Forever in the Path: Tuskegee And the Origins of the Movement for Civil Rights: Monroe Work’s Lifetime Crusade Against Racist Violence.

As a young man, maybe even as a teenager, at least by the age that I was old enough to understand part of the psycho-sexual social phenomenon that white men have historically posed to black men, my psychologist mother told me about the great Tuskegee sociologist, Monroe Work. No, she didn’t preface her stories with all the warnings a parent night today; yet in retrospect, I can opine that this may have been among her reasons and purposes.

Sociologist Monroe Work was the Tuskegee academic and researcher who tracked and recorded and published the number of lynchings in the Nation each year until his death in 1945. Mr. Work, trained at the University of Chicago, was brought to Tuskegee by Booker T. Washington In 1908.

At Tuskegee, Mr. Work founded the Department of Records and Research. It seems that Work and Washington both understood the most essential and rudimentary requirements for sociological study: first you must have raw data. And it is doubtful to improbable that white America was collecting meaningful data about Black America in the early 20th century. Even now, in an age of computer-assisted collection, there is an ongoing struggle to convince the Federal Bureaucracy to collect data on easily available police excessive force incidents against African American citizens.

I surmise that Mr. Work knew this social scientific truth: that if you have raw data easily accessible for statistical evaluation, the argument for new policy initiatives becomes all but irrefutable. As the recent sports analogs teach us, stats are better than mere intuition or gut feelings. Enter Monroe Work.

Eventually, in 1912 Mr. Work began his publication of the Negro Year Book, in which he published yearly State statistics for lynchings in the United States. According to the record, Mr. Work during his career published 66 lynching reports.

How he accomplished this might itself be the subject of a book — for lynchings were often not done in the open. And those that were carried out in carnival-style, were likely later buried inside the secret bosom of the collective murderers.

-Albert Turner Goins, Sr.

(to be continued)

[this installment is based on earlier writing.]



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