Blog # 12 “The Philadelphia Negro (1899)” W.E.B. Du Bois

From my point of view understanding racism is one of the simple yet hardest concept or reality to accept because it depends on the generation that we live in. For example the generation that we live in do not like to see racism out in the open because it deem to be something that is brought back from the dark parts of American History or shows that some people are ignorant and do not consider that what they are doing is against the ideals that everyone is equal and it does not matter of race, skin color, language, or just where you come from. I know personally is that my parents feel that anyone who are dark skin are black, delinquents, and should stay away from. I remember one of my classmates in middle school was walking by a public school near my home and they said hello me and my sister but my parents said who are they (and both of the boys are dark skin but one is from Ghana, looks like a dark Indian and the other is an African-American descent) however my parents told me and my sister to stay away from them because they are black and these people are bad people to mingle to be friends with and that this world (American society) you cannot have real friends because they will turn their back on you for only one reason, because you are different from them.  However, I did not understand it but I did not consider what they said but I felt weird if I didn’t obey them (like I would get into trouble with them if I do not consider their feelings but I felt that I should choose who would be my friends and judge them through their actions not by the way they look like).

The study of the Philadelphia Negro is to tell or show the “geographical distribution of this race, their occupations and daily life, their homes, their organizations, and relation to their million white fellow-citizens” (Edles & Appelrouth, 340). He states that this study started in first of August until the thirty-first of December of the following year (1896-1897). He canvass door to door surveys of the Seventh Ward in Philadelphia (this area has about or over 10,000 African Americans and he distributed or carried out about 5,000 surveys).

“All this is true – all these problems are there and of threatening intricacy; unfortunately, however, the interest of the ordinary man of affairs is apt to stop here. Crime, poverty and idleness affect his interests unfavorably and he would have them stopped; he looks upon these slums and slum characters as unpleasant things which should in some way be removed for the best interests of all. The social students agrees with him so far, but must point out that the removal of the unpleasant features from our complicated modern life is a delicate operation requiring knowledge and skill; that a slum is not a simple fact, it is a symptom, and that to know the removal causes of the Negro slums of Philadelphia requires a study that takes one far beyond the slum districts” (Ibid, 341).

I have decided to use this quote from the book because it not only caught my attention but the way Du Bois mentioned that crime, poverty, and the idleness affects the interests of the people in a bad way and would have these interests stopped. In addition Du Bois mentioned that “he looks upon these slums” and the people in them as something that is not good to look into. After all these unpleasant people that is part of the slums would be removed and to get rid of people from the slums you must start by getting an education and different set of skills. Un addition within the slums there are different set of people with different occupations such as; laborers, servants, porters, waiters, caterers, clerks, teachers, professional men, and small merchants, etc. This indicates African-Americans that are living in the slums have varied jobs while paying high rents and trying to pursue a better set of jobs for the future of their family and themselves.  


However, even if people states that the African-Americans are will off, in reality they are not given the same opportunity as the Irish and the Italian men (as we see in history the African-American population has been underprivileged since early history of American History. The saddest thing is that the perception that the African-American people is/was looked down due to the old ways of thinking and because they ‘look different’ from their white counterpart. Neither the less, the African-Americans, some, are trying to cross over the glass wall or ceiling that the White American gave already set them from the beginning to not achieve the American dream as the other groups who came in American with little money to achieve the American Dream).


Du Bois mentioned that every time throughout his study the prejudice against Negro keeps popping up and everyone knows that it exist. in addition of having the prejudice visible this created the widespread feeling that the African-Americans hate themselves and their blood and keeps them away from having a good job (better pay jobs than underpay jobs).  Also because of all the prejudice is the chief or main reason of the African-Americans condition and the saddest thing is that the White community regards white prejudice more. This reason is because you cannot mingle or do anything with someone who looks different from you because you want to keep your bloodline clean and to not have the social norms altered by allowing someone different from you to even step in. I think this idea is what many different groups underwent not only the African-American, Jewish, and Hispanics. I think that certain community the people there afraid of changes and which to keep the place of their home like the old ways.


Du Bois mentioned how the African-American as of getting work, as keeping work, as entering new lines of work, as to his expenditure, as to his children, as to social intercourse, and the result of them all is to the different conditions and treatment, not only people would feel, but the results is discouragement, bitterness, over-sensitiveness. As to the ‘negro problem’ he mentioned that there are two answers which are how the ignorance, poverty, crime, and the dislike of stranger is an old question issue and the not having proof about these questions because it is important to have the evidence of these targeted questions so there is some type of light can shine to the issue.  In addition to what Du Bois mentioned that the Negro is here to stay and that they should make more of himself is important because they need to raise themselves and put all their efforts to the standards of modern civilization (society) and not stoop to the low aspects of what society thinks you should be doing and strive over that invisible line that you are able to be like them by working hard. 


Edles, Laura and Appelrouth, Scott. 2010. Sociological Theory in the Classical Era: text and readings 2nd edition. Pine Forge Press Sage Publications



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