Penn Conference Marks Honorary Professorship for W.E.B. Du Bois

PHILADELPHIA – The posthumous recognition of W.E.B. Du Bois as Honorary Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania will be celebrated at a Feb. 17 conference by the Department of Sociology and the Center for Africana Studies.  The conference will coincide with the date the Penn Board of Trustees is scheduled to vote on the appointment.

Du Bois was a sociologist and civil rights pioneer who came to Penn as an assistant lecturer in 1896 to study Philadelphia’s Seventh Ward.  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.  While working as an assistant lecturer at Penn, Du Bois was not offered a professorial appointment.

Tukufu Zuberi, professor and chair of Sociology, praised Du Bois as one of the most important scholars and public intellectuals of his generation.   

"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 said. “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.”

Du Bois’ The Philadelphia Negro was the first scientific sociological study of race.  It focused on the social problems of Philadelphia’s African-American community that stemmed from racial marginalization, concluding with the author’s suggestions for social reform.

Du Bois left Penn for Atlanta University where he founded one of the country’s earliest sociology departments. He was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and has been widely recognized as the father of the pan-African movement.

The Feb. 17 conference is free and open to the public.  Online registration is available at  The conference will open at 10 a.m. and continue until 9 p.m. in the G17 auditorium of Claudia Cohen Hall.  The entrance is on ground floor at the rear of building.         

More than 20 scholars from across the United States will gather to present new research in the field of sociology in three panel discussions, “Who Was W.E.B. Du Bois?,” “W.E.B. Du Bois and Social Science” and “W.E.B. Du Bois and Africana Studies.”  

The conference will include a tour of the art installation “The Philadelphia Negro Reconsidered” by Terry Adkins, a professor of fine arts at Penn.  The installation consists of 18 silk-screen prints on display in Room 100 of the Morgan Building.  A musical tribute, “Art Songs in the Kingdom of Culture,” will also be performed that evening by Penn music professor Guthrie Ramsey Jr. in the Fisher-Bennett Recital Hall.

The event is made possible through the support of Penn’s Office of the Provost with contributions by the School of Arts and Sciences, the Center for Africana Studies, the Department of Sociology, the Annenberg School for Communication and the Asian American Studies Program.