St. Clair Drake

Aimee Meredith Cox

in Anthropology

ISBN: 9780199766567
Published online January 2012 | | DOI:
St. Clair Drake

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John Gibbs St. Clair Drake’s groundbreaking scholarship continues to be highly influential in the theoretical frameworks and methodological approaches used in research on African Americans, urban poverty, community transformation and development, social organization, and social justice. Although St. Clair Drake was educated and trained as an anthropologist, contemporary discussions of Drake’s research most often align him with sociology. The work hailed as St. Clair Drake’s greatest achievement, Black Metropolis: A Study of Negro Life in a Northern City (1945), written with Horace R. Cayton, emerged from, while expanding upon, the quantitative and ethnographic tradition of The Chicago School of Sociology. William Julius Wilson, one of the most prolific and prominent sociologists of the past four decades, studies the same Bronzeville communities in Chicago that are the focus of Black Metropolis and uses Drake’s analysis of the impact of economic and social conditions on urban working and low-income African Americans during the latter part of the 1930s to 1940s to track and historically contextualize his research starting in the 1970s. In addition to his research and publications, St. Clair Drake had a profound impact on the formal institutionalization of African American studies as a discipline within higher education. Beginning with Roosevelt University in Chicago, where he was a member of the faculty from 1946 to 1968, to his founding of the African and African American Studies department at Stanford University, Drake demonstrated the importance of establishing sustainable institutions that are specifically designed to attend to research related to the history of, cultural productions within, and social dynamics of communities of the African diaspora. Drake is also credited with formulating groundbreaking research and social commentary on Pan-Africanism that has influenced the ways anthropologists and black studies scholars theorize the African diaspora. The many academics, across disciplines, influenced by Drake’s research and practice consider him a model of intellectualism that can be active and praxis oriented. Drake has defined himself as an activist anthropologist interested in using the tools of anthropology for the goal of black liberation. In an in-depth interview with George Clement Bond (Bond 1988, cited under General Overviews) Drake is quoted as saying, “Had I not been black, I would have been a very different kind of anthropologist” (p. 780). His scholarship sought to intervene both theoretically in the status quo of academic discourse on race, urban communities of color, US and African relations, and anthropology, as well as within the everyday lived experiences of African descendents.

Article.  7113 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology ; Human Evolution ; Medical Anthropology ; Physical Anthropology ; Social and Cultural Anthropology

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