Various Editions of W. E. B. Du Bois, The Philadelphia Negro, 1899–2007

W. E. B. Du Bois

In 1899 W. E. B. Du Bois published his monumental and groundbreaking study The Philadelphia Negro. After a year of intensive research on the Black population of Philadelphia, this 500+ page book broke new ground in the burgeoning field of sociology. The book has been republished a number of times over the years, each an occasion for a new editor to frame the book with their introductory comments. Here is a brief survey of these various editions of the book

Lindsay, University of Pennsylvania (1899)

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study (Publications of the University of Pennsylvania, 1899).

Samuel McCune Lindsay, “Introduction,” vii–xv.

Samuel McCune Lindsay (1869-1960) was professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania at the time. Lindsay provides a good example of the “official” view of the study by the predominantly white university which sponsored it:

The purpose of the inquiry is to furnish local agencies and individuals, interested in improving the condition of the Negro population of Philadelphia, a more comprehensive knowledge of the existing condition of Negroes, so that such work may be directed in the most helpful channels.

“Introduction,” xi.

This first edition is available electronically for free on Google Books.

Baltzell, Schocken Books (1967)

1967 edition

W. E. B Du Bois, The Philadelphia Negro (New York: Schocken Books, 1967)

E. Digby Baltzell, “Introduction,” ix–xliv.

It was nearly 70 years before the book was first republished, and the introduction was written by E. Digby Baltzell (1915–1996). Baltzell was born in Philadelphia and eventually became professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. Baltzell describes the obscurity into which Du Bois’s work had fallen at the time:

A classic is sometimes defined as a book that is often referred to but seldom read. The Philadelphia Negro, written by a young scholar who subsequently became one of the three most famous Negro leaders in American history, surely meets this requirement. Though always referred to and frequently quoted by specialists, it is now seldom read by the more general student of sociology. For not only has the book been out of print for almost half a century; it has been virtually unobtainable, as my own experience of almost twenty years of searching in vain for a copy in second-hand bookstores attests. Even at the University of Pennsylvania, under whose sponsorship the research was undertaken and the book published, although one copy has been preserved in the archives and one on microfilm, the sole copy listed in the catalogue and available for students in the library has been unaccountably missing from the shelves for several years. In writing this introduction, I am using a copy lent me by my good friend, Professor Ira Reid of Haverford College, a one-time colleague and friend of the late Professor DuBois at Atlanta University. Modem students, then, will certainly benefit from a readily available paperback edition of this study of the Negro community in Philadelphia at the turn of the nineteenth century.

Baltzell, “Introduction,” ix–x.

The introduction gives a nice overview of Du Bois’s life, and situates his Philadelphia study in the context of other scholarship.

This edition is available electronically for free at the Internet Archive.

Aptheker, Kraus-Thompson (1973)

Kraus-Thompson (1973)

William E. B. Du Bois, The Philadelphia Negro (Millwood, NY: Kraus-Thomson, 1973)

Herbert Aptheker, “Introduction,” 5–31

Herbert Aptheker (1915–2003) was chosen to be the literary executor of W. E. B. Du Bois’s voluminous writings. 1973 saw the republication of a number of Du Bois’s works in “The Collected Published Works of William Edward Burghardt Du Bois.” Du Bois’s widow, Shirley Graham Du Bois, praised Aptheker’s work in bringing out this edition:

Here I would pay tribute to Herbert Aptheker. Seldom does one find such a combination of scholarship, research tenacity and dedication as this editor has brought to the Du Bois project. He has worked for years-searching, checking with Du Bois’ extensive correspondence, annotating, adding footnotes where necessary, placing entries in the historical context as revealed in the correspondence and personal papers.

“Preface by Mrs. Shirley Graham Du Bois,” The Suppression of the African Slave-Trade, 6.

Indeed, Aptheker’s scholarship is remarkable, and his introductions to the volumes in this series are essential reading in the scholarship of Du Bois. Here’s how Aptheker concludes his introduction:

Du Bois’ The Philadelphia Negro was the first scientific study in Afro-American sociology and the pioneer study in urban sociology in the United States. In the area of scholarship Du Bois had accomplished this by the time he had reached his thirtieth year. The dominant white world of universities and so-called scholarship having rejected his explicit appeals for joint work, Du Bois turned his eyes to the South, went to Atlanta University, wrote the text of the Philadelphia study and made of the Atlanta University Conferences for the Study of the Negro Problems world-famous centers for the advancement of science.

“Introduction,” 30–31.

Aptheker’s edition can be hard to find, but used copies are available (bookfinder).

Additionally, Aptheker also includes brief comments on The Philadelphia Negro in his Annotated bibliography of the published writings of W. E. B. Du Bois.

Green and Driver, University of Chicago Press (1978)

Green and Driver (1978)

W. E. B. Du Bois On Sociology and the Black Community, ed. Dan S. Green and Edwin D. Driver (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987)

Dan S. Green and Edwin D. Driver, “Introduction,” 1–48.

In 1978, two sociology professors edited this anthology by Du Bois in order “to make available to sociologists and other interested scholars a wide selection of the sociological writings of W.E.B. Du Bois” (1). Green was professor of sociology at Kentucky State University, and Driver at University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Green and Driver’s nearly 50-page “Introduction” is a great survey of Du Bois’s scholarship in the field of sociology. Here’s how they assess his overall reception:

Du Bois rightly deserves a place among the giants of sociology for his work during the years 1896-1910, when sociology was being estab­ lished as an academic discipline…

Important and valuable as his contributions may be, historically or currently, Du Bois has not been accorded by early or later white sociologists the respect and recognition that he deserves. His continuous neglect by the sociological fraternity (hereafter meaning white sociologists only) until 1971 constitutes an interesting and perhaps instructive datum for the “sociology of sociology.” It is of interest, however, to note the recent establishment of two awards which carry Du Bois’ name.

Du Bois’ neglect meant that generations of sociologists, graduate students, and undergraduates in sociology would obtain no knowl­ edge of him, or at best only a faint, blurred image of him as a black intellectual, but not as a sociologist.

“Introduction,” 39, 41.

This volume includes a 25-page excerpt from The Philadelphia Negro. The book is accessible for free on the Internet Archive.

Anderson, University of Pennsylvania Press (1995)

Anderson (1995)

W. E. B. Du Bois, The Philadelphia Negro (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995).

Elijah Anderson, “Introduction,” ix–xxxvi.

It was over 20 years until the next complete edition of the book was published again, this time by the University of Pennsylvania. Elijah Anderson (1943–) is the Sterling Professor of Sociology and of African American Studies at Yale University. He expressed his hopes for the republication in his opening paragraph:

The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study by W .E.B. DuBois was originally published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 1899. One of the first works to combine the use of urban eth­ nography, social history, and descriptive statistics, it has become a classic work in the social science literature. For that reason alone it is an important study that deserves to be read by stu­ dents of sociology and others interested in the development of the discipline in particular or in American intellectual history in general. W.E.B. DuBois is a founding father of American sociology, but, unfortunately, neither this masterpiece nor much of DuBois’s other work has been given proper recognition; in fact, it is possible to advance through a graduate program in sociology in this country without ever hearing about DuBois. It is my hope that this reprint edition will help rectify a situation undoubtedly rooted in the racial relationships of the era in which the book was first published.

“Introduction,” ix.

This edition is accessible for free on the Internet Archive.

Katz and Sugrue, University of Pennsylvania (1998)

Katz and Sugrue (1998)

Michael B. Katz and Thomas J. Sugrue, eds., W.E.B. DuBois, Race, and the City : The Philadelphia Negro and Its Legacy (Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998)

This book is not an edition of The Philadelphia Negro, but a collection of essays by “a group of the nation’s leading historians and sociologists” celebrating “the centenary of his project through a reappraisal of his book.”

Essays include:

  1. Mia Bay, “The World Was Thinking Wrong About Race”: The Philadelphia Negro and Nineteenth-Century Science
  2. Thomas C. Holt, W.E.B. DuBois’s Archaeology of Race: Re-Reading “The Conservation of Races”
  3. Robert Gregg, Giant Steps: W.E.B. DuBois and the Historical Enterprise
  4. Jacqueline Jones, “Lifework” and Its Limits: The Problem of Labor in The Philadelphia Negro
  5. Tera W. Hunter,  “The `Brotherly Love’ for Which This City Is Proverbial Should Extend to All”: The Everyday Lives of Working-Class Women in Philadelphia and Atlanta in the 1890s
  6. Antonio McDaniel, The “Philadelphia Negro” Then and Now: Implications for Empirical Research
  7. V. P. Franklin, Operation Street Corner: The Wharton Centre and the Juvenile Gang Problem in Philadelphia, 1945-1958
  8. Carl Husemoller Nightingale, The Global Inner City: Toward a Historical Analysis
  9. Elijah Anderson, Drugs and Violence in the Inner City

This book is accessible for free on the Internet Archive.

Bobo, Oxford University Press (2007)

Bobo (2007)

W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt) Du Bois, The Philadelphia Negro : A Social Study (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007)

Lawrence Bobo, “Introduction,” xxv–xxx.

Oxford University Press has published the most recent edition of Du Bois’s books, “The Oxford W. E. B. Du Bois,” a 19 volume series edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. This is the series that I am (slowly!) collecting and the edition of The Philadelphia Negro that I own.

Lawrence Bobo is W. E. B. Du Bois Professor of the Social Sciences and the Dean of Social Science at Harvard University. His introduction begins thus:

The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study, first published by W. E. B Du Bois in 1899, was then and remains to this day a magnificent scholarly achievement. It docu­ments in systematic and meticulous detail the living circumstances at the close of the nineteenth century of the largest black population outside the South. In its use of a systematic method of community social survey, it shows the most rigorous and sophisticated empirical social science of its era In an understated but ultimately clear and convincing manner. The Philadelphia Negro advances both a framework for studying the black community and a powerful sociologi­cal—not biological, nor psychological, nor otherwise victim-blaming account— of the factors causing black disadvantage. And it shows how careful social research might be linked fruitfully to the ambition of reform and advocacy for social justice on behalf of a stigmatized people.

“Introduction,” xxv.

The introduction is relatively brief, but a nice survey of the current state of scholarship on the book.

This edition is accessible for free on the Internet Archive.

Morris, The Scholar Denied (2015)

Morris (2015)

Aldon Morris, The Scholar Denied: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Birth of Modern Sociology (Oakland: University of California Press, 2015)

While this book is not focused specifically on The Philadelphia Negro, it includes a masterful account of Du Bois’s role in founding the discipline of sociology and includes extensive treatment of The Philadelphia Negro in particular. This book is a masterpiece, a tour-de-force, one of the best books of the year for me, and gives the best account I’ve ever read of the historical context surrounding Du Bois, Black scholarship, and white academia.

This one isn’t available online; you’ll have to purchase your own copy.


Anti-Wokeness, “Feminism,” and Head-coverings

There’s a quote floating around the internet that is attributed to R. C. Sproul which encapsulates one of the problems with the modern “head covering movement”:

The wearing of fabric head coverings in worship was universally the practice of Christian women until the twentieth century. What happened? Did we suddenly find some biblical truth to which the saints for thousands of years were blind? Or were our biblical views of women gradually eroded by the modern feminist movement that has infiltrated the Church.

Head Covering: A Forgotton Christian Practice for Modern Times

This quote is all over the place. It’s been posted on Facebook. It’s on “A-Z Quotes.” It’s been featured on a number of blogposts, and at one point, it was apparently featured on the front page of (“Ladies: R. C. Sproul Says COVER YOUR HEADS!!!!!!!!!!”). The lead article at the Head Covering Movement Website right now is a link to a Youtube video that includes this quote (“What About Head Coverings?” [32:43]). It’s even been published in a book (Jeremy Gardiner, Head Covering: A Forgotten Christian Practice for Modern Times (2016)).

Here’s the problem: I’m pretty sure R. C. Sproul never said that quote, and more substantively, the claim at the heart of the quote itself is historically inaccurate.

Did R. C. Sproul Really Say That?

R. C. Sproul

Let’s start with the genuineness of the quote. I’ve scoured the internet, and I can’t find an actual original source anywhere showing that Sproul said this. It is no secret that R. C. Sproul held that women should wear head-coverings. He wrote about it in multiple books, he broadcast it on his radio program, and he spoke about it at Q&A’s. But in all of those places, I’ve never seen him connect this to “the feminist movement” or make broad brush historical claims like this, because I think Sproul knew the Reformed tradition better than that.

Jeremy Gardiner, “founder emeritus of the Head Covering Movement” and author of the book Head Covering: A Forgotten Christian Practice, wrote a blogpost featuring the quote, but interestingly admitted that “I haven’t been able to track down the original source of this statement. It is a heavily quoted statement and one such quotation appear’s [sic] in Greg Price’s article ‘Head Coverings in Scripture’” (“Why Head Coverings? Reason #4: Church Practice”). In his book, he footnotes the quote with a (now defunct) internet link to Greg Price’s article.

I’ve found two versions of the Price article online: here and here. Both posts include 37 quotes from church history, and the last quote is from R. C. Sproul. Then the article closes with a concluding paragraph, which includes the reference to the feminist movement. That paragraph begins like this: “Though the many authors cited above differ on various issues associated with headcoverings…” As Sproul is one of the “authors cited above” these appear to be Price’s words, not a continuation of Sproul’s. Unfortunately, the article does not give a citation even for the Sproul quote that it does include.

The way this spurious quote has been used over the years is sloppy, it’s poor scholarship—“don’t believe everything you read on the internet!” But it fits a “culture wars” narrative that is compelling to some streams of conservative Christians, and it features an easy bogey[wo]man–“The Feminist Movement”–which makes this kind of historical claim powerful to those feeling embattled, and eager to go to war with the culture over “biblical principles.” If the quote isn’t genuinely attributable to R. C. Sproul, it voices the kind of claim that some groups want to believe is true about America’s “cultural decline” from Biblical values.

The Reformed Tradition

However, the deeper problem with the quote is not just that R. C. Sproul most likely didn’t say it, but that it just isn’t true. The narrative goes like this: the church simply “believed the Bible” for 1000, 900, and 60 years after Christ, until the influence of The Feminist Movement eroded Christians’ confidence in Biblical truth. When they read 1 Corinthians 11:5 (“every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head”), they simply believed it and obeyed it, and they put a cloth on their heads. Since the 1960s, however, “liberal” Bible commentators have started coming up with “new” ways of interpreting Bible passages like 1 Corinthians 11, and have come up with the argument that head coverings were a “cultural practice” that made sense in the cultural context of 1st century Corinth, but since our 21st century culture is different, head-coverings don’t apply to us anymore. The answer, on this telling, is to get back to the “universal practice” of the church before Feminism ruined everything. For some drinking from the waters of “anti-wokeness” headcoverings are even be viewed as a way to push back against the “wokeness” of the culture around us by showing our commitment to the “old paths.”

Unfortunately for this narrative, it falls flat on its face as soon as you start reading some Reformed interpreters, starting in the 16th and 17th centuries, a good 400 years before The Feminists “ruined” Biblical hermeneutics.


Theodore Beza

Let’s start with Theodore Beza (1519–1605), successor of Calvin in Geneva. In his brief “study Bible” notes on 1 Corinthians 11, he said this:

It appeareth that this was a politike law serving onely for the circumstances of the time that Paul lived in, by this reason, because in these our daye, for a man to speake bare-headed in an assembly, is a signe of subiection.

The New Testament of our Lord Iesus Christ : translated out of Greeke by Theod. Beza ; with brief summaries and expositions upon the hard places by the said authour, (1599), 74.

Is it a “universal principle” that men should uncover their heads, and women should cover them? Beza thought this was “onely for the circumstances of the time that Paul lived in.” In Paul’s day, the way to show authority was to uncover your head. In Beza’s day, uncovering your head showed “subiection,” so men kept their heads covered. Whether one covered or uncovered was dictated by what that act symbolized in a particular culture. And in Beza’s culture, men wore hats (check out the picture!).


William Whitaker

It’s fascinating to look at the debates between 16th century Catholics and Protestants over how to interpret scripture. William Whitaker (1548–1595) was an English reformer, and published a “disputation” with Catholic Cardinal Robert Bellarmine. According to Richard Muller, Whitakers’s work was “representative” of Protestant interpretation of the 16th century, and became “a point of reference for sound doctrine throughout the seventeenth century” as well (Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 2, 482). Whitaker was debating the role of human traditions in Catholic interpretation versus Protestant integration, and used head coverings as an example, calling it an “indifferent ceremony”:

…of indifferent ceremonies, it is even farther from touching us… He [Paul] desires men to pray with uncovered, women with covered heads: which injunctions are not of a perpetual obligation; for they are not now observed even by the papists themselves; so as to make it plain that all churches are not bound to the same ceremonies.

A Disputation on Holy Scripture, Against the Papists, Especially Bellarmine and Stapleton (1588), 549.

One of the most influential English Reformers believed that headcoverings was an example of the difference between a Roman Catholic approach to “traditions and ceremonies” and a Protestant approach to Scripture and practice.

The Geneva Bible

The Geneva Bible

Interestingly, the notes to the Geneva Bible echo the same interpretation. The Geneva Bible “is one of the most historically significant translations of the Bible into English, preceding the King James Version by 51 years,” published in 1560, and “was one of the Bibles taken to America on the Mayflower” (“The Geneva Bible”). The brief notes in the Geneva Bible on 1 Corinthians 11 include this:

This tradition was observed according to the time and place that all things might be done in comelines and edification.

The Bible. Translated according to the Hebrew and Greeke, and conferred with the best translations in diuers languages, 514 [1108]

“According to the time and place”–the same sort language that used to explain “meat sacrificed to idols” in 1 Corinthians 10:25 (on the same page).

The Westminster Assembly

The Westminster Assembly

The Westminster Assembly met from 1643 to 1653 and wrote the Westminster Confession of Faith, an enormously influential confession in the Reformed tradition. There were a number of men who were members of the assembly, and several of them made their views of head coverings very clear. In his book The Keys of the Kingdom, Daniel Cawdry (1588–1644) explored what kinds of things a Synod could rightfully require of its ministers in worship? Can it require them to do things that Scripture doesn’t teach, like wear a special robe when preaching? Cawdry brings up head coverings in his answer:

Question: “Whether the Synod has power to enjoy things both in their nature and use indifferent.” …I answer: that for men to pray or prophesy with their heads covered, or with long hair, and women uncovered, were things in their own nature indifferent (unless you make it necessary, as a moral duty for men to pray or prophesy uncovered, and women contra; which no interpreters upon that text do)…

Vindiciae clavium: or, A vindication of The keyes of the kingdome of heaven, into the hands of the right owners (1645), 57.

Apparently, in Cawdry’s day, “no interpreters upon that text” required head coverings, or not, one way or the other.

Cawdry teamed up with fellow Westminster Divine Herbert Palmer (1601–1647) to write a book on the Sabbath. Was the Sabbath a universal command for today? Cawdry and Palmer thought so, and they used head coverings as a contrast to demonstrate the distinction between Bible passages that were “variable, or temporary” and those that were “invariable and perpetual”:

Divine Apostolicall Institutions (that we may draw to our purpose) were again of two sorts: First, variable, or temporary, which were such injunctions as were prescribed, either for some speciall ends, as that law for abstaining from blood, and things strangled, Acts 15.1, for avoiding offence to the Jews, or to some special nations, or persons, as agreeable to the customs of those places and times, as that of women being vailed in the congregations, and some other the like. Secondly, invariable and perpetual: such as concerned the whole Church…

Sabbatum Redivivum: or, The Christian Sabbath Vindicated (1645). 463.

So, when the Westminster Confession of Faith said that “there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed” and they footnoted 1 Corinthians 11:13–14 on that point, we should interpret the confession in light of the published statements of the Divines (Westminster Confession of Faith, I.6).

Matthew Poole

Matthew Poole

Matthew Poole (1624–1679) wrote a commentary on the whole Bible, of which Charles Spurgeon said “On the whole, if I must have only one commentary, and had read Matthew Henry, as I have, I do not know but what I should choose Poole” (Commenting and Commentaries, 6). Here’s what Poole’s commentary says on 1 Corinthians 11:

Interpreters rightly agree, that this and the following verses are to be interpreted from the customs of countries… Nothing in this is a further rule to christians, than that it is the duty of ministers, in praying and preaching, to use postures and habits that are not naturally, nor according to the custom of the place where they live, uncomely and irreverent, and so looked upon.

Annotations Upon the Holy Bible, 577.

Poole notes a variety of cultural practices among Romans, Greeks, Jews, and even Muslims. He notes that even in his own day, when it comes to men and women and covered and uncovered heads, some male ministers preach with their heads uncovered, but “in France the Reformed ministers preach with their heads covered.” 

Francis Turretin

Francis Turretin

Finally, I’ll mention Francis Turretin (1623–1687). Turretin was an influential reformed theologian, both in his own time, but also for 19th century American Presbyterians, as his Institutes of Elenctic Theology was the main theology textbook at Princeton Theological Seminary (in the North) and Union Presbyterian Seminary (in the South). In the section of his Institutes on The Lord’s Day he compares what he considers the “temporary” nature of an ordinance like headcoverings with the “invariable and perpetual” institutions, like the Lord’s Day:

XIV. Although certain ordinations of the apostles (which referred to the rites and circumstances of divine worship) were variable and instituted only for a time (as the sanction concerning the not eating of blood and of things strangled [Acts 15:20]; concerning the woman’s head being covered and the man’s being uncovered when they prophesy [1 Cor. 11:4, 5]) because there was a special cause and reason for them and (this ceasing) the institution itself ought to cease also; still there were others invariable and of perpetual observance in the church, none of which were founded upon any special occasion to last only for a time by which they might be rendered temporary (such as the imposition of hands in the setting apart of ministers and the distinction between the offices of deacon and pastor). Since the institution of the Lord’s day was of this kind, from this we infer that the Intention of the founders was that the observance of this day should be of perpetual and immutable right.

The Lord’s Day


So is it true that the church has always held that head coverings were a “universal” and “perpetual” commandment for the church until The Feminist Movement of the 1960s ruined everything? I hope this brief survey of some of the leading Reformed interpreters shows that this statement is false on its face. I quote all of these white, European, Reformed men, not because I think they are the be-all and end-all of Biblical interpretation, but simply to show that even on its own terms, the conservative Reformed tradition has never held “universally” that head coverings are a perpetually binding obligation for Christians today. This post didn’t trace the “cultural” view of head coverings into the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, but it is interesting to note that R. C. Sproul acknowledged that even his own mentor, John Gerstner, held that head coverings were “customary” (“What RC Sproul Believes About Head Covering,” [4:46]).

I personally don’t have strong feelings about head coverings. As I looked around my own church this past Sunday I saw a wide variety of practice: some women wearing hats, some wearing head wraps, some women wearing other coverings, many with their heads completely uncovered. If someone reads 1 Corinthians 11 and comes to the conclusion that they feel led to wear a covering in church, great! Just don’t turn this into yet another weapon in the American culture wars, part of a never ending rampage against “the woke” the “feminists” and the “liberals,” and above all, don’t make false claims about history to try to make a catchy point. The receipts will always find you out…