Frazier, Edward Franklin 1894-1962

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FRAZIER, Edward Franklin 1894-1962

PERSONAL: Born September 24, 1894, in Baltimore, MD; died of a heart attack May 17, 1962, in Washington, DC; son of James (a bank messenger) and Mary (a domestic servant; maiden name, Clark) Frazier; married Marie E. Brown, 1922. Education: Howard University, B.A. (cum laude), 1916; Clark University, M.A., 1920; New York School of Social Work, research fellow, 1920-21; University of Chicago, Ph. D., 1931.

CAREER: Teacher in secondary schools in Alabama, Virginia, and Maryland, 1916-18; Morehouse College, instructor of sociology, 1922-24; Atlanta School of Social Work, director, 1922-27; Fisk University, teacher, 1929-34; Howard University, Department of Sociology, head, 1934-59; New York School of Social Work, Columbia University, part-time instructor, 1944-51; School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, lecturer, 1957-62. United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), chief of Division of Applied Social Sciences, 1951-53.

MEMBER: American Sociological Association (president, 1948), District of Columbia Sociological Society (founding member and president), Eastern Sociological Society (president, 1943-55), African Studies Association (vice president).

AWARDS, HONORS: Opportunity first prize for essay, 1925; Van Vechten Prize, 1928, for best contribution in Opportunity; Ansfield Award, 1939, for The Negro Family in the United States; MacIver Award, American Sociological Association.


The Free Negro Family, Fisk University Press (Nashville, TN), 1932.

The Negro Family in Chicago, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1932.

The Negro Family in the United States, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1939, reprinted, University of Notre Dame Press (Notre Dame, IN), 2001.

Negro Youth at the Crossways, Their PersonalityDevelopment in the Middle States, American Council on Education (Washington, DC), 1940. The Negro Family in Bahia, Brazil, 1942.

The Negro in the United States, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1949.

(Editor) The Integration of the Negro into AmericanSociety, Howard University Press (Washington, DC), 1951.

Bourgeoisie noire, Plon (Paris, France), 1955, translation published as Black Bourgeoisie, Free Press (Glencoe, IL), 1957, reprinted 1997.

Race and Culture Contacts in the Modern World, Knopf (New York, NY), 1957.

The Negro Church in America, Schocken Books (New York, NY), 1963.

On Race Relations: Selected Writings, edited and with an introduction by G. Franklin Edwards, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1968.

Contributor to Inequality of Opportunity in Higher Education, by David S. Berkowitz, Williams Press (Albany, NY), 1948. The Frazier papers are housed at the Moorland Spingarn Research Center, Howard University.

SIDELIGHTS: African-American sociologist Edward Franklin Frazier made significant contributions to scholarship. Focusing on the black family, he published eight books and dozens of articles. In addition, through his many years of college teaching, Frazier influenced hundreds of students.

Frazier, whose paternal grandfather had been a slave who bought freedom for his family and whose father was self-taught, was also forced to take charge of his fate. When he was only ten years old, his father died and he was, along with his mother, sister, and two brothers, forced to help support the family. Frazier sold newspapers in the mornings, attended school, and then delivered groceries. After graduating from Colored High School in 1912, he attended Howard University on a scholarship. There he studied liberal arts and was active in a number of clubs, including the Intercollegiate Socialist Society and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Frazier began his teaching career at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, but he soon found that he disagreed with the school's emphasis on teaching vocational skills to the detriment of more scholarly subjects. After a short stint in the U.S. Army during which he worked as a business secretary for the Young Men's Christian Association, Frazier decided to pursue an advanced degree. He earned his master's degree at Clark University and as a fellow of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, conducted research on the rural school systems and cooperative agriculture.

In 1922 Frazier met and married Marie Brown, and giving up potential jobs and doctoral studies in the north, the couple moved to Atlanta, Georgia. There, for five years, Frazier served both as the director of Atlanta University's School of Social Work and as professor of sociology at Morehouse College. During his tenure at these institutions, he upgraded the School of Social Work into a professional program, began class work for a doctorate at the University of Chicago, and wrote prolifically. In articles published in periodicals and the anthology The New Negro, edited by Alain Locke, Frazier attempted to raise the consciousness of black readers. He stressed that history and society had shaped the roles of African Americans rather than biology and noted that many African Americans were members of the middle class. When he later likened racism to a mental illness in an article titled "The Pathology of Race Prejudice," he was fired from his position at Atlanta University.

With the threat of violence overshadowing the Fraziers, the couple moved to Chicago, where Franklin received a Rockefeller Foundation grant and worked part time as the research director of the Chicago National Urban League while he worked toward his degree. A grant from the Social Science Research Council allowed him to conduct a three-year study of the "Negro Family in Chicago," and in 1931 he earned his doctorate. For a short time he taught at Fisk University, before moving to Howard University, where he developed the Department of Sociology into a solid program of scholarship.

During his more than quarter century at Howard University, Frazier was active in many areas, social activism among them, and he found himself under government scrutiny for alleged "subversive" actions. In addition to becoming a notable teacher, Frazier published significant works, among them The Negro in the United States and Race and Culture Contacts in the Modern World. First published in French, his Black Bourgeoisie, was his most controversial work because he identified patterns of behavior among black Americans that were detrimental, such as conspicuous consumption and lack of willingness to pursue higher education. This later work caused a furor among blacks and whites alike. Frazier's last work was the posthumously published The Negro Church in America, in which he describes the role of the church in improving the welfare of black Americans.



Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 10, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1996.

Edwards, Franklin G., editor, On Race Relations:Selected Writings, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1968.

Platt, Anthony M., E. Franklin Frazier Reconsidered, Rutgers University Press (Rutgers, NJ), 1991.

Salley, Columbus, The Black 100: A Ranking of theMost Influential African Americans, Past and Present, Citadel Press (New York, NY), 1993.

Salzman, Jack, David Lionel Smith, and Cornel West, editors, Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1996.

Young, James O., Black Writers of the Thirties, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1973.


American Sociological Review, December, 1962.

Negro Digest, February, 1962.

New York Times, May 22, 1962.

Social Research, July, 1962.*