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The Philadelphia Negro

A Social Study

By W. E. B. Du Bois. Introduction by Elijah Anderson

Publication Year: 1996

In 1897 the promising young sociologist William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (1868-1963) was given a temporary post as Assistant in Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania in order to conduct in-depth studies of the Negro community in Philadelphia. The product of those studies was the first great empirical book on the Negro in American society.

More than one hundred years after its original publication by the University of Pennsylvania Press, The Philadelphia Negro remains a classic work. It is the first, and perhaps still the finest, example of engaged sociological scholarship—the kind of work that, in contemplating social reality, helps to change it.

In his introduction, Elijah Anderson examines how the neighborhood studied by Du Bois has changed over the years and compares the status of blacks today with their status when the book was initially published.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press


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Introduction to the 1996 Edition by Elijah Anderson

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pp. ix-xxxvi

The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study by W.E.B. DuBois was originally published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 1899. One of the first works to combine the use of urban ethnography, social history, and descriptive statistics, it has become a classic work in the social science literature. For that reason alone it is an important study that deserves to be read by...

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Chapter I. The Scope of This Study

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pp. 1-4

I. General Aim.- This study seeks to present the results of an inquiry undertaken by the University of Pennsylvania into the condition of the forty thousand or more people of Negro blood now living in the city of Philadelphia. This inquiry extended over a period of fifteen months and sought to ascertain something of the geographical distribution of...

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Chapter II. The Problem

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pp. 5-9

4. The Negro Problems of Philadelphia.- In Philadelphia, as elsewhere in the United States, the existence of certain peculiar social problems affecting the Negro people are plainly manifest. Here is a large group of people perhaps forty-five thousand, a city within a city-who do not form an integral part of the larger social group. This in itself is not altogether unusual; there are other unassimilated groups: Jews, Italians, even Americans; and yet...

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Chapter III. The Negro in Philadelphia, 1638-1820

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pp. 10-24

6. General Survey.-Few States present better opportunities for the continuous study of a group of Negroes than Pennsylvania. The Negroes were brought here early, were held as slaves along with many white serfs. They became the subjects of a protracted abolition controversy, and were finally emancipated by gradual process. Although, for the most part, in a low and degraded condition, and...

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Chapter IV. The Negro in Philadelphia, 1820-1896

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pp. 25-45

10. Fugitives and Foreigners, 1820-I840.-Five social developments made the decades from 1820 to 1840 critical for the nation and for the Philadelphia Negroes; first, the impulse of the industrial revolution of the nineteenth century; second, the reaction and recovery succeeding the War...

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Chapter V. The Size, Age and Sex of the Negro Population

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pp. 46-65

13. The City for a Century.-The population of the county of Philadelphia increased about twenty-fold from 1790 to 1890; starting with 50,000 whites and 2500 Negroes at the first census, it had at the time of the...

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Chapter VI. Conjugal Condition

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pp. 66-72

15. The Seventh 'Ward.-The conjugal condition of the Negroes above fifteen years of age living in the Seventh Ward is as follows...

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Chapter VII. Sources of the Negro Population

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pp. 73-82

17. The Seventh 'Ward.-We have seen that there is in Philadelphia a large population of Negroes, largely young unmarried folks with a disproportionate number of women. The question now arises, whence came these people? How far are they native Philadelphians, and how far immigrants, and if the latter, how long have they been here? Much....

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Chapter VIII. Education and Illiteracy

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pp. 83-96

19. The History of Negro Education.- Anthony Benezet and the Friends of Philadelphia have the honor of first recognizing the fact that the welfare of the State demands the education of Negro children. On the twenty-sixth of January, 1770, at the Philadelphia Monthly Meeting of Friends, the general situation of the Negroes,...

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Chapter IX. The Occupation of Negroes

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pp. 97-146

21. The Question of Earning a Living.-For a group of freedmen the question of economic survival is the most pressing of all questions; the problem as to how, under the circumstances of modern life, any group of people can earn a decent living, so as to maintain their standard of life, is not always easy to answer. But when the question is complicated by the fact that the group has a low degree...

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Chapter X. The Health of Negroes

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pp. 147-163

25. The Interpretation of Statistics.-The characteristic signs which usually accompany a low civilization are a high birth rate and a high death rate; or, in other words, early marriages and neglect of the laws of physical health. This fact, which has often been illustrated by statistical research, has not yet been fully apprehended by the general public because they have long been used to hearing more or less true tales of the remarkable health...

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Chapter XI. The Negro Family

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pp. 164-196

27. The Size of the Family.-There were in the Seventh Ward, in 1896, 775I members of families (including 17I persons living alone), and 1924 single lodgers. The average size of the family, without lodgers and...

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Chapter XII. The Organized Life of Negroes

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pp. 197-234

31. History of the Negro Church in Philadelphia.- We have already followed the history of the rise of the Free African Society, which was the beginning of the Negro Church in the North. We often forget that the rise of a church organization among Negroes was a curious phenomenon. The church really represented all that was...

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Chapter XIII. The Negro Criminal

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pp. 235-268

37. History of Negro Crime in the City-From his earliest advent the Negro, as was natural, has figured largely in the criminal annals of Philadelphia. Only such superficial study of the American Negro as dates his beginning with 1863 can neglect this past record of crime in studying the present. Crime is a phenomenon of organized social life, and is the open rebellion of an individual against his social environment. Naturally then, if men...

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Chapter XIV. Pauperism and Alcoholism

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pp. 269-286

41. Pauperism.-Emancipation and pauperism must ever go hand in hand; when a group of persons have been for generations prohibited from self-support, and selfinitiative in any line, there is bound to be a large number of them who, when thrown upon their own resources, will be found incapable of competing in the race of life. Pennsylvania from early times, when emancipation of slaves in...

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Chapter XV. The Environment of the Negro

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pp. 287-321

44. Houses and Rent.-The inquiry of 1848 returned quite full statistics of rents paid by the Negroes. In the whole city at that date 4019 Negro families paid $199,665.46 in rent, or an average of $49.68 per family each year. Ten years earlier the average was $44 per family, Nothing better indicates the growth of the Negro population in numbers and power when we compare with...

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Chapter XVI. The Contact of the Races

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pp. 322-367

47. Color Prejudice.-Incidentally throughout this study the prejudice against the Negro has been again and again mentioned, It is time now to reduce this somewhat indefinite term to something tangible. Everybody speaks of the matter, everybody knows that it exists, but in just what form it shows itself or how influential it is few agree. In the Negro's mind, color prejudice in Philadelphia is...

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Chapter XVII. Negro Suffrage

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pp. 368-384

50. The Significance of the Experiment.- The indiscriminate granting of universal suffrage to freedmen and foreigners was one of the most daring experiments of a too venturesome nation. In the case of the Negro its only justification was that the ballot might serve as a weapon of...

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Chapter XVIII. A Final Word

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pp. 385-397

56. The Meaning of All This.-Two sorts of answers are usually returned to the bewildered American who asks seriously: What is the Negro problem? The one is straightforward and clear: it is simply this, or simply that, and one simple remedy long enough applied will in time cause it to disappear. The other answer is apt to be hopelessly involved and complex-to indicate no simple...


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pp. 399-423

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pp. 424-509

Isabel Eaton's "Special Report on Negro Domestic Service in the Seventh Ward" was a trailblazing documentation of the social and economic conditions of the single most prominent occupation among blacks in nineteenth-century urban America. Eaton's contribution to sociology and history, however, was...


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pp. 511-520

E-ISBN-13: 9780812201802
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812215731

Page Count: 568
Publication Year: 1996

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • African Americans -- Pennsylvania -- Philadelphia.
  • Household employees -- Pennsylvania -- Philadelphia.
  • Philadelphia (Pa.) -- Social conditions.
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