American Sociological Association

E. Franklin Frazier

Edward Franklin Frazier

Edward Franklin Frazier

September 24, 1894 - May 17, 1962

E. Franklin Frazier was born in Baltimore, Maryland on September 24, 1894, one of five children of James H. Frazier, a bank messenger, and Mary Clark Frazier, a housewife. Frazier attended Baltimore public schools before attending classes at Howard University in Washington, DC. He graduated with honors from Howard in 1916.

Frazier began his career teaching mathematics at Tuskegee from 1916 to 1917, English and History at St. Paul's Normal and Industrial School in Lawrenceville, Virginia (1917-1918), and French and Mathematics at Baltimore High School (1918-1919).

Frazier attended Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts where he earned a master's degree in 1920. The topic of his thesis was "New Currents of Thought Among the Colored People of America". It was during his time at Clark that Frazier first became acquainted with sociology.

After spending 1920-1921 as a Russell Sage Foundation fellow at the New York School of Social Work (later Columbia University School of Social Work) and a year at the University of Copenhagen as a fellow of the American Scandinavian Foundation, Frazier accepted an appointment at Atlanta University where he served as the director of the Atlanta School of Social Work and an instructor of sociology at Morehouse College.

During this time Frazier published a number of articles, including "The Pathology of Race Prejudice" in 1927. This article, which argued that racial prejudice was analogous to insanity, stirred such strong reactions among residents in Atlanta that Frazier was removed from his position.

Frazier moved from Atlanta to Chicago where he received a fellowship from the University of Chicago's sociology department. His studies at Chicago culminated in his earning a Ph.D. in 1931. Frazier spent a few few years at Fisk University, followed by a move to Howard University in Washington, DC in 1934.

In 1941, Frazier embarked on a year-long study of family life in Brazil, supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship. He spent the next twenty years associated with Howard University where his work focused on the environment of black colleges, especially that of Howard University.

Frazier was a founding member of the D.C. Sociological Society, serving as President of DCSS in 1943-44. Frazier also served as President of the Eastern Sociological Society in 1944-45. In 1948, Frazier was the first black to serve as President of the American Sociological Society (later renamed Association). His Presidential Address "Race Contacts and the Social Structure," was presented at the organization's annual meeting in Chicago in December 1948.

Frazier died May 17, 1962 in Washngton, D.C. An obituary for Frazier was published in the American Sociological Review



Written by G. Franklin Edwards, published in the American Sociological Review, 27(6):890-892

Edward Franklin Frazier died in Washing­ton, D.C. on May 17, 1962. He had undergone major surgery six months previously, but had recovered sufficiently to resume his academic duties in February. As Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Howard University, he was carrying a full-time teaching program and was engaged in research activi­ties as well, when he was fatally stricken.

Frazier was born in Baltimore, Maryland on September 24, 1894. His undergraduate degree was completed with honors at Howard University in 1916. He earned a Master's degree in sociology at Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1920 and a doctorate in the same field at the University of Chicago in 1931. In the interval between his graduate degrees, he studied at the New York School of Social Work (1920- 1921) and at the University of Copenhagen (1921-1922). His sociological views were influenced by many of his teachers, but he referred most often to the impressions made upon him by Professor Frank Hankins at Clark and Professors Ernest Burgess and Robert Park at Chicago.

There was on Frazier's part a dedication to academic life, and his contributions lie mainly in his teaching and research activities. In both of these areas he had rich and manifold experiences. In his jocular manner, he delighted in relating that he had taught in every type of educational institution. His emphasis was always upon the degree to which the institutions he served fulfilled what he regarded to be their mission.

His pedagogical career began at Tuskegee Institute in 1916. Later, he held regular appointments, in turn, at Morehouse College, The Atlanta School of Social Work, and Fisk University, before joining the faculty of Howard University in 1934 as Professor and Head of the Department of Sociology. He served at different periods as visiting professor, part-time teacher or lecturer at Livingstone College, the New York School of Social Work, New York University, Sarah Lawrence College, the University of Southern California, Carleton College, the University of California at Berkeley, and the School of Advanced International Studies of the Johns Hopkins University.

Frazier's broad learning and passionate concern for discovering what he termed the "social reality" made him an excellent model for students. His humor, clarity in communication, and love of interaction in classroom situations won for him the admiration and respect of students. Three months before his death, students at Howard University, in acknowledgement of his scholarly achievements and contributions to the intellectual life of the University, set up a lecture series in his honor, with Professor Everett Hughes of Brandeis University, Frazier's long-time friend and respected professional colleague, serving as the first guest lecturer.

An incomplete compilation of Professor Frazier's published works lists 8 books, 89 articles, and 18 chapters in books edited by others. His most significant research contribution was The Negro Family in the United States (1939), which analyzed the historical, social, and economic forces serving to shape the Negro family and assessed the influence of family life upon the behavior of Negroes. The publication of this volume provided an impetus to the emergent tendency to interpret problems of Negro life and behavior in a sociological frame of reference, rather than in terms which attributed problem con­ditions among Negroes to their innate inferiority. The volume also made a substantial contribution to the literature on the American family. It represented a development of Frazier's earlier studies of the subject which resulted in The Negro Family in Chicago and The Free Negro Family, both of which appeared in 1932. Frazier's interests in a number of research areas-community studies, ecology, stratification, personality, race and culture-coalesced in his studies of the Negro family.

Black Bourgeoisie, published first in French in 1955, and two years later in English, was an analysis of the origin, development, and style of life of the Negro middle class. This work proved to be highly controversial, with some persons regarding it as a mere polemic and others as an exaggerated profile of the class discussed. Its insights and descriptions proved painful to many of its readers. Its satirical style bears a kinship to the technique employed by Frazier in an earlier essay, "The Pathology of Race Prejudice" (Forum, June, 1927), in which an analogy was drawn between the mechanisms which operate in the minds of white southerners with prejudice toward the Negro and those which characterize the thought processes of insane persons. (Upon the publication of this article, Frazier was forced by a white mob to leave Atlanta where he was then teaching.) Black Bourgeoisie and "The Pathology of Race Prejudice," though published more than a quarter of a century apart, where tied together by more than a common style. In both of these works, Frazier demonstrated his determination to describe, analyze, and evaluate social reality as he perceived it, even when he was fully conscious that his evaluation would not be accepted by a great many readers.

The pressures which operate upon Negro intellectuals to engage in race politics and propaganda were resisted by Frazier. W. E. B. DuBois, a scholar-turned-propagandist whom Frazier greatly admired, once stated that Frazier stuck to his academic knitting. It was Frazier's conviction that the true role of the academic man was the development and publication of scientific knowledge. Though, as a realist, he fully recognized that scientific findings are not always immediately accepted by decision­makers, he also knew that eventually such findings make an impact upon society. In line with his beliefs in this regard, Frazier accepted few non-academic appointments. Of those he did accept, two are deserving of mention. Following the race riot in Harlem in 1935, he directed a study of the social and economic causes of the outbreak for the Mayor's Commission on Conditions in Harlem. In 1951-1953 he served as Chief of the Division of Applied Social Sciences of UNESCO.

Many honors were bestowed upon Frank Frazier by his professional colleagues. He served as president of the District of Columbia and Eastern Sociological societies and, in 1948, was president of the American Sociological Society. He was president-elect of the African Studies Association, of which he was a founding member. He also held important offices in several international sociological organizations. Morgan State College, Baltimore, Maryland, awarded him the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws in 1955, and he was similarly honored by the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1960. For Black Bourgeoisie he received, in 1956, the first MacIver Lectureship Award given by the American Sociological Society.

In addition to being a fine exponent of the best tradition in American sociology and scholarship, Frank Frazier was a vital human personality who enjoyed a wide circle of professional friends in this country and abroad. He was a tough-minded intellectual who persevered in rising above many of the frustrations he encountered in Negro educational institutions and community life. His passing marks the end of a distinguished career and a significant loss to the sociological fraternity and to his many friends.

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