Tuskegee Institute and Rural Sociology
It is well documented that William G. Sumner taught the first course in sociology during the 1872–1873 academic year at Yale. What is less known is that C. R. Henderson taught the first course on rural sociology at the University of Chicago in 1894. Although rural sociology was not a primary interest of Henderson, he understood the necessity of sociological study of the geographical area that, heretofore, was the primary residence of the majority of Americans pre-industrialization. His support for the burgeon- ing area is noteworthy as he was “apparently the first person to direct the attention of other sociologists to the importance of the rural studies.” Henderson’s concern was that interest in rural areas, unlike cities, was minimal and a consequence of this neglect was that the tools of sociology were not being applied to that space in ways that could improve the lives of its residents. Henderson contended in 1901 that “we actually have more and better books on breeding cattle and marketing corn than on forming citizens or organizing culture. Is it not worthwhile to attempt social technology of the rural community?” It is noteworthy that Henderson, a member of the influential department of sociology at the University of Chicago which was nearly exclusively known for its urban research efforts, was a principal figure in the growth of this substantive area. While Henderson’s early support of the area was important, many figures beyond the Windy City contributed to the expansion of rural sociology.
In order for any field of specialization to exist there must be persons trained in the area. A key figure in this substantive topical area was Kenyon L. Butterfield. Butterfield was a prominent figure in rural sociol- ogy who took his bachelor’s degree from Michigan Agricultural College (now called Michigan State University) and master’s degree from the University of Michigan. During his academic career he developed an expansive knowledge of and interest in agricultural matters, particularly as an undergraduate at a land grant institution. One year after taking the master’s degree Butterfield was offered employment at the University of Michigan as an instructor of rural sociology. With this appointment, in 1902 Butterfield is believed to be the first person hired in the United States with the title instructor of rural sociology.
The expansion of rural sociology continued through 1913 when the first textbook in this area was written. Constructive Rural Sociology by John Gillette is recognized as being the first textbook in the field, although it was not the first textbook to include a discussion on rural sociology. Gillette’s book is recognized because it was the first textbook intended exclusively for a rural sociology audience, not an interdisciplinary assem- blage of audiences including, but not limited to, education and religion. Probably the most noteworthy contribution of Gillette’s effort was its defi- nition of rural sociology. By any standard conception, Gillette’s definition of the substantive topical area was broad and general. Nevertheless, it was an early attempt to provide structure to the burgeoning field. “Rural sociology,” Gillette wrote, “has as its particular task to take full inven- tory of the conditions of life in rural communities. It must discover their tendencies and deficiencies, map out the special problems and indicate ways of betterment according to the best ideals of life.” This definition hinted at the applied, or practical, ambitions of the practitioners of rural sociology. While the 1913 definition seemed a bit broad, the 1923 edition of his textbook included a conception that was more focused concerning the aims of rural sociology. Gillette defined it as “that branch of sociology which systematically studies rural communities to discover their conditions and tendencies, and to formulate principles of progress.” This definition of rural sociology clearly suggested that its practitioners should engage in the application of sociological research, methods, and knowledge in rural settings, a.k.a. applied sociology. It is also noteworthy that Gillette’s definition and understanding of rural sociology is consistent with that expressed by Kenyon L. Butterfield twenty years prior. Nearly thirty years after Henderson’s call, the leading textbook on rural sociology explicitly pushed for a sociology of rural communities that, in some ways, mirrored the urban exploits of W. E. B. Du Bois and the men and women of the Atlanta Sociological Laboratory.
The professionalization of rural sociology began in 1912 at a meeting of the American Sociological Society (now called the American Sociological Association). The theme of the meeting, Rural Life, aroused the interest of an expanding group of folks interested in what later became rural sociol- ogy. During the meeting one group of men were so interested in infusing rural sociology into the discipline’s curriculum that they held a meeting in one participants’ hotel room to develop a strategy to accomplish their goal. “From this meeting grew annual informal gatherings [during the annual American Sociological Association conference], which eventually expanded into the rural section of the society and then into the Rural Sociology Society.” Rural sociology’s most defining moment, however, came in 1937 when several members of the American Sociological Association’s Rural Sociology section formed their own professional organization. The Rural Sociological Society (RSS) was formed to provide a platform for supporters and practitioners of rural sociology to promote and advance this area of research. To this day RSS adheres to these founding principles.
Although some suggest the origins of rural sociology go back as far as the 1820s and began in earnest after the publication of United States President Theodore Roosevelt’s commissioned 1909 Report of the Country Life Commission, the focus here has been on early efforts to institution- alize and formalize the area. Accordingly, emphasis has been placed on the establishment of courses on the topical area starting in 1894 at the University of Chicago and its coming of age in 1937 with the establish- ment of an independent professional organization. While the narrative provided here is not exhaustive, it does provide a sequential record of how the history of the area of study unfolded. Although this accounting may appear to be a representative historical account, there exists a major shortcoming of the narrative on the origin and development of rural sociology in the United States. The shortcoming of this narrative is the discipline’s historical exclusion of the applied rural sociology program initiated at Tuskegee Institute. The following section fills this void and includes an argument for Tuskegee’s recognition as the nation’s first program of applied rural sociology.
The Wizard of Tuskegee
Many Americans today fail to understand that after the emancipation of Africans from the peculiar institution of slavery in 1865, a race of people numbering around five million were effectively destitute and homeless. No longer covered by the economically driven interests of beneficial Whites to provide the bare necessities of life to their property, after passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States Blacks in America were essentially free to die. They were free to die because they owned no homes, were impoverished, and were literally exposed to the meteorological elements of the moment. They were free to die because they did not have money for food. They were free to die because they did not have the basic protections of human life that were afforded to each and every free White American citizen. Faced with this dire situation the options available for survival to most Blacks in America, especially those in rural areas, were limited. Two distinct paths to economic stability and independence were immediately presented to the freedmen and freed- women. One path emphasized the utilization of the skills learned during enslavement and their application to agrarian life, which could lead to entrepreneurship, fiscal independence, and racial cooperation. The other path emphasized the acquisition of holistic academic training that could serve as a springboard to economic stability and evidence to Whites that Blacks were not biologically or intellectually inferior. These paths pit two giant figures in American life against one another: W. E. B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington.
The ideological debate between Du Bois and Washington over the most appropriate and feasible type of education Black Americans should pursue post-slavery is well covered in other spaces and not repeated in full here. However, I devote some space to correcting a misunderstanding con- cerning Du Bois’s position on liberal arts vis-à-vis vocational and technical training. I emphasize here that, despite notions to the contrary, Du Bois did not argue that Blacks in America should not engage in vocational or technical training. Conversely, he believed there was space within the Black community and academia for institutions emphasizing both liberal arts and vocational and technical instruction. The point of departure in Du Bois’s argument that continues to be lost in many volumes of writings is that he believed there should not be a singular or exclusive emphasis on vocational and technical education. Unlike Du Bois, Washington ques- tioned the very utility of a liberal arts degree within an American society he believed reserved no occupational space for persons so educated. His solution was found in the land that he believed would lead to entrepre- neurship. Washington believed Black Americans singular engagement with vocational and technical education would develop the requisite skills to gain immediate employment such that the basic necessities for life would be provided for their families and themselves. Instead of adhering to an either-or position, Du Bois posited a both/and model that only priv- ileged liberal arts because of the need for intelligent and holistically educated persons to serve as teachers in vocational and technical institu- tions. Du Bois addressed this notion in his classic article on the talented tenth where he wrote:
I would not deny . . . the paramount necessity of teaching the Negro to work . . . or seem to deprecate in the slightest degree the important part industrial schools must play in the accomplishment of these ends, but I do say, and insist upon it, that it is industrialism drunk with its vision of success, to imagine that its own work can be accomplished without providing for the training of broadly cultured men and women to teach its own teachers, and to teach the teachers of the public schools.
Despite historical notions to the contrary, Du Bois did not believe non- liberal arts programs should assume a subordinate status to the liberal arts or that they should not exist at all. Instead, he contends that a pragmatic system of developing a lineage of holistically trained teachers and scholars grounded in the liberal arts must be established before advanc- ing to a more comprehensive focus on vocational education. This position by Du Bois is prophetic when one considers the unexamined sociological activities at Tuskegee and, by happenstance, the school’s significance to the discipline of sociology.
Washington can rightly be characterized as a “drunkard industrialist” because of his belief that American Blacks should exclusively commit their labor and educational efforts to the soil on which they toiled for hundreds of years as enslaved human beings. Becoming proficient in vocational and technical education, according to Washington, provided avenues for financial independence, economic uplift, and the potential to improve race relations because Whites would appreciate, in theory, the work ethic of those members of the human family. It is with these principles in mind that Washington established Tuskegee Institute for instruction in vocational and technical education. Beyond merely establishing an institution for its instruction, the Wizard of Tuskegee wanted his school to become the nation’s leader in such ambitions for Black Americans.
If the school’s production of graduates and their chosen occupations are an indicator of its effectiveness, then Washington’s school manifested many successes in its early years. Despite the effectiveness of his school’s vocational education program, Black Americans living in the American South in the late 1800s remained a vulnerable population whether they possessed a college education or not. Often the former was sufficient cause to justify attacks by Whites on uppity Negro graduates of schools that specialized in liberal arts and technical vocations. By 1881 Washington was well aware of such attacks on Black Americans by their White neighbors. Adding to the challenges experienced by America’s second-class citizens was the agricultural depression that severely impacted rural Blacks and the harmful impact of the crop-lien system (or sharecropping) on those attempting to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Seeking to better understand the condition of rural Blacks, to develop strategies to improve their condition and to improve relations between the races, Washington called for a conference to be held at Tuskegee in 1882 on the condition of rural Blacks in America.
Tuskegee Negro Conference
When Washington announced his plan to host the inaugural Tuskegee Negro Conference, he believed the number of attendees would not exceed one hundred. His expectation was that the small gathering of farmers and vocational professionals would be a space where Blacks working in rural occupations and agricultural work could discuss “their present condition, their helps and hindrances, and to see if it were possible to suggest any means by which the rank and file of the people might be able to benefit themselves.” When the first meeting was held, to Washington’s pleasant surprise, more than four hundred attendees showed up. What Washington initially planned as a modest maiden effort focused on gathering empirical data on the condition of rural life for Blacks in America morphed into a long-term event with far-reaching impact. That the number of attendees at the first conference exceeded his expectations fourfold dumbfounded Washington and strengthened his belief that this program of vocational education for students and the training of members of rural communities were invaluable contributions to American society. More importantly, the outpouring of support for his conference steeled his goals for the annual gathering.
The goals for the Tuskegee Negro Conference as articulated in his 1901 autobiography were:
First, to find out the actual industrial, moral and educational condition of the masses. Second, to get as much light as possible on what is the most effective way for the young men and women whom the Tuskegee Institute and other institutions are educating, to use their education in helping the masses of the colored people to lift themselves up.
On his first goal, Washington suggested that data be collected on rural communities such that one would be in possession of accurate information from which prescriptions for improving the condition of attendees and members of their respective communities could be developed. His second goal centered on the application of book learning to the practical data garnered at the annual meeting. Clearly, when both goals are considered collectively, Washington was effectively articulating the school’s intention to employ the scientific method to investigate the real-life experiences of rural Blacks to then develop strategies to improve their life chances and life outcomes. This was a clear articulation of applied sociology. Taking this idea to a deeper level, let’s examine more fully Washington’s stated scientific goals.
In a 1904 publication, twelve years after the first Tuskegee confer- ence, E. J. Scott reported that the annual event hosted by Washington was not conceived as the kind of car-window sociological effort practiced by many if not most White sociologists of the era, as unmasked by Du Bois in his seminal book Souls of Black Folk. Instead, as Scott reported (1904:9), “the Conferences [were] not devoted to abstractions, but to concrete problems, and what is most important, solutions of these problems.” The solution to these problems included the amassing of accurate data that could be used to develop the best practices in rural sociology by Black Americans in the South. Toward this end, at the first Tuskegee conference Washington insisted on the accuracy of statements by attendees when presenting their first-hand accounts. Accuracy and specificity of material facts were important for Washington when attendees reported on, for example, dis- crepancies in income and debt levels between Black and White farmers. Speaking to this matter specifically in 1893, Washington, as reported by a newspaper attendee, contended that a goal of the conference was “to present the real condition of the people, and to find, if possible, a way out of their difficulties.” One tacitly finds in this statement the promotion of the gathering of scientific facts to bolster programs to improve the lives of Blacks in the South, or, again, an applied sociology agenda. In other words, herein is found the outlines for engagement in what is today called applied rural sociology.
While the method of data collection employed by attendees of the conference were, as compared by the standards of today, underdeveloped, when compared to the methodological practices of sociologists of the era, particularly those engaged in sociology of the South and other method- ologically unsophisticated works identified earlier, Washington’s attend- ees’ efforts were exemplary. Again, no argument is made here suggesting that the methodological sophistication of Washington’s annual gathering came close to that at Atlanta University by trained social scientists like
W. E. B. Du Bois. However, it is argued here that the methodological sophis- tication of the presentations offered at Tuskegee was comparable to the majority of articles submitted to the American Journal of Sociology between 1895 and 1917, wherein roughly only 20 percent (and this is a generous estimate) of all contributions during this period included any discussion of how, where, or when data were collected. It must be stated as clearly as possible here that the number of articles reported (20 percent) to have some articulation of research methods in the American Journal of Sociology is generous, as the authors of the study emphasized the difficulty they had in simply identifying methods of research and the stretch they made when labeling some pieces as “articulating a research method.” If the articles examined were judged by a more fair and strict measure, only 7 percent of the articles published by the nation’s leading sociology journal would have qualified as identifying a method of research between 1895 and 1917. The argument concerning Tuskegee’s methodological or scientific sophistication is strengthened not only when compared to early sociol- ogy of the South and mainstream disciplinary practitioners, but also against early rural sociologists. In a 1927 article titled “Research in Rural Sociology,” Carl C. Taylor laments the dearth of quality scientific inquiries in the area. According to Taylor:
Research is science in the making. Science used to be simply defined as the classification of knowledge or as the description and explanation of phenomena. Only by use of such an inadequate definition can there be said to be any research in rural sociology. I suppose we rural sociolo- gists do, to some degree, classify knowledge. We do describe rural social phenomena and we do attempt to explain them. Even so, there has been little, if any, rural social investigation which has risen to the level of science.
Taylor made this observation during the third decade of the twentieth century, when the discipline was making forward progress at becoming more rigorous and positivistic in its attempt to legitimize itself among its peers. This admission of the discipline’s, or more accurately sub-area’s, methodological shortcomings more than thirty years after the inaugural conference makes the Wizard of Tuskegee’s attempts at such an effort even more impressive. Thus, when compared against the research products of trained White sociologists of the era, the farmers attending the confer- ence at Tuskegee compared quite favorably.
A final statement on Washington’s attempt to obtain accurate and scientific data on the rural conditions of Blacks in America was discerned from his pronouncement at the 1894 conference: that participants should “tell things just as you see them and understand them. These meetings are for you. If you don’t get benefits from them they are of no use.” Taken collectively, Washington’s statements on the necessity of accurate and, as closely as possible, scientific data run counter to one’s historical under- standing of his resistance to liberal arts education and the gathering of scientific data. Unquestionably Washington, while not necessarily a pro- ponent of liberal arts education, was indeed aware of the importance of the tools of sociological investigation and analysis in finding solutions to the problems experienced by rural Black Americans. Thus, attendees, in accordance with his guidelines that the meetings include the presenta- tion of factual information on the condition of Black American rural life, provided accounts that were used by others to improve their agricultural productivity and lives in their respective rural towns.
“One Day’s School of Practical Sociology”
After experiencing high attendance at its inaugural effort and facing an increasing demand for facts and solutions to the pressing rural sociological issues of the day, the Tuskegee Negro Conference expanded to become a multiple-day event that overtly embraced (while not overtly espousing) the tenets of Black sociology. The second day of meetings, now called the Worker’s Conference, “was appropriately styled a ‘one day’s school of practical sociology’.” Although sociology was not a staple of the insti- tution’s curriculum there was awareness within the university community of the utility of the discipline as a tool for improving the condition of the race through applied means. Practical sociology, as evidenced at the Tuskegee Negro Conference, included taking personal accounts from multiple sources on a specific topic (i.e., data collection), teasing out the most salient and viable practices (i.e., analysis), then implementing that best practice in one’s local community (i.e., application). Essentially, the Worker’s Conference was where Black agricultural workers listened to speakers from every southern state, and some from the North; discussed best practices in the profession; and then learned the methods of imple- mentation. Examples are offered below.
Before examples of research presentations at the conference are offered, a statement must be made about the documents used here. Unlike the Atlanta University studies that were led by Du Bois, Tuskegee did not regularly publish the reports and findings of each conference. In fact, there is only a scant record of actual proceedings of the meetings. The most reliable record of events at the Tuskegee Negro Conference, at least during its early years, comes from The Southern Workman, which was a monthly periodical produced by Hampton Institute, Washington’s alma mater. Given the tremendous national and international stature of Washington and the fact he was a proud graduate of the institution, a reporter was sent to the meeting annually. Further, unlike Du Bois’s Atlanta University studies, and the majority of mainstream sociology for that matter, the few existing records of the early meetings did not include many detailed articulations of the methods of data collection. As indicated earlier, the methods of data collection were largely taken from reporter accounts, which noted how they were derived from the accurate and honest statements of attendees as Washington requested and mandated.
One attendee account is taken from the inaugural meeting. An article in The Southern Workman indicated that teachers from more than twenty counties reported on what they believed to be a pressing need in their com- munity. To a person, teachers reported that their community was in dire need of buildings for the instruction of students and additional teachers to meet the increasing demand. Moreover, they lamented the fact that the school year, due to children’s responsibilities on the farm, was generally restricted to three months. Another group of speakers noted the difficul- ties many freedmen and freedwomen experienced making their monthly mortgage payments. Often the cause of their financial distress was excess or overspending, but in many other cases it was reported that farmers did not completely understand the details and responsibilities associated with signing a mortgage. In each of these cases attendees reported the condition of their respective community to the best of their ability and, as discussed later, their concerns were eventually resolved.
Repeatedly, while there is no suggestion that the first-hand accounts of participants were examples of rigorous scientific inquiry, it is worth reminding the reader, again, that the quality of scientific inquiry con- ducted by sociologists of all stripes during this era varied wildly. Speaking to the quality of the (data) presentations, The Southern Workman reported:
[The Tuskegee Negro Conference] not only answered most interestingly, graphically, at first hand, the inquiries proposed as to the actual condi- tion and needs of the masses of the people, and suggested the best direc- tion at least for efforts to help them help themselves, but it also revealed elements of character and strength in the people themselves.
An important part of Tuskegee’s applied rural sociology program was the yearly assessment of the skills and information offered at the previous year’s meeting. In a normal year, previous years’ attendees returned to provide updates on the progress, or lack thereof, made since the last meeting. For example, at the 1893 Tuskegee Negro Conference reports were received from teachers and educators on the implementation of recommenda- tions made at the previous year’s meeting. It was concluded, “The reports brought in from different [communities] showed already good effects from last year’s Conference and brought out, as that did, the marked difference between communities with and those without a district school and live teacher.” Essentially, due to the efforts of teachers and educators via their participation at the Tuskegee Negro Conference, more schools were built and teachers hired in communities where the need was great, and children were allowed to attend classes more regularly than before.
The 1894 meeting included additional evidence that the application of the skills and information learned at the previous year’s meeting were being implemented and greatly impacted the communities where partici- pants were engaged. Specifically, reference was made to continued efforts to enhance schooling for Black Americans, and to assessing the impact of the annual conference on attendees. In the conference declarations, where the findings of each conference and recommendations for engage- ment were presented, it was noted:
The building of decent school houses and cabins, the purchase of lands, the raising of food crops and stock, has been going on steadily; receiving a new impetus at each meeting of the conference, by the actual demonstration that the reports brought in give, of the possibility of getting out of debt and up in the world.
Speaking directly to the exchange of best practices in education and the sharing of data points, The Southern Workman reported:
Here were [former slaves] mustered out of the army of the Republic thirty years ago, straight into the work of educating the Negro, com- paring their observations and experiences with the observations and experiences of those who had recently gone from Hampton or Tuskegee, straight into the little log houses of the plantations.
Again, I ask, is an argument being made here that the sophistication of the data collection and its application are comparable to today’s standards or that of the Atlanta Sociological Laboratory? No. Nor should they be compared against one another. However, the quality of methodolog- ical rigor performed at Tuskegee starting in 1892 is comparable to that demonstrated in the pages of AJS between 1895 and 1917.
In addition to schooling, another topic of importance at the early meetings was home mortgage. Many freedman and freedwomen found themselves trapped in a state of perpetual debt after enslavement for a variety of reasons including their misunderstanding of home mortgages or the lack of good faith dealings with unscrupulous Whites with whom the deals were made. This topic was discussed at the 1894 conference where first-hand data were presented. A formerly enslaved Black American recounted, after an admonishment from Washington to all speakers to only speak of things that were factual, how he was trapped in a mortgage/ lien contract during the previous year’s conference. Because of the infor- mation he learned at that meeting he managed to improve his skills as a businessperson and lift himself from debt caused by the mortgage/lien contract. Conversely, as reported by The Southern Workman, some attend- ees presented accounts revealing lesser levels of success. One farmer recounted the difficulty he had keeping up with his monthly mortgage payments. “He explains his present situation by stating that after ‘mancipation he was tu’ned [sic] loose with a great stream of little children, and they were small—very small. He then started wrong with mortgages and has been wrong ever since.” The farmer, although discouraged with his present condition, remained hopeful the one day of practical sociology at Tuskegee would render him positive results in the future. There was no further record of this farmer’s success, or lack thereof, in achieving his goal of financial security.
The final example of the type of data presentations made at the early meetings also tapped into Washington’s latent goal for the annual event, to improve race relations. At the 1896 conference a first-hand account of the improving race relations between Blacks and Whites in at least one community was noted. A “Southern white gentleman” from Snow Hill, Alabama, a town southwest of Tuskegee, was invited to offer his thoughts on Washington’s annual event. A former slave owner, the man attested to the difficulty some Blacks experienced as landowners. His theory on the struggles of his fellow farmers centered on the idea that some Blacks bought more land than they could work and/or afford. Additionally, he, as did others at this and all previous meetings, lamented the burden Blacks in America experienced when attempting to pay off mortgages. The former slave master’s advice to attendees was for them to “get rid of mortgages” since they damaged both races. Presumably, for Blacks the damage was caused by the inability to pay their bills which often led to one entering debtors’ prison and becoming a participant in the convict leasing system. For Whites, presumably, the damage was the lack of effective use of fertile farmland and loss of revenues. Speaking to the impact of Washington’s yearly gathering and its potential impact on Black Americans in his com- munity he said, “I attended this Conference on last year, and it did me good. Whatever is for your good is for my good.”
Washington’s commitment to developing a solid applied rural sociology program can be captured in two changes that extended his original idea beyond only holding a yearly conference. It is likely that the success of the meeting’s second day of practical sociology, the Worker’s Conference, inspired the Wizard of Tuskegee to consider additional ways to positively impact farming communities year-round. What emerged was a course entitled, “Short Course in Agriculture.” This course “was designed to provide the farmers in surrounding counties, at the season when most of them were idle, several weeks of study and observation of the school’s farm and Experiment Station.” Attendees, including spouses and children for whom courses were developed, were not charged a fee and received expert instruction from Tuskegee faculty as well as persons from the United States Department of Agriculture, state of Georgia, and Auburn University. In these classes attendees received intensive and con- sistent instruction on the best practices in agriculture on topics including, but not limited to, “general farming, livestock, dairying, poultry raising, fruit growing, and truck gardening”. This course started in 1908 with 11 enrolled students and by the seventh year more than 1,500 were enrolled. The success of his Short Course in Agriculture led Washington to consider additional ways of reaching farmers, resulting in his second addition to the applied rural sociology program.
Washington was fully committed to the idea that his emphasis on agriculture was in the best interests of Blacks and he wanted to make the opportunities at his institution available to as many people as possible. He also understood that, for any number of reasons, many farmers were unable to attend the yearly conference or free agricultural course, both of which took place at Tuskegee. His solution to this challenge was the establishment of a “Movable School.” Between 1906 and the start of World War II Washington’s Movable School travelled across the South promoting best practices and the latest advances in agriculture. At its peak the school is estimated to have reached at least 2,000 persons per month.
The wagon carried different kinds of plows and planters, a cultivator, a cotton chopper, a variety of seeds, samples of fertilizers, a revolv- ing churn, a butter mold, a cream separator, a milk tester, and other appliances useful in making practical demonstrations, and it had the immense advantage of carrying scientific agriculture directly to the farmers in the fields. After making the rounds of the small and large farms of a community, the “Movable School” located at a central point and conducted an open-air demonstration for a gathering of farmers and their families.
There are a number of issues that Washington can be taken to task for and in a number of areas. Unquestionably, his belief in and commitment to the use of the resources Blacks were more familiar with, those ema- nating from agriculture, led him to not only establish a conference where attendees from all over the South could receive at least one day of prac- tical sociological training, but also mini-semester courses where more intensive training could take place as well as a Movable School that could make the resources offered at Tuskegee available to those unable to attend the yearly conference. In the existing literature there is no evidence of another scientific program of rural sociological education and application existing prior to Washington’s efforts at Tuskegee. That Washington not only embraced this work, as others lamented the relationship of Blacks to agriculture and rural areas while fleeing to emerging cities, but was creative in the promotion of science and technology as tools to be used in the best interests of Blacks is commendable, despite his low opinion of liberal arts education and (perceived) acquiescence to the racial folkways of Jim Crow.
The primary conclusion reached after examining the fragmented records of the Tuskegee Negro Conferences and early history of rural sociology is that Tuskegee Institute comprised the first applied rural sociology program in the United States. By this, I mean Tuskegee was the first academic entity to engage in an institutionalized and annual research inquiry into the social, economic, and physical condition of rural folk with the objective of developing solutions to address the problems discovered. It is true that early individual sociologists and social scientists engaged in what can be described as applied rural sociology activities. However, it is also true that no evidence exists of an academically housed institutional and annual program of inquiry into the social, economic, and physical condition of rural folk prior to that initiated at Tuskegee. Instead, it is largely agreed upon that no real and concerted institutional effort to study rural areas emerged until after Theodore Roosevelt commissioned the 1909 Report of the Country Life Commission. Taylor is again a guide as he argues that true rural sociological research of any kind did not commence in the United States until the start of the second decade of the century:
Rural social research in the United States can be said to have begun with Dr. C. J. Galpin’s study of The Social Anatomy of an Agricultural Community in Wisconsin in 1911. This was followed by Dr. Warren H. Wilson’s rural church surveys from 1913 to 1916. Studies—chiefly surveys—sprang up here and there in a haphazard manner until 1919, when the Division of Rural Life Studies was established in what is now the Bureau of Agricultural Economics in the United States Department of Agriculture.
The question that arises is, why have the activities at Tuskegee been ignored? Again, it is possible that questions regarding scientific rigor may come forward. Collectively, the reports reviewed earlier are examples of the types of presentations made by typical attendees and participants of the early Tuskegee Negro Conferences. While they may be considered scientifically rudimentary by today’s standards, the idea that Washington, consistently labeled anti-liberal arts, insisted on the presentation of scientific facts such that those experiences could be packaged into an applica- tion of best practices was significant. Moreover, Washington’s historically perceived dismissal of liberal arts may have given past scholars pause when considering whether or not, or even how, to describe the annual conference. When one considers the state of social science research at that time in the United States, the activities at Tuskegee are extraordi- nary. They were conducted during a period when they were the only ones engaged in such an institutionalized and systematic endeavor. Although Washington’s statements affirming a commitment to practical sociology are amplified here, at least one scholar suggests that his commitment to scientific research may have been more talk than action.
Paul Jefferson argued that Washington was not overly concerned with his stated scientific aims of the conference. Jefferson based his asser- tion on a quote that Washington is reported, but not confirmed, to have made. According to Jefferson, the “primary objective [of the Tuskegee conference], as Washington was reported as stating, was ‘not so much to gather scientific information as to encourage and inspire the people to better living’.” Jefferson posited, “Tuskegee’s was a show-me empiri- cism” where “personal histories tell at Tuskegee the story of progress or discouragement for the year.” The crux of Jefferson’s argument was that Washington was simply paying lip service to the proposed scientific aims of the conference while being resigned to only noting stories of success or failure, devoid of the impact of the previous year’s conference or past attendances of the individual.
The counternarrative to this position is found in the writings of Washington, who argued, “We didn’t let [participants] generalize or tell what they thought ought to be or was existing in somebody else’s com- munity, we held each person down to a statement of the facts regarding his own individual community.” Washington made another statement on the employment of science at his meetings when he wrote:
After we had got hold of facts, which enabled us to judge of the actual state of affairs existing, we spent the afternoon of the first day in hearing from the lips of these same people in what way, in their opinion, the present condition of things could be improved, and it was most inter- esting as well as surprising to see how clearly these people saw into their present condition, and how intelligently they discussed their weak points as well as their strong points.
Not only did attendees appear to embrace the admonition to express only facts at the meeting, they applied the information learned at Tuskegee in their own communities. According to Alan Jones, “The stories heard at the conference were carried home by the delegates and became a sort of oral literature that spread gradually over the entire black South.” Moreover, upon returning to the next year’s meeting it was not uncommon for “a large number of the delegates [to give] encouraging evidence of how, as a result of the previous meeting, homes had been secured, school houses built, school terms extended and the moral life of the people bettered.”
The Tuskegee Negro Conference was one of several hosted by HBCUs, aimed at improving the condition of Blacks in America. While Tuskegee emphasized rural issues, Hampton focused on industry and Atlanta on urban issues. Despite Du Bois’s and Atlanta’s focus on urban issues, he was aware of the scientific studies on rural sociology taking place at Tuskegee. In an essay titled, “Results of Ten Tuskegee Negro Conferences,” Du Bois reported that he attended the 1901 conference and conducted a quick study on whether or not Washington’s gathering was accomplishing its stated goals. In the introduction he noted the school’s intention to lift rural Blacks out of poverty and ignorance when he writes, “Here is a school planted in the midst of the rural black belt which has sought to raise the standard of living, and especially to change the three things that hold the Negro still in serfdom—the crop lien system, the one-room cabin, and the poor and short public school.” During his visit he randomly interviewed two hundred attendees on topics including, but not limited to, home structure, home ownership, income, and, most important, impact of the conference on attendees. Du Bois concluded that his “reports showed too, that this work has not been in vain. Not only was this manifest in the tone of the discussions and general atmosphere, but also in the more exact reports of the selected two hundred.” It is important to note here that Du Bois provides first-hand knowledge of Washington’s admonition that reports of attendees be as exact and accurate as possible. In attesting to this methodological expectation of full member participant observation accounting, the architect of some of the most advanced scientific practices of his era provides a convincing and supportive statement on Tuskegee’s fitness for canon status, as argued herein.
Clearly, it is not an exercise of intellectual fairness to judge the sci- entific practices of an earlier generation with advances made over the course of one hundred years or more and practiced by a later generation. Certainly the scientific rigor Washington articulated would be questioned, if not downright dismissed, by today’s scientific standards. However, a more nuanced interpretation of Washington’s program is that it should be considered the first example of applied rural sociology. More germane to Washington than establishing what I argue is the first applied rural sociol- ogy program, however, was the possibility of improving race relations.
Paul Jefferson’s critique of the Tuskegee Negro Conference was not limited to the idea that Washington was unconcerned with the actual scientific aims of the conference. He also argued that Washington’s circuitous goal was not a conference that centered the presentation of scientific research for the benefit of rural Black Americans, but a platform whereby he could assuage the concerns of southern Whites worried about the potentially rebellious activities of persons recently released from bondage. Contrasting the Negro conferences held during this era at Atlanta, Hampton and Tuskegee, Jefferson argued that “under Booker T. Washington, the Tuskegee conferences were less concerned with systematic research than with expedient local reform and interracial fence-mending.” Regarding the latter charge, it is clear in the declarations Washington offered after the first conference that interracial fence-mending was a goal. Of the ten declarations made at the inaugural 1892 gathering, five offered expres- sions of gratitude or desire for interracial cooperation and understanding.
Of those five, one declaration included an apology to Whites. The best example of Washington’s attempts to mend racial fences was declaration number eight, which read, “we appreciate the spirit of friendliness and fairness shown us by the Southern white people in matters of business in all lines of material development.” Washington also expressed regret over the bind sharecropping placed on Whites.
Third. Not only is our own material progress hindered by the mortgage system, but also that of our white friends. It is a system that tempts us to buy much that we would do without if cash were required, and it tends to lead those who advance the provisions and lend the money, to extravagant process and ruinous rates of interests.
A discussion of Washington’s conservative and conciliatory politics is not addressed here, and his attempts to benefit financially from his status as a Black man who White capitalists could do business with is easily found in the existing literature. Nevertheless, it must be stated clearly that in order for an institution like Tuskegee to exist in the American South at the dawn of the twentieth century it required nuanced and delicate dances between the races, given the often-deadly consequences that could befall Blacks deemed to be moving too fast and too soon for equal rights. That Washington desired improved race relations (even if they sometimes meant his own financial benefit) for a people who could be lynched for merely looking at a White woman should not diminish or tarnish his unintended role in establishing the first program of applied rural sociology. Instead, one can view this feat as a major accomplishment given the precarious state of Black American lives upon the arrival of the nation’s first domestic terror- ist organization, the Ku Klux Klan, and demise of the first American school of sociology, the Atlanta Sociological Laboratory.
Tuskegee and Black Sociology
After W. E. B. Du Bois’s departure from Atlanta University in 1913 a void emerged in the institutional application of Black sociology. While the Atlanta University conferences continued until 1924, the program of sociological inquiry started by President Bumstead and trustee Bradford that later expanded into the first American school of sociology under Du Bois was a shell of itself after his departure. There appeared in the moment to be no HBCU, nor HWCU for that matter, capable or interested in continuing Atlanta’s program of disseminating accurate, timely, and scientific data on the condition of Blacks in America. One HBCU, however, did emerge to fill the Black sociology void. Ironically, it was Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute. Despite its emphasis on vocational and agricultural education, the school, unwittingly, carried on the Black sociology tradition started at Atlanta. At first glance it seems improbable that Tuskegee could become the successor to Atlanta in the production of social science research on Blacks in America. Certainly, for those unaware of the school’s rural sociological activities the idea that the Washington-led institution would become a leader in social science research would be con- sidered anathema. However, when one examines this subject deeper, the idea that Washington provided such a platform at his institution becomes more plausible.
I noted earlier that Washington demanded the presentation of scientific facts, as best could be amassed, at his yearly conference. What resulted was the expectation that each year’s gathering would include a one-day course in practical sociology where attendees learned the best practices in agriculture and business and employed that knowledge back in their home communities. Washington, by most accounts, was pleased with his day of practical sociology but was also aware of new and competing conferences taking place at Atlanta University and Hampton Institute. Although his yearly gathering started four years prior to the Atlanta effort, it is certain that Washington, as evidenced by his attendance at numerous Atlanta conferences, understood the importance and significance of the massive sociological undertaking by Du Bois. Washington was so enthralled by Du Bois’s work and its potentially enlarged impact, both nationally and internationally, that he attempted to hire his future adversary away from the Georgia institution. In a 1932 interview, Monroe N. Work, as reported by Linda O. McMurry, confirmed that Washington wanted to bring Du Bois to Tuskegee and establish a sociological laboratory there.
Washington had long harbored a vague desire to introduce sociological studies of some sort at his school, perhaps because a rival institution, Atlanta University, had such a program. Indeed, in 1899, [Washington] had asked Du Bois to establish a sociological research program at Tuskegee. Du Bois’s decision to remain in Atlanta dramatically affected the course of history and left a void at Tuskegee.
One is only left to wonder about the possible impact Du Bois would have made on sociology and the nation were Tuskegee’s resources made avail- able him, the most powerful Black American intellectual at the turn of the century. Equally curious is the tension that may have emerged between the two giants of Black American life had their ideological battle been waged within the confined space of Tuskegee, Alabama. Washington was unsuccessful, however, in securing the services of Du Bois. Nevertheless, Washington’s desire to hire someone to collect sociological data remained. Nearly ten years after Du Bois’s rejection of Washington’s offer, the school decided to “hire a man to ‘study the work of the school and graduates with reference to what they are doing for society, and to collect and classify data which will be of general interest and value’.” It was the latter charge for the person hired to this position that, unwittingly, positioned Tuskegee to become the second school of Black sociology.
Monroe N. Work
Monroe Nathan Work was born in 1866 in North Carolina and reared by formerly enslaved parents in Illinois during his youth. Saddled with the responsibility of caring for his aging parents, his pursuit of an education was delayed until he reached his early twenties. Although he began his education later than most, Work made up for lost time, as he obtained a high school diploma at age 26. Ten years later he obtained a bache- lor’s degree in philosophy at the University of Chicago and in 1903 took a master’s degree in sociology at the same institution. Work’s tenure at the University of Chicago was impacted by relationships with members of the first generation of Chicago School sociologists, including Albion Small, C. R. Henderson, and W. I. Thomas. These men viewed urban settings as laboratories that should be studied with the goal of developing strategies to address the pressing concerns of residents. Work shared this philosophy and wanted to direct his scholarly and activist ambitions toward improving the condition of Black Americans in cities. Work soon found inspiration and a kindred soul who engaged in the type of scholarship he valued. While the mentorship of the Chicago sociologists was signifi- cant, McMurry argued, “perhaps the greatest influence on Work during his years at Chicago was his research association with W. E. B. Du Bois through the Atlanta Studies.”
Work knew of Du Bois’s groundbreaking sociological research at Atlanta University and “became involved in the Atlanta Studies while still a student in Chicago.” Attesting to the influence Du Bois’s sociolog- ical laboratory wielded over the promising scholar, McMurry suggested that “Work’s desire to continue [working with the Atlanta Sociological Laboratory] was probably a major factor in his decision to accept a position at Georgia State Industrial College in Savannah, [now Savannah State University].” After taking his master’s degree in 1903 Work accepted a position at the Georgia institution and between 1903 and 1917 wrote four essays that were published in the Atlanta University Study of the Negro Problems, making him another unsung member of and contributor to the Atlanta Sociological Laboratory. This was quite an accomplishment since Du Bois was the primary, and often singular, author of contributions to the Atlanta University publications.
Although Work’s contributions to the Atlanta University publications were solid, one piece stood out. His 1904 contribution, “Crime in Cities,” focused on the experiences of Black Americans and the criminal justice system. He examined crime data from the most populous cities in each region of the nation to ascertain if, as promoted at the time, Northern cities experienced increased criminal activity because of the heavy internal migration of Blacks from the South to the North.
Work presented data debunking the notion that the amount of crime com- mitted by Blacks in the North was higher than that committed by Blacks in the South. This “urban coon” theory was grounded in the misnomer that Blacks in the American North were more violent than their counter- parts in the American South and that crime in the American North had increased because of the mass migration of southern Blacks to cities like Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland and their inability to successfully adapt to their new urban surroundings.
One can surmise that Work’s participation with the Atlanta Sociological Laboratory, on some level, fulfilled his desire to engage in research on Blacks in America that affected their lives. It is also safe to surmise that the resources available for him to engage in his own brand of critical social science research at the Savannah institution were not as exhaus- tive as those available at schools like Washington’s Tuskegee Institute and to a lesser degree Du Bois at Atlanta. This is why he embraced the opportunity to continue his engagement in sociological inquiry at the relatively well-resourced Tuskegee Institute when Washington called for him. Although Washington desired someone who could produce data for, and when necessary ghost author, his many national and international speeches, he was well aware of the sociological activity taking place at Atlanta University and wanted to introduce the discipline in full at his Alabama-based institution. While Work was fully capable of accomplish- ing the former tasks, it was the latter that most attracted him to Tuskegee. It must be noted here that the former responsibilities were largely performed by soon-to-be University of Chicago sociologist Robert Park, who came to Tuskegee in 1906 to be “the already renowned Tuskegee princi- pal’s private secretary, research analyst, [ghost writer], and amanuensis” for the next seven years.
In 1908 Work was appointed Director of the Division of Records and Research. Although the former title did not interest him very much, Work was committed to engaging in research and teaching courses in sociology, as requested by Washington. Inspired by the opportunity for substantive scholarly inquiry at Tuskegee, Work’s desire to employ sociology as a tool for the social uplift of Blacks in America had seemingly come full circle. In a speech he delivered while a student, Work discussed the liberating power of the young discipline. Reflecting on this speech some years later he revealed, “It was then . . . that I dedicated my life to the gathering of information, the compiling of exact knowledge concerning the Negro.” The gathering of data on Blacks in America is just what he did at Tuskegee. It is unfair to judge the scholarly merit of the junior scholar by Du Bois’s stick, since Work did not fully engage in sociological research in the same manner as Du Bois and the Atlanta Sociological Laboratory. Instead, Work’s role in continuing the tradition of Black sociology after the demise of the Atlanta Sociological Laboratory included the dissemination of exact knowledge concerning Black American life. In effect, with the establishment of the Negro Year Book in 1912, Tuskegee, under the direction of Monroe N. Work, became the leading clearinghouse in the nation for data on Blacks in America.
Negro Year Book and Anti-Lynching
In 1910 W. E. B. Du Bois left the faculty at Atlanta University and was within three years of relinquishing directorship of the Atlanta University studies. While this was occurring there was no coordinated attempt to transfer the Black sociology baton from one entity to the next. Nevertheless, waiting in the wings to fill the void of curating accurate and timely data on the condition of Blacks in America was Monroe N. Work with his annual pub- lication, Negro Year Book.
It was almost by happenstance that the Negro Year Book came to be. Tuskegee was the recipient of a 1904 grant via the philanthropic gener- osity of Andrew Carnegie. The purpose of the award was to “disseminate publicity relating to the Negro.” Within a few years the majority of funds appropriated to Tuskegee were used for this purpose. However, by the early 1910s school officials noticed that a sizable amount of monies from the grant remained in their coffers. Washington came up with a way to use the funds. In celebration of the forthcoming fiftieth anniversary of the emancipation of Africans from enslavement, Washington called for the creation of a yearbook to celebrate seminal advances made by members of the race. Guided by Washington’s vision, consultation from Robert Park and the leadership of Work, the first edition of the Negro Year Book was released in 1912 as “a permanent record of current events, an encyclopedia of historical and sociological facts, a directory of persons and organi- zations, and a bibliographical guide to the subjects discussed.” The range of topics covered by the Negro Year Book was extensive and included, but was not limited to, business, education, health, history, politics, racism, and religion. Arguably, the most important information included in the publications were data on lynching that, ideally, would be used in the efforts of Blacks and Whites to end the horrible practice dominated by the nation’s leading domestic terrorist organization, the Ku Klux Klan.
The post-emancipation America experienced by the formerly enslaved Africans was, ideally, a time when the benefits of citizenship should have been pursued with joyous vigor. It should have, theoretically speaking, been a time when complete access to quality employment, education, and every other aspect of life were attainable. Instead, the post-emancipation world of Blacks in America quickly darkened as White America viciously snatched away dreams, aspirations, and opportunities for millions. What’s worse, White America viciously snatched away the lives of thousands of innocent men and women because of their race. The forms of killings varied but one stood out because of its unique mercilessness: lynching.
From its inception, Work’s Negro Year Book was, among other things, a catalog for accurate accounts of the inhumane and unjust lynching deaths of Blacks in America. In the overwhelming majority of cases the victims of lynching were denied due process. The first volume of the Negro Year Book included an account of the number, nature, and location of lynchings. Data from 1911 noted the lynching of 71 Black Americans and 9 Whites at varied locations around the nation including, but not limited to, Georgia, Idaho, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. The crimes for which persons were lynched, excluding the obvious accusation of rape, included acting suspi- ciously, quarrelling, using insulting language to a lady, and using abusive language. Similar accounts were recorded by Work over the next five years. It is not suggested here that Tuskegee was the singular, primary, or leading entity engaged in the collection of data on lynching at this time. The National Association for the Advancement for Colored People (NAACP), local newspapers, and anti-lynching organizations were also engaged in this work. However, Tuskegee is singled out as being the most reliable academic-based institutional clearinghouse of data on lynching. With the collection of scientific data on the number, nature, and locations of lynchings, proponents for its abolition hoped they could proactively engage elected officials and solicit their help in ending the practice.
In 1918 a national movement calling on Congress to pass anti-lynching legislation reached a crescendo. In April of that year Representative Leonidas Dyer of Missouri sponsored what became known as the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill. Penalties for lynching at this time were determined by state and local officials. More often than not, murderers who chose lynching as their preferred method of killing received light or no pen- alties, especially if the person killed was Black. Dyer’s bill sought to remove the charging authority for the crime of lynching from the state and local level to the federal government. In theory, since federal officials were physically removed from personal relationships and other social and political entanglements that may influence whether or not one was charged with the crime of lynching, the possibility that a person would be charged if they committed the act theoretically increased. Second, the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill mandated penalties for lynching that included jail and fines. Moreover, these penalties were not only directed at the actual murderer but anyone who participated in the event and/or did not act proactively to save the life of the person not given due justice. This meant sheriffs, police, and court officials could be subjected to jail or fine too. Although the House of Representatives passed the Dyer Bill, the Democratic-led Senate filibustered the legislation. Despite the efforts of Work at Tuskegee and others, including Ida B. Wells-Barnett, to bring to America’s attention the unconscionable horrors of lynching, the fight to establish federal penalties for the abhorrent practice failed repeatedly over the following decades. It is unconscionable to think a reasonable and simple act of passing legislation to save the lives of thousands of innocents was unsuccessful during Jim Crow. What’s even worse is that, at the time of this writing, there STILL does not exist any legislation outlawing lynching.
The significance of Monroe Nathan Work and the Negro Year Book to science is not minimized because the United States Congress failed to pass anti-lynching legislation during this nation’s period of Jim Crow seg- regation and domestic terrorism. Instead, the Tuskegee effort should be viewed as a means by which sociological data collection and analysis were used as tools to address real world conditions of the nation’s most vulner- able population. Instead of simply theorizing on the condition of Blacks in America, Work gathered primary and secondary data to impact public policy. Work’s engagement in Black sociology was, indirectly, a continua- tion of Du Bois’s Atlanta efforts, yet the precursor to bigger manifestations of the burgeoning field.
Ida B. Wells-Barnett
In recent years there has been an effort to expand the canon of those con- sidered to be early sociologists despite not having academic training in the field. Arguments in support of this position center on the idea that, in lieu of professional training and a degree in the field, the real-world activities engaged in by these persons were applications of sociology. Such was the case with Ida B. Wells-Barnett. This chapter would be incom- plete if a brief note on her practical sociological efforts documenting and challenging lynching in America were not noted. Toward this end, below I briefly highlight Wells-Barnett’s engagement with sociology via her anti-lynching campaign, which predated the Tuskegee-led efforts of Monroe Nathan Work.
Ida B. Wells-Barnett was born in 1862 in Holly Springs, Mississippi, and spent a considerable portion of her life a stone’s throw away in Memphis, Tennessee. During her early years she observed first-hand how the lives of recently emancipated Africans were in constant danger. She was socialized into understanding the consequences that could befall those who attempted to live in the sun and beyond the Black codes. While she clearly understood the outcome of attacks on the lives of Black Americans, in many instances she knew of their innocence and the lack of due process afforded to those against whom accusations were made. Wells-Barnett’s defense of victims of lynching, generally, and Black men accused of raping White women, specifically, placed her life in danger, constantly. In her own words, Wells-Barnett wrote:
It was for the assertion of this fact, in the defense of her own race, that the writer hereof became an exile; her property destroyed and her return to her home forbidden under penalty of death, for writing the editorial which was printed in her paper, the Free Speech, in Memphis, Tenn., May 21, 1892.
This incident did not deter Wells-Barnett from shining light on the abhor- rent practice of lynching. Instead, it led her to publish a pamphlet, A Red Record: Tabulated Statistics and Alleged Causes of Lynchings in the United States, 1892–1893–1894, that I argue stands as her seminal sociological contribu- tion. Although she is not credentialed, she certainly qualifies as a citizen sociologist.
Wells-Barnett’s sociological efforts, in many ways, mirror the uncre- dentialed citizen sociologists that assisted in data collection for Du Bois and the Atlanta Sociological Laboratory. Because of the legitimate probability that even the most well-meaning white sociologist would not garner accurate personal data from Blacks during Jim Crow, the Atlanta Sociological Laboratory was compelled to employ citizen sociologists to engage in data collection. Du Bois defended utilization of this cadre of non-PhD research- ers with the argument, as interpreted by this author, that:
The repeated use of Atlanta University and other graduates and students enabled the volunteer/untrained researchers the opportunity to become proficient researchers through on-the-job training. Du Bois noted that “by calling on the same persons [as researchers] year after year, a body of experienced correspondents had been gradually formed, number- ing . . . about fifty.”
Du Bois surmised that the repeated use of the same citizen sociologists as data collectors each year was the equivalent of one’s practical engage- ment in the discipline, whereby repeated sociological practices would lead to competence, if not expertise. A similar argument is made here about Wells-Barnett. While not in possession of a doctorate in sociology, she was a citizen sociologist as evidenced by her repeated employment of the discipline’s methodology (participant observation and primary and secondary content analysis) and theoretical analysis. The agitator for the human rights of Blacks in America expressed in A Red Record not only an understanding of the utility of the discipline in shaping the future of the race, but also comprehension of the limitations of existing scientific prac- tices so clearly called out by Du Bois as “car-window sociology.”
Wells-Barnett began her book referencing the discipline’s engage- ment with analyses of societal behaviors and interactions related to the horrors of lynching and the fact that most Americans had grown immune to the barbaric practice against their fellow citizens.
The student of American sociology will find the year 1894 marked by a pronounced awakening of the public conscience to a system of anarchy and outlawry which had grown during a series of ten years to be so common, that scenes of unusual brutality failed to have any visible effect upon the humane sentiments of the people of our land.
It is clear she understood that one of the discipline’s goals was to make sense of societal behaviors such that one could come to understand the ways a human group could be so dehumanized as to make their publicly advertised and actual death a societal event more than a call to action to end an abhorrent practice. What’s more, Wells-Barnett understood, as did Du Bois, that data were needed to convince some members of the country that a problem existed and that her efforts were not simply those of one engaging in research soiled by racial favoritism. Instead, she wanted to penetrate the closed minds of seemingly reasonable Americans in the hope that her data would promote social change. Effectively, she was employ- ing sociology as a tool in the liberation of Black people as mandated by Black sociology.
Wells-Barnett’s content analysis of lynchings between 1892 and 1894 relied on tabulations comprised by White reporters. Again, similar to Du Bois’s concern that the direct engagement of Black sociologists in social reform efforts would render their scientific findings void in the minds of White scholars, Wells-Barnett similarly sought to fend off denials of the fact that a high number of Black Americans were unjustly killed by this practice each year. Wells-Barnett explained:
The purpose of the pages which follow shall be to give the record which has been made, not by colored men, but that which is the result of com- pilations made by white men, of reports sent over the civilized world (emphasis mine) by white men in the South.
It is sad that many White Americans would only accept data and science from members of their own race—and only that of Black scientists if spon- sored and promoted by the right individual or entity. It is sad that many White Americans could not be instantly repulsed by the lawlessness and violence bestowed on Black bodies because they questioned whether or not the data were believable since the author was Black. Wells-Barnett knew the inroad to making substantive impacts on anti-lynching legis- lation rested first on the basic acknowledgment that a problem existed. Certain that data from a Black woman banished from her hometown would be met with nothing but skepticism, Wells-Barnett insisted data from White reporters be used because:
Out of their own mouths shall the murderers be condemned. For a number of years the Chicago Tribune, admittedly one of the leading journals of America, has made a specialty of the compilation of statistics touching upon lynching. The data compiled by that journal and published to the world January 1, 1894, up to the present time has not been disputed. In order to be safe from the charge of exaggeration, the incidents herein- after reported have been confined to those vouched for by the Tribune.
After using content analysis to document the number of persons killed via lynching and sketching a few graphic details of the barbaric process, Wells-Barnett drew a seemingly simple conclusion.
The very frequent inquiry made after my lectures by interested friends is “What can I do to help the cause?” The answer always is: “Tell the world the facts.” When the Christian world knows the alarming growth and extent of outlawry in our land, some means will be found to stop it.
At a very basic level, her answer speaks to the idea that the discipline can be used as a tool to improve the life chances and life outcomes of people if the known facts (data) are presented to members of a society in a manner they will embrace. Understanding the fact that data gathered by, for example, a Black newspaper would not be convincing to a White audience, Wells-Barnett employed the most effective data-gathering method to accomplish her goal. Once in possession of objective data she could then travel across the nation and engage Blacks and Whites on lynching and lit- erally place into their hands information allies could use in their efforts to end the practice. Today, this practice would loosely mirror and be labeled “applied sociology.” During her era, it was called survival.
Heretofore, the common (mis)conception of Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute simply construed it as an agricultural and industrial institution that demonstrated little sympathy toward liberal arts or the social sciences. A more nuanced assessment of Washington’s school suggests it unwittingly accepted the Black sociology baton after the demise of the Du Bois-led Atlanta Sociological Laboratory. In so doing, Tuskegee established the first program of applied rural sociology. It is not argued here that Washington’s efforts represented the same scientific rigor prac- ticed by Du Bois at Atlanta University. At best, the scientific endeavors at Tuskegee were elementary. At worst, the scientific endeavors at Tuskegee were rudimentary. What is beyond dispute is that compared with the quality of sociological inquiry performed at HWCUs of the era via sociol- ogy of the South and articles found in AJS, Tuskegee’s efforts were on par. Combined with the establishment of the nation’s first program of applied rural sociology was the school’s attempt to impact public policy via its dissemination of data on lynching. Although anti-lynching legislation was never passed, the idea that science should be used for the greater good of improving a group’s social, economic, and physical condition in a society was cemented as a core principle of Tuskegee’s Black sociology. While Tuskegee, seemingly, stumbled into its actualization of Black sociology, the actions of other early Black sociologists at HBCUs were more intentional.
 Lowrey Nelson, Rural Sociology: Its Origin and Growth in the United States (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1969), 28.
 See Lowrey Nelson, Rural Sociology, and Dwight Sanderson, “The Teaching of Rural Sociology: Particularly in the Land-Grant Colleges and Universities,” American Journal of Sociology 22, no. 4 (1917): 433–460.
 Lowrey Nelson, Rural Sociology, 106–107.
 Ibid., 107.
 Kenyon Butterfield, “Rural Sociology as a College Discipline,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 40 (1912): 12–18.
 Lowrey Nelson, Rural Sociology.
 See Dwight Sanderson, “The Teaching of Rural Sociology,” 433–460; Carl C. Taylor, “Research in Rural Sociology,” American Journal of Sociology 33, no. 2 (1927): 211–221; and Emilia E. Martinez-Brawley, “Rural Sociology and Rural Social Work: An Historical Essay,” The Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare 7, no. 4 (1980): Article 6.
 W. E. B. Du Bois, “The Talented Tenth,” in The Negro Problem: A Series of Articles by Representative American Negroes of To-day, ed. unknown (New York: AMS Press, (1970), 61.
 Booker T. Washington, An Autobiography: The Story of My Life and Work (Atlanta, GA.: J. L. Nichols and Company, 1901), 255.
 Ibid., 256.
 Emmett J. Scott, “The Tuskegee Negro Conferences,” Voice of the Negro (May 1904): 9.
 Editor, “A Letter from Tuskegee: Reported by Our Special Correspondent,” Southern Workman (March 1893b): 50.
 See Kalasia S. Daniels and Earl Wright II, “An Earnest Desire for the Truth Despite Its Possible Unpleasantness,” 35–48.
 Carl C. Taylor, “Research in Rural Sociology,” 211.
 Editor. “A Trip Through the South,” Southern Workman (April 1894b): 57.
 Paul Jefferson, “Working Notes on the Prehistory of Black Sociology: The Tuskegee Negro Conference,” Knowledge and Society: Studies in the Sociology of Culture Past and Present, 6 (1986): 135.
 Editor, “Tuskegee Negro Conference,” Southern Workman (March 1892): 37.
 Editor, “A Letter from Tuskegee: Reported by Our Special Correspondent,” Southern Workman (March 1893a): 41.
 Editor, “The Tuskegee Negro Conference,” Southern Workman (March 1894a): 47.
 Ibid., 48.
 Editor. “A Trip Through the South,” 58.
 Tuskegee University, Fifth Tuskegee Negro Conference (Baltimore: Tuskegee University, 1896), 12.
 Allen W. Jones. “The Role of Tuskegee Institute in the Education of Black Farmers.” Journal of Negro History (1975): 261.
 Ibid., 263.
 Carl C. Taylor, “Research in Rural Sociology,” 213.
 Paul Jefferson, “Working Notes on the Prehistory of Black Sociology,” 139.
 Booker T. Washington, An Autobiography, 258.
 Ibid., 259.
 Allen Jones, “Improving Rural Life for Blacks: The Tuskegee Negro Farmers’ Conference, 1892–1915,” Agricultural History 65, no. 2 (1991): 109.
 W. E. B. Du Bois, Results of Ten Tuskegee Negro Conferences (Tuskegee, AL: Tuskegee Institute, 1901), 3.
 Ibid., 4–5.
 Paul Jefferson, “Working Notes on the Prehistory of Black Sociology,” 127–128.
 Booker T. Washington, An Autobiography, 263.
 Ibid., 261.
 Linda O. McMurry, Recorder of the Black Experience: A Biography of Monroe Nathan Work (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 1985), 49.
 Ibid., 49.
 Ibid., 334.
 Ibid., 28.
 Ibid., 334.
 Earl Wright II, “Beyond W. E. B. Du Bois: A Note on Some of the Lesser Known Members of the Atlanta Sociological Laboratory,” Sociological Spectrum 29, no. 6 (2009): 704.
 Stanford M. Lymann, “Robert Park Reconsidered: The Early Writings,” The American Sociologist 21, no. 4, (1990): 345.
 Linda O. McMurry, Recorder of the Black Experience, 28.
 Ibid., 74–75.
 Ibid., 75.
 Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Southern Horrors and Other Writings: The Anti-Lynching Campaign of Ida B. Wells, 1892–1900 (Bedford Books: Boston, 1997): 79.
 Earl Wright II, “Why Black People Tend To Shout!” 350–351.
 Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Southern Horrors and Other Writings, 75.
 Ibid., 82.
 Ibid., 157.
 Ibid., 150.