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The Mature Individual or the Mature Society

The Mature Individual or the Mature Society

Social Theory, Social Action, and the Race Problem at Fisk University’s Race Relations Institutes

(p.103) Four The Mature Individual or the Mature Society
From Power to Prejudice
Leah N. Gordon
University of Chicago Press

Chapter Four looks closely at arguments about the significance of prejudice to the race problem in a center of African American intellectual life that aimed explicitly to use social science to inform political strategizing: Fisk University’s Race Relations Institutes (RRI). The yearly, three-week summer conferences that sociologist Charles S. Johnson initiated in 1944 at one of the nation’s leading historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) show that racial individualism faced substantial challenges in some postwar intellectual arenas. At the same time, the RRI’s history exposes dilemmas associated with politically engaged social science. While political economic and social structural theories of the race issue endured in the late 1940s at the RRI, Institute participants increasingly embraced both psychological and rights based individualism in their political agendas, regardless of the theories they espoused.

Keywords:   Fisk University, Race Relations Institutes, Charles S. Johnson, HBCUs, African American, intellectual life

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