E. Franklin Frazier

Poster from Office of War Information. Domestic Operations Branch. News Bureau, 1943

Poster from Office of War Information. Domestic Operations Branch. News Bureau, 1943

Edward Franklin Frazier (September 24, 1894 – May 17, 1962), was an American sociologist. His 1932 Ph.D. dissertation The Negro Family in Chicago, later released as a book The Negro Family in the United States in 1939, analyzed the historical force that influenced the development of the African-American family from the time of slavery.

The book was awarded the 1940 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for the most significant work in the field of race relations. This book was among the first sociological works on blacks researched and written by a black person. He helped draft the UNESCO statement The Race Question in 1950.

E. Franklin Frazier was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on September 24, 1894. Frazier was one of five children of James H. Frazier, a bank messenger, and Mary Clark Frazier, a housewife. Edward Franklin Frazier attended Baltimore public schools. Upon his graduation from Colored High School, June 1912, Frazier was awarded the school’s annual scholarship to Howard University in Washington, DC, from where he graduated with honors in 1916. E. Franklin Frazier was an excellent scholar, pursuing Latin, Greek, German and mathematics.

He also found time to participate in extracurricular activities involving drama, political science, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Intercollegiate Socialist Society. His leadership skills were evidenced in his class presidencies of 1915 and 1916.

Frazier attended Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he earned a master’s degree in 1920.

Frazier spent 1920-1921 as a Russell Sage Foundation fellow at the New York School of Social Work (later Columbia University School of Social Work). 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’s position formed one half of the debate with Melville J. Herskovits on the nature of cultural contact in the Western Hemisphere, specifically with reference to Africans, Europeans, and their descendants. Frazier’s Black Bourgeoisie, the 1957 translation of a work first published in French in 1955, was a critical examination of the adoption by middle-class African Americans of a subservient conservatism.

Frazier was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
Frazier died on May 17, 1962, at the age of 68, in Washington, D.C. He has been ranked among the top African Americans for his influence on institutions and practices to accept the demands by African Americans for economic, political and social equality in American life.

Some of Frazier’s writings caused controversy among the black community for their focus on the impact of slavery[3] and how it divided the black family. His support for African-American civil rights during the McCarthy era and his membership of the Council on African Affairs[4] resulted in his being acknowledged not for his brilliant work but as a traitor.

Frazier was also known for his numerous feuds with fellow academics, most notably Charles Johnson and Melville Herskovits. He was also briefly alienated from his mentor W. E. B. Du Bois in the 1930s.