie Posey