Frazier, E. Franklin 1894-1962

views updated Jun 11 2018

E. Franklin Frazier 1894-1962

Sociologist, educator, writer

At a Glance

Studied at Clark University

Atlanta: Acceptance and Expulsion

The Chicago School

Received Guggenheim Fellowship

Selected writings


When E. Franklin Frazier became head of Howards sociology department in 1934, he emerged a vital force in promoting the scientific study of his field. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Frazier brought, during his 25-year post at Howard, modern analytical and quantitative techniques of the Chicago School. Throughout his life he remained both scholar and activist, delivering, in his fiery essays and speaking appearances, sharp criticisms of capitalist society and middle class black America.

Frazier refuted the idea that African cultural traits survived among African Americansa position that made him an uncompromising opponent of scholars from Melville Herskovits to James Weldon Johnson. Upholding socialism, he disdained many black elites and the members of New Negro movement whom he believed were more concerned with success in white markets rather than the struggle of the black masses. Through his famous studies of the black family, race, and religious life, he sought to help formulate values that promoted a consciousness of cultural self-determinism that could guide blacks in their goal of assimilation while preserving the desirable elements of the past.

One of five children, Edward Franklin Frazier was born the son of James and Mary Clark Frazier, on September 24, 1894, in Baltimore, Maryland. An uneducated man who taught himself to read, James Frazier, taught his children virtues of hard work and frugality. When Franklin was ten his father died, leaving Mary to support the family as a maid. Between his studies Franklin sold newspapers and delivered groceries. In June of 1912, he graduated from Colored High School, receiving the institutions only annual Howard University scholarship.

Nicknamed Plato by fellow students, Fraziers delved into his liberal arts education at Howard with Spartan devotion. His studies included courses in mathematics, physical science, literature, Latin, Greek, German, and social sciences. Howard philosophy professor Alain Locke described Frazier, as quoted in E. Franklin Frazier Reconsidered, one of the most consistently competent and painstaking students I have taught in four years of my experience at the institution.

At Howard Fraziers desire for a classical and well-rounded education coincided with a developing interest

At a Glance

Born Edward Franklin Frazier, September 24, 1894, in Baltimore, MD; died of a heart attack, May 17, 1962; son of James Frazier, a bank messenger, and Mary Frazier; married Marie Brown. Education: B.A., Howard University, cum laude, 1916; M.A., Clark University, 1920; Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1931.

Taught a summer semester at Fort Valley High and Industrial School, 1917; worked as a YMCA secretary at Fort Humphreys, VA, 1918; same year published first essay God and War; conducted a study of New York city longshoremen 192021; traveled to Denmark to study folk schools and cooperatives 192122; served as director of the Atlanta School of Social Work 192227; taught at Fisk University 192934; served as director of Howard Universitys social work department 193459,

Awards: Opportunity magazines first prize for essay 1925; won Van Vechten prize for best contribution in Opportunity, 1928; won Ansfield award for The Negro Family in the United States, 1939; elected president of American Sociological Association 1948; received the American Sociological Associations Maclver Award.

in socialism. Because of his opposition to the religious and conservative views of Howard sociologist Kelly Miller, Frazier avoided taking sociology courses at Howard. He deplored Millers religious eulogizing and his lack of scientific methodology. Outside the classroom, Fraziers deep interest in politics and race were stimulated by the left-wing ideas of the campus Intercollegiate Socialist Society and the pages of the socialist publication the Messenger.

Extremely active, Frazier joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Drama, Social Science, German, and Political Science clubs; in 1915, he served as class president. Though he found the universitys religious speakers uninspiring, Howard offered Frazier a higher degree of personal freedom and relaxed social restraints that were unknown in Southern black universities. At Howard, as Anthony M. Platt observed in, E. Franklin Frazier Reconsidered, Frazier found a new world that must have confirmed and given purpose to the rebellious experience of youth.

After Frazier graduated from Howard cum laude with a bachelors degree in arts and sciences, he secured a job teaching math at Tuskegee Institute, not far from Selma, Alabama. For a freethinker and serious young scholar of classical background, Fraziers short tenure proved a period of personal ideological struggle. Booker T. Washingtons successor Robert Russa Moton placed fierce emphasis on vocational training of students which, in their organized cadres, resembled disciplined military units.

One afternoon while Frazier walked across campus with several books under his arm, the schools director of the academic department stopped the young scholar, admonishing him that white visitors might interpret the open display of books as a deviation from the institutions vocational philosophy. Intended as a sign of rebellion against Tuskegees anti-intellectual outlook, Frazier displayed bricks on his desk, along with some cotton and a bale of hay.

Leaving Tuskegee in 1917, Frazier taught for a summer term at Fort Valley High and Industrial School. Drafted into the armed forces a few months later, he opposed joining an imperialistic conflict which ignored democratic rights for African Americans. Though he registered for the draft, Frazier avoided military service until the summer 1918, when he served at Camp Humphreys, Virginia, as a Young Mens Christian Association business secretarya program operated under the auspices of the War Departments War Work Council. Fraziers bitter opposition to the war prompted him to write his first major publication, God and War. A 15-page pamphlet, God and War emerged as one of the first public anti-war statements written by African American intellectual.

Studied at Clark University

In 1919 Frazier received a fellowship to attend Clark University, in Massachusetts. His studies concentrated primarily upon social science, and included statistics, philosophy, and neurology. At Clark, wrote Anthony Platt in E. Franklin Frazier Reconsidered, Frazier not only had his first serious introduction to the literature and ideas of sociology but also learned a new language. The conventions of a academic sociology required both a specialized vocabulary and at least an appearance of dispassionate objectivity.

Though two of his most influential sociology instructors, professors G. Stanley Hall and Frank Hankins, were adherents of a scientific racism that sought to prove the superiority of the Nordic race, Frazier completed his studies without open protest. Despite his objections, he accrued vital knowledge in the scientific constructs and study of sociology. His masters thesis, New Currents of Thought Among the Colored People of America, remained testament to his increasing concern of the race problem.

After graduating from Clark in 1920, Frazier won a research fellowship to the New York School of Social Work, and for next two years conducted a study of the 82 longshoremen, on New York Citys waterfront. Fraziers ground breaking study examined the workers in both their work and social environments. From 1921 to 1922, he traveled to Denmark as fellow of the Scandinavian Foundation. On a stipend of $1,000, he studied the Danish rural folk schools and cooperative enterprises. Frazier returned to America with the hope that rural education and cooperative businesses could serve as a model for developing a democratization of wealth among poor Southern blacks. Until 1925, he continued to argue the importance of African American cooperatives in creating economic growth through small amounts of capital.

Atlanta: Acceptance and Expulsion

In 1922 Frazier accepted a position as director of the Atlanta School of Social Work at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. Upon his arrival he worked diligentlyas administrator, teacher, recruiter, and fund-raiserto upgrade the schools small, understaffed social work program. Originally dependent upon Morehouse for providing classrooms and offices and one part-time instructor, Fraziers efforts resulted in the incorporation of the Atlanta School of Social Work as a independent program in 1924.

In the summer of 1923, Frazier took first graduate courses at the University of Chicago. One of his instructors was the renowned sociologist Robert E. Park. The influence of Park later emerged in Fraziers 1925 award-winning article, Social Equality and the Negro, for the Urban leagues Opportunity magazine. In The Mind and Mood of Black America, historian S. P. Fullinwinder outlined the central argument of Fraziers article: The Negro is caught in a vicious circle, he has been categorized as an inferior, and, because so categorized by the dominant culture, he has enmeshed himself in a caste system which maintains his economic and cultural inferiority in fact. Fullinwinder, added, that so far as Frazier was concerned, the only thing that could break down this deadly categorization was increased social intercourse between the races. Concerned with role of status conflict among blacks, Frazier repudiated the older generation of race men who believed that the differences of between the races stemmed from peculiar African endowments. As James O. Young concluded, in Black Writers of the Thirties, Frazier thought the black Americas problems were essentially a part of the larger problems of the dominant society.

Because of the militant tone of his writings, Frazier soon faced the wrath of the Atlanta Universitys white faculty and board of trustees. In 1926 the school asked for his resignation. Refusing to resign, he fought to retain his joba stance that eventually forced the board to fire him. To avoid controversy and maintain its image, the university reported that Frazier had resigned. Fraziers departure, however, would not remain out of the light of controversy. Before leaving Atlanta in 1927, he published, The Pathology of Race Prejudice, an article he had written in 1924.

Published in the June 1927 issue of Forum, the article brought a storm of protest in the white South. In the essay Frazier compared, as Franklin G. Edwards wrote in E. Franklin Frazier, the mechanisms which operate in prejudiced behavior with those of which characterize mental illness. When repudiations of the article appeared in the Atlanta press, the Fraziers were threatened with lynching. A quick departure followed, with Frazier leaving Atlanta with a .45 in his belt.

The Chicago School

In June of 1927, Frazier acquired an $800 grant to attend the University of Chicago. Studying under the mentors of the Chicago School of Sociology, he received instruction from Robert Park, Ernest W. Burgess, and Ellsworth Faris. As Anthony M. Platt observed, in E. Franklin Frazier Reconsidered, the University of Chicago provided Frazier with a lively and encouraging intellectual atmosphere within the department, a close relationship between professors and students, who knew they were the pioneers of a new kind of research and scholarship in sociology. In 1927 Frazier began his study the Negro Family in Chicago. Based on the social disorganization theory, the study related how African Americans had suffered a series of shocks, beginning with their original African enslavement, followed by trans-Atlantic voyage, slavery, emancipation, and finally their migration to urban centers, where they experienced a conflict with their former rural way of life.

During the same year he launched his Chicago study, Frazier voiced his opposition to the New Negro movement of the Harlem Renaissance. In an essay written for the Urban Leagues Ebony and Topaz, he spoke out against the argument existing among blacks who advocated a unique black culture and those who sought conformity to white western aesthetic standards. Never one to associate himself with the Harlem scene, Frazier viewed the two extremes as an over-simplified struggle. Recognizing the vast grey area existing between the two positions, he called for the creation of a group efficiency among blacks by which the individual could acquire group status and fuller participation in American culture.

According to Frazier, blacks could not advance by romanticizing the crude rural culture exemplified in evangelical Christianity or the sorrow songs of spirituals and blues. Conversely, he believed nothing could be gained by imitating white bourgeoisie lifestyles and art. Though he never offered a coherent plan for formulating a modern African American culture to elevate blacks in the modern industrial society, Frazier did discern the complexity in the development of a integrated culture allowing blacks individual identity while seeking full participation within in mainstream America.

After graduating with his doctoral degree from the University of Chicago in 1929, Frazier began a five-year position at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. At Fisk he opposed the political outlook of the universitys social science department director, Charles S. Johnson, one of the founders of the Harlem Renaissance and editor of the Urban Leagues Opportunity magazine. Though he despised Johnsons liberal politics and his associations with white philanthropists, he finished his tenure without publicly attacking his elder associate. While at Fisk Frazier published his first books in 1932, the Negro Family in Chicago and The Free Negro, and 12 articles that appeared in such periodicals as Current History, Opportunity, American Journal of Sociology, and The Journal Of Negro History.

In 1934 Frazier accepted a job as director of Howard Universitys sociology department. Replacing the ailing Kelly Miller, Frazier set out to restructure the entire curriculum. A long-standing adversary of Miller, Frazier, as Fullinwinder explained in Mind and Mood, had nothing but contempt for the type of moralizing that had been passing as science. During his twelve-year residence at Howard, Frazier contributed to a number of studies, including Mayor Fiorello LaGuardias Harlem Commission study which investigated the 1935 Harlem riot. In 1939 he served as one of several scholars who provided criticism for Swedish economist Gunnar Mydrals study, American Dilemma.

That same year, Frazier published his famous, The Negro in the United States, which won the Ansfield award. Based upon his earlier studies of the Negro family, the work drew heavily on history, sociology, social psychology, and Afro-American studies. It dealt with such themes as the historical legacy of the matriarchal black family and the tradition of the mulatto brown middle class. Countering the dominant scientific racists of the day, Fraziers work explained deviant behavior and poverty among blacks in sociological terms, attributing such problems to environment and institutionalized racism rather than biological determinism.

Fraziers study viewed the migration to northern cities as a period of both destruction and rebirthan environment in which African American rural culture and familial cohesiveness would periodically breakdown. Following his socialist ideology, he believed the early stage of poverty and dislocation would be followed by a prosperous period of black industrial unionization. Blacks would then abandon brown middle-class values expounded by African American conservative spokesmen and intellectuals who Frazier believed prevented the progress of the black masses in order to maintain their own positions.

Received Guggenheim Fellowship

A year after the appearance of The Negro Family in the United States, Frazier published Negro Youth at the Crossways: Their Personality Development in the Middle States. A personality study of black youths in Washington, DC, and Louisville, Kentucky, Fraziers analysis, wrote G. Franklin Edwards in E. Franklin Frazier, took account of the socialization of influences provided by the family, church, school, and neighborhoods. In 1940 Frazier received John Guggenheim Foundation fellowship grant to study race relations in Brazil which produced the paper A Comparison of Negro-White Relations in Brazil and the United States, in 1944. Four years later, he became the first African American to serve as president of the American Sociological Society, and subsequently published The Negro in the United States.

In 1949 Frazier stepped down as head of Howards sociology department. Between 1951 and 1953, he served as chief of the division of applied sciences of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). During the 1950s he spent two years in Paris and traveled to Africa and the Middle East. In 1957 he published Race and Culture Contacts in the Modern World, and his most controversial study Black Bourgeoisie. First published in France as Bourgeoisie Noire in 1955, the books scathing criticism of the failure of the black middle class evoked a bitter response among many whites and African Americans. By exposing the black middle as largely dependent upon white collar jobs and capital, Frazier sought to dispel the myths behind the so-called strides made by black businessmen and their vision for a separate black economy. Written in 1962, and posthumously published in 1964, Fraziers last work The Negro Church in America described how, out of the oppression of slavery, the church became a uniquely American institution which had a consistent role in looking after the welfare of the African American masses.

During the last decade of his life, Frazier dedicated himself to the world struggle of people of African descent. His last years were spent speaking out against African American intellectuals who he believed lacked the foresight and knowledge of their African counterparts. Frazier was hopeful, observed Platt in E. Franklin Frazier Reconsidered, that a new international community was in the process, that a world based upon federated cultures was in the making. Frazier began to suffer from terminal cancer. He also faced pressures from the U.S. State Department which placed him under investigation for being affiliated with several subversive organizations. He died of a heart attack on May 17, 1962.

As an activist intellectual, Frazier emerged in the late 1920s as a militant voice in the struggle for equality and racial identity. Throughout the 1930s until the last months of his life, he remained a radical visionary. In his last essay, The Failure of the Negro Intellectual, published in Negro Digest, Frazier admonished blacks to leave a worthwhile memorialin science, in art, in literature, in sculpture, in musicof our having been here. In his sociological studies and fiery essays, Frazier has gained an enduring place in the memorial of African American intellectual and cultural history.

Selected writings

The Negro Family in Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1931.

The Free Negro Family, Fisk University Press, 1932.

The Negro Family in the United States, University Chicago Press, 1939.

Negro Youth at the Crossways: Their Personality and Development in the Middle States, Schocken Books, 1940.

The Negro in the United States, 1949.

Bourgeoisie Noire, Plon, (Paris), 1955.

Black Bourgeoisie, The Free Press, 1957.

Race and Culture Contacts in the Modern World, A.A. Knopf, 1957.

The Negro Church in America, Schocken Books, 1964.



Black Protest Thought in the Twentieth Century, edited by August Meier and Elliot Rudwick, Bobbs-Merrill Co.,Inc., 1971.

Edwards, Franklin G., E. Franklin Frazier on Race Relations: Selected Writings, University of Chicago Press, 1968.

Fullinwinder, S. P., The Mind and Mood of Black America, Dorsey Press, 1969.

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

Young, James O., Black Writers of the Thirties, Louisiana State University Press, 1973.


Negro Digest, February, 1962.

John Cohassey

Frazier, Edward Franklin

views updated May 14 2018

Frazier, Edward Franklin

September 24, 1894
May 17, 1962

Born in Baltimore in 1894, the year in which W. E. B. Du Bois was working on his doctoral degree at Harvard and 135 blacks were lynched in the South, essayist and activist E. Franklin Frazier was encouraged in his formative years by his parents, especially his working-class father, to seek upward mobility and social justice through education. With a scholarship from Colored High School he went on to Howard University, where he graduated cum laude in 1916 after four years of rigorous education and political activism at the "capstone of Negro education." For the rest of his academic career, he taught primarily in segregated, African-American schools and colleges, first in the South in the 1920s and early 1930s, then for most of his career in Howard's sociology department. Between teaching jobs he received scholarships that enabled him to get a master's degree at Clark University (1920) and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago (1931). Despite his election as the first African-American president of the American Sociological Association (1948) and his recognition by UNESCO in the 1950s as a leading international authority on race relations, Frazier was never offered a regular faculty appointment by a predominantly white university.

With minimal institutional and foundation support, Frazier managed to produce eight books and over one hundred articles. He is best known for his pioneering studies of African-American families, especially The Negro Family in the United States (1939/2001), which demonstrated that the internal problems of black families were socially created within and by Western civilization, not by the failure of Africans to live up to American standards. Building upon Du Bois's 1908 essay, "The Negro American Family," Frazier refuted the prevailing social scientific wisdom that, in his words, "most often dealt with the pathological side of [black] family life." In contrast, Frazier's family is a broad spectrum of households, constantly in a process of change and reorganization, sometimes disorganized and demoralized, sometimes tenacious and resourceful. To Frazier the serious problems within African-American families"the waste of human life delinquency, desertions, and broken homes"was the result not of cultural backwardness but rather of economic exploitation and the social damage inflicted by racism.

Frazier also made a variety of other important intellectual contributions: as an ethnographer and historian of everyday life in black communities; as a trenchant and subtle critic of the dynamics and etiquette of racism; as an influential consultant to Gunnar Myrdal's An American Dilemma (1944); as the author of the first systematic textbook on The Negro in the United States (1949); and as a critic of overly specialized, narrowly conceived studies in the social sciences. Frazier's popular reputation was made by Black Bourgeoisie (first published in the United States in 1957), but he explored the controversial relationship between class, politics, and culture all his life, beginning with a polemical essay on "La Bourgeoisie Noire" in 1928 and ending with his scholarly assessment of Race and Culture Contacts in the Modern World (1957). In this body of work he challenged monolithic portraits of African-American communities and documented their socioeconomic diversity; in particular, he exposed the collaborative and opportunistic role played by the black middle class in holding back the struggle for social equality and ensuring that "bourgeois ideals are implanted in the Negro's mind." Instead of being "seduced by dreams of final assimilation," Frazier called upon black leaders to envision "a common humanity and a feeling of human solidarity" in which "racial and cultural differentiation without implications of superiority and inferiority will become the basic pattern of a world order."

Frazier was part of a cadre of activists, intellectuals, and artists who after World War I formed the cutting edge of the New Negro movement that irrevocably changed conceptions of race and the politics of race relations. Though a loner who distrusted organizations, Frazier had close and respectful relationships with civil rights leaders such as W. E. B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, and A. Philip Randolph, as well as with scholars such as Ralph Bunche and Abram Harris who tried to bridge the gap between university and community, theory and practice. From his undergraduate days at Howard, when he was a vigorous opponent of U.S. entry into World War I, until his last years, when he welcomed a revitalized civil rights movement, Frazier was a politicized intellectual who believed that "a moral life is a life of activity in society."

See also Black Middle Class; Bunche, Ralph; Du Bois, W.E.B.; Harris, Abram; New Negro; Randolph, A. Philip; Robeson, Paul; Sociology


Edwards, G. Franklin, ed. E. Franklin Frazier on Race Relations. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968.

Frazier, E. Franklin. The Negro in the United States. New York: Macmillan, 1949.

Frazier, E. Franklin. The Negro Family in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1939; South Bend, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 2001.

Holloway, Jonathan Scott. Confronting the Veil: Abram Harris Jr., E. Franklin Frazier, and Ralph Bunche, 19191941. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.

Platt, Anthony M. E. Franklin Frazier Reconsidered. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1991.

anthony m. platt (1996)
Updated bibliography

Frazier, E. Franklin

views updated Jun 11 2018

Frazier, E. Franklin



The most significant contributions of E. Franklin Frazier (1894-1962) to the literature of sociology are embodied in his writings in the fields of family behavior and race and culture contacts. Although these fields are commonly demarcated as separate areas of study, they were not always so conceived by Frazier.

Frazier’s major contribution to the literature of the family is The Negro Family in the United States (1939). Building on earlier research (1932a;1932b), the book analyzes the impact first of slavery and then of emancipation and urbanization upon the Negro family. These experiences produced in the Negro family variations from the dominant American family pattern—to wit, a more important role for the female; attachment of great significance to variations in skin color; and a higher incidence of illegitimacy, of common law relationships, and of other forms of family disorganization. Frazier’s viewpoint that the structure and values of the Negro family in the United States are to be understood, except in the most isolated instances, as products of the Negro’s American experiences involved him in a lively controversy with the anthropological scholar and Africanist, Melville Herskovits, whose studies led him to the conclusion that the major institutions of Negro life, including the family, incorporate African survivals to a significant extent.

Frazier’s sociological conceptions were shaped mainly by his graduate training at the University of Chicago, from which he received the doctoral degree in 1931. There he studied with Ellsworth Paris, Robert E. Park, William F. Ogburn, and Ernest Burgess. He became associated with the program of research on the urban community and on race relations, directed by Park and conducted by a group of brilliant graduate students and young instructors that included Louis Wirth, Everett C. Hughes, and Herbert Blumer. Although critics labeled this group the “Chicago ecological school,” its basic conception of sociology was in fact much broader than the study of ecological phenomena. The group believed that any social phenomenon may be understood within the context of the larger social system and that the larger social system may be coterminous with society itself.

The influence of this approach is reflected in Frazier’s work on culture contacts (1949a; 1957). In his Race and Culture Contacts in the Modern World (1957), he analyzed the ecological and demographic relationships that result from contacts between people of diverse racial and cultural backgrounds and the effects of these relationships on economic, political, and social organization.

Perhaps the most interesting result of Frazier’s work on culture contacts is his Black Bourgeoisie (1955), an analysis of the evolution, composition, and style of life of the Negro middle class in the United States. The Negro middle class, according to Frazler, differs from middle classes in general not only in composition but also in values. Frazier pointed out that the Negro middle class lacks the strong entrepreneurial tradition that has been the backbone of the middle classes in general. Negro business is small business, mainly of the service variety—restaurants, beauty parlors, food stores, undertaking establishments. Negro insurance companies and the Negro press may be exceptions, but even these are small compared to white organizations of the same type. Similarly, Negro banks are few and possess limited capital.

The black bourgeoisie, therefore, “is constituted of those Negroes who derive their principal income from services they render as white-collar workers.” This class of white-collar workers, mainly professionals and clerical and sales personnel, has acquired a dominant position among Negroes. Although their incomes are limited, they have lost much of the old virtues identified with the middle class—industry, thrift, belief in the substantive values of education—and have, instead, emphasized conspicuous consumption and attractive social life, values more commonly associated with a leisure class. This emphasis upon society and social life represents “status without substance.” This theme, that Negro values are distorted, recurs in many of Frazier’s articles on Negro life in the United States: he saw the racial system as forcing the Negro to live in isolation and as endowing him with a sense of dependency and inferiority.

Frazier was born in Baltimore, Maryland. An apt and intellectually curious student, he received a B.A. degree with honors from Howard University in 1916. His first serious, formal encounter with sociology was as a graduate student at Clark University, from which he received an M.A. degree in 1920. There he studied with Frank Hankins, whom he credited with opening up to him the possibilities of sociology as a systematic study. In addition to graduate study at Chicago, his formal education included a year of study at the New York School of Social Work, 1920-1921, and a year in Denmark as a fellow of the Scandinavian-American Foundation, 1921-1922. His major academic affiliation was with Howard University, where he was professor of sociology from 1934 until he died.

Frazier was president of the American Sociological Society in 1948 and was awarded honorary degrees by Morgan College, Baltimore, in 1955 and by the University of Edinburgh in 1960.


[For the historical context of Frazier’s work, see the biographies ofBURGESS; HANKINS; HERSKOVITS; OGBURN; PARK; for discussion of the subsequent development of his ideas, seeRACE RELATIONS.]


1932a The Negro Family in Chicago. Univ. of Chicago Press.

1932b The Free Negro Family: A Study of Family Origins Before the Civil War. Nashville, Term.: Flsk Univ. Press.

1939 The Negro Family in the United States. Univ. of Chicago Press. ⇒ A revised and abridged edition was published in 1948 by Dryden Press.

1949a Race Contacts and the Social Structure. American Sociological Review 14:1-11.

(1949b) 1963 The Negro in the United States. Rev. ed. New York: Macmillan.

(1955) 1957 Black Bourgeoisie. Glencoe, 111.: Free Press.

⇒ First published in French. A paperback edition was published in 1962 by Collier.

(1957) 1965 Race and Culture Contacts in the Modern World. Boston: Beacon.

1964 The Negro Church in America. Liverpool University Studies in Sociology, No. 1. New York: Schocken; Liverpool (England) Univ. Press. ⇒ Published posthumously.


DAVIS, A. P. 1962 E. Franklin Frazier 1894-1962: A Profile. Journal of Negro Education 31:429-435.

EDWARDS, G. FRANKLIN 1962 Edward Franklin Frazier: 1894-1962. American Sociological Review 27:890-892.

ODUM, HOWARD W. 1951 American Sociology: The Story of Sociology in the United States Through 1950. New York: Longmans. ⇒ See especially pages 233-239 on “Franklin Frazier: 1894—.”

Edward Franklin Frazier

views updated May 23 2018

Edward Franklin Frazier

Edward Franklin Frazier (1894-1962), one of America's leading sociologists, specialized in studies of black people in North and South America and in Africa.

On Sept. 24, 1894, E. Franklin Frazier was born in Baltimore, Md. He took his bachelor of arts degree cum laude at Howard University in 1916. From 1916 to 1918 Frazier taught in secondary schools in Alabama, Virginia, and Maryland. In 1919 he began graduate studies at Clark University, Worcester, Mass., receiving a master of arts degree in sociology in 1920. As a research fellow at the New York School of Social Work (1920-1921), Frazier studied longshoremen in New York City. In 1921-1922 he studied folk high schools in Denmark. From 1922 to 1924 Frazier was an instructor in sociology at Morehouse College, serving also as director of the Atlanta School of Social Work (1922-1927). He married Marie E. Brown in 1922.

Frazier's essay "The Pathology of Race Prejudice" in Forum (June 1927) drew an analogy between race prejudice and insanity. As a result, Frazier had to leave Atlanta to avoid a white lynch mob. From 1927 to 1929 he pursued advanced study at the University of Chicago, receiving his doctorate in sociology in 1931 for The Negro Family in Chicago (1932). From 1929 to 1934 he worked under Charles S. Johnson, an outstanding African American sociologist, at Fisk University. Frazier returned to Howard University in 1934 as head of the department of sociology. In 1959 he became professor emeritus in the department of sociology and the African studies program.

From 1944 to 1951 Frazier served as part-time instructor at New York School of Social Work, Columbia University, and from 1957 to 1962 lectured at the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University. Frazier also served as visiting professor at several other colleges and universities. In 1948 Frazier served as president of the American Sociological Society, and he was chief of the Division of the Applied Social Sciences, Department of Social Sciences, United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, in 1951-1953. Frazier published 8 books, 18 chapters in books, and at least 89 articles. His most significant work was on the African American family. In The Negro Family in Chicago, The Free Negro Family (1932), and The Negro Family in the United States (1939) Frazier offered pioneering interpretations of the character, history, and influence of the black family. His concept of the black matriarchy, despite recent challenges and new approaches, dominates work on the black family.

Frazier also offered candid, often polemical, analyses of the role of the black middle class, as in Black Bourgeoisie (1957). The Negro in the United States (1949; rev. ed. 1957) and Race and Culture Contacts in the Modern World (1957; rev. ed. 1965) contain Frazier's analysis of the black experience throughout the world.

Frazier's death on May 17, 1962, prevented completion of his study of the black church. Only an outline of his views, The Negro Church in America (1961), was published. G. Franklin Edwards, a colleague and friend, described Frazier as "a tough-minded intellectual" and "a fine exponent of the best tradition in American sociology and scholarship."

Further Reading

The best introduction to Frazier is his own works. G. Franklin Edwards edited and wrote an excellent introduction to Frazier's On Race Relations: Selected Writings (1968). St. Clair Drake's introduction to the 1967 reprint edition of Frazier's Negro Youth at the Crossways (1940) is also of great value. Howard W. Odum, American Sociology: The Story of Sociology in the United States through 1950 (1951), contains a sketch of Frazier's life and works up to that date. There is a brief sketch of Frazier in Wilhelmena S. Robinson, Historical Negro Biographies (1968).

Additional Sources

Platt, Anthony M., E. Franklin Frazier reconsidered, New Brunswick N.J.: Rutgers University Press, c1991. □

Frazier, Edward Franklin

views updated May 29 2018

Frazier, Edward Franklin (1894–1962) A member of the Chicago School of Sociology, former President of the American Sociological Society, and author of numerous studies of black family life in urban America, including The Negro Family in the United States (1939), The Negro in the United States (1949), and Black Bourgeoisie (1957). In the last of these, Frazier described the black business class in the USA as a ‘lumpen-bourgeoisie’, which exaggerated its economic well-being to help create a world of make-believe into which its members could escape from their inferiority and inconsequence in American society. (The term ‘lumpen-bourgeoisie’ had been used slightly earlier by C. Wright Mills in his White Collar (1951), to designate the multitude of white firms ‘with a high death rate, which do a fraction of the total business done in their lines and engage a considerably larger proportion of people than their quota of business’). Although sometimes accused of being empirically suspect, Frazier's work ranges far beyond its overt subject-matter of race relations, and makes a number of stimulating and still controversial points about the values and culture of modern Americans.

About this article

Edward Franklin Frazier

All Sources -
Updated Aug 13 2018 About content Print Topic