“With improved sanitary conditions, improved education, and better economic opportunities, the mortality of the race may and probably will steadily decrease until it becomes normal.”W.E.B. Du Bois, 1906
Visionary sociologist and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) was among the first to note that the health disparities of blacks compared to whites in the United States stemmed from social conditions and not from inherent racial traits. A pioneer of “scientific sociology,” he used census reports, vital statistics, and insurance company records to provide empirical evidence linking the legacy of slavery and the inherent racism of American society to the poor health of blacks.
From 1897-1910, Du Bois served as professor of history and economics at Atlanta University where he organized the annual Atlanta Conference of Negro Problems. His monograph, The Health and Physique of the American Negro, served as the basis of the 1906 Conference, where there was a call for preventive medicine through the formation of local health leagues. The conference also passed resolutions affirming Du Bois’ stance about the importance of social factors in determining health, and the fact that there was no “scientific warrant for the assumption that the Negro race is inferior to other races.
The University of Georgia has digitized each of W.E.B. Du Bois’ “Atlanta University Publications”. The full index may be found here.