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The W.E.B. Lecture in Public Social Science will be hosted on Feb. 23rd at the Annenberg School for Communication.

Credit: Alina Zaidi

The Inaugural W.E.B. Du Bois Lecture in Public Social Science will be hosted on Feb. 23. 

The event will be held at the Annenberg School for Communication from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. It will feature Brent Staples from the New York Times in conversation with Tukufu Zuberi, the Penn Lasry Family Professor of Race Relations. 

The Annenberg School for Communication, the Department of Sociology, and the Center for Africana Studies are co-sponsoring the event. The lecture is intended to recognize Du Bois' intellectual contributions and celebrate his birthday.

Du Bois — a leading Black thinker of the 20th century — was an author and sociologist at Penn beginning in 1896.

Among Du Bois’ most prominent works is "The Philadelphia Negro," which was published in 1899 after the University asked Du Bois to give students a tour of a Black neighborhood in South Philadelphia. 

According to Zuberi, "The Philadelphia Negro" is recognized as one of the foundational texts on
conducting sociological analysis.

John Jackson, Dean of the Annenberg School of Communication and newly named University provost, echoed the sentiment that Du Bois' work has a lasting legacy in scholarly research.

“Many of us at Annenberg — myself included — study some of the key themes that this canonical sociologist and historian helped us all to understand and conceptualize more thoroughly,” Jackson said in a written statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian. 

The University previously recognized Du Bois in 2012 when the Board of Trustees honored him with an Honorary Emeritus Professorship of Sociology and Africana Studies. 

Penn professors said that the lecture is a way to continue honoring Du Bois. 

For Zuberi, this inaugural lecture is “another opportunity to show the University's commitment to confronting the legacy of not offering Du Bois a job, of confronting its own faculty with the sheer impact of Du Bois with his very short stay here.” 

Melissa Wilde, the Chair of the Department of Sociology, agreed with Zuberi.

“W.E.B. Du Bois was a path-breaking sociologist who was not given the recognition or professional accolades he deserved while at Penn, or in the field more generally during his lifetime,” Wilde wrote to the DP. 

Bringing Staples into the conversation is intended to honor Du Bois’ work as the founder and editor of The Crisis, a magazine that was “the first editorial source of commentary on the racial issues in the United States and Africa … throughout the world,” according to Zuberi. 

Staples has been a journalist and editor at the New York Times for over 30 years, writing about issues of race, both historically and in present times.

Zuberi will moderate the conversation with Staples, presenting questions before turning to the audience for additional questions. President Liz Magill will attend and open the event. 

Zuberi said that the inaugural lecture is intended to kick off a series that will continue for future years.