In The Philadelphia Negro, published in 1899, W. E. B. Du Bois created a detailed sociological study to communicate that the “Negro problem” was not due to a perceived inferiority of Black people, but instead the result of structural racism in society. While his work did not immediately improve the lives of Black Philadelphians, it contributed both to advancing the field of sociology and to changing the way Americans understood race. Du Bois emphasized the importance of acknowledging Black people as individuals and that the problems within Philadelphia’s Black population were a “symptom” of the society and not the cause of the society’s problems. The spread of Du Bois’s perspective continues today as America again grapples with understanding all of the ways racism is manifested in society.

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