In 1896, W.E.B. Du Bois who had recently become the first African American to be awarded at Ph.D. at Harvard University, came to Philadelphia as an assistant lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania. This post was not considered to be faculty position. It would be half-century later before Allison Davis was appointed to the faculty at the University of Chicago. He was the first African American scholar to be appointed to a tenured faculty position at a major, predominantly white research university.
While in Philadelphia, Du Bois studied the Black population in the city’s seventh ward and wrote The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study, considered by many to be the first scientific sociological study of race.
Unable to secure a faculty position at Penn, Du Bois left to join the faculty at Atlanta University.
Last week, the University of Pennsylvania board of trustees voted to name Du Bois as Honorary Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies at Penn. Tukufu Zuberi, the Lasry Family Professor of Race Relations and chair of the sociology department at the University of Pennsylvania, said Du Bois “achieved the highest levels of sociological science, while presenting a case for equality and justice that was accessible to everyone. 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 died in 1963.