On October 28, 2006 when preparation for the republication of “Race Relations:  Elements and Social Dynamics” began, the time was appropriate for if it had been attempted in the 1990’s, much of the information on the Internet and computer technological advancements were not yet available.  Manually researching information in libraries and governmental agencies would have been laborious and overwhelming and because of this, one cannot help but be in awe of the abundance of material that Oliver Cromwell Cox read.   Further, the unavailability of the original manuscript made this project extremely difficult in many instances and in fact, if it had been attempted prior to the emergence of new technology it would have been impossible.

 Why did Oliver devote so many years to race relations?  One of the many motivating factors was his brother’s abandonment of plans to become a dentist.  The problem was that Reginald was refused entry to the school of his choice because of the color of his skin, and he was so discouraged that he spent the rest of his life working in a factory—a major disappointment to the entire family.  In the past, many West Indian parents encouraged their male children to become doctors and lawyers.

 Not deterred by his brother’s misfortune, Oliver, a then British Subject, received a Bachelor of Science Degree in law from Northwestern University in 1928, a Master’s Degree in economics in 1932, and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago in 1938.  His education, which was unsurpassed by any other Black person at that time, was  reflected in the depth and breadth of his writings―the legal, economical and sociological―and the unintentional spiritual and psychological  aspects are apparent in “Race Relations:  Elements and Social Dynamics.”  Because he grew up in Trinidad, West Indies, he had the distinct advantage of documenting race relations free from most of the racial experiences of colored United States citizens.  This objectivity and his relentless determination to present facts enhanced the credibility of his work.  Clearly, he was not concerned about hurt feelings or trodden toes─he wrote as it was, and in some instances, as it still is today.  It is obvious that his ethics did not allow picking and choosing and playing politics in such an important undertaking as recording history.

 One may ask whether or not this final work by Oliver has purpose.  As I read the graphic and poignant description of events from slavery to the time of his death, they struck me as compelling, familiar and substantiated—inevitably “aha moments” consumed my consciousness.  When you must look up a word that you have never seen and your mind is enriched is “an aha moment.”  When thousands of slaves were freed and set upon society without assimilative support is an “aha moment.”  As you begin to see clearly the toll in human sufferings and the financial losses of both the victims of racial discrimination and the offending businesses is an “aha moment.”  Reading about an incident and recognizing similarities in your own life is indeed an “aha moment.”  When you begin to feel the pain of the victims and the sadness that it generates, and arrive at the conclusion that “Race Relations:  Elements and Social Dynamics” is a book that should be read to enlighten all peoples, and to serve as a historical record of the misery of poor race relations, is a shocking “aha moment.”  

 There is no presumptuousness in thinking that if this book could have a profound effect on me, then the outcome would be the same for you.  However, it is emphasized that “Race Relations:  Elements and Social Dynamics” is a wonderful educational tool inside and outside academia; indeed, practicing its ethical lessons will have a positive impact on race relations particularly in businesses.

 In spite of his outstanding qualifications and worldwide recognition of his work, he was the subject of disparaging and unjust characterizations.  Oliver, a gentle man, in an effort to defend himself stated, “They have accused the writer of ‘economic determinism,’ ‘Marxism,’4 or of seeking to explain race relations ‘solely,’ ‘only,’ ‘merely,’ ‘exclusively’ on the basis of ‘economics.’  After addressing themselves in this fashion to the economic aspects of race relations, these scholars usually move on to emphasize certain startling psychological or political incidents implying that these are at least as significant for an analysis of the society.”   These very comments, which were made by the then pillars of academia, eventually became the foundation for teaching sociology.  Until his death in 1974, Oliver bravely and meticulously researched and documented racial conditions with the utmost integrity thereby making them an invaluable part of American sociological history, and highly credible as past injustices continue to recur.  Proving his critics wrong and in recognition of his work on race relations, on September 29, 1971 the American Sociological Association presented him with this award:


the american sociological association



September 29, 1971


Professor Oliver Cromwell Cox
Department of Sociology
Wayne State University
Detroit, Michigan 48207

 Dear Professor Cox:

        As you are no doubt aware, the American Sociological Association recently established a new award for excellence; namely, the DuBois-Johnson-Frazier Award in honor of “the intellectual traditions and contributions” of William Edward Burghardt Dubois, Charles Spurgeon Johnson, and Edward Franklin Frazier.  This award is to be made every two years “to a sociologist – or sociologists in the case of joint authors – for an outstanding contribution in the tradition of these men, or to an academic institution for its work in assisting the development of scholarly efforts in the same tradition.”

        I am pleased to announce formally what you surely heard informally.  At our recent annual meetings in Denver (where you were sorely missed), the American Sociological Association awarded you its first DuBois-Johnson-Frazier Award.  The announcement was made at the presidential session and included the following citation from the Committee:

 “For his years of dedicated service as a teacher of sociology and purveyor of sociological perspectives to black youth; for his sustained scholarly endeavors to   delineate further the class dimension of “race relations” and to direct the attention of his professional peers to the need to include this dimension among others when studying race contacts; for his role as intellectual catalyst for new action programs among black youth; and particularly for his provocative analysis of caste, class and race the DuBois-Johnson-Frazier award is made to Oliver Cromwell Cox.”

 This year’s selection committee included H. M. Blalock, Jr., James Conyers, Butler A. Jones, Chairman, Leonard Reissman, Charles U. Smith, and Ralph H. Turner.  On behalf of both the Committee and the American Sociological Association as a whole, let me offer utmost congratulations on this award.  You shall be   receiving a check for $500 shortly.  The hope was expressed and widely shared that you will be able to join us at our annual meetings next August in New Orleans.                                                                                        
                                                                                          Best personal regards,
                                                                                          Jay Demerath
                                                                                          Executive Officer


 cc:  Butler Jones


1722 N. Street, N.W. * Washington, D.C. 20036 * (202) 833-3410


                                                                                        —Juliet Awon Uibopuu
                                                                                        Niece of Oliver Cromwell Cox



Although there is an avalanche of material on race relations, it is surprising how little there is of general works on the subject.  My motive in writing stems partly from a desire to fill the gap that causes a problem to concerned teachers.  The unsystematized data are very extensive.  The present definition of the subject, however, suggests their limits and scope.  I do not approach the work merely to gather the most recent information, but rather to present a distinct theory of race relations.  Previously, in other places, I have nibbled at contrary theories:  The Caste Theory, Pluralism, the Matrix Theory, the Black Bourgeoisie Theory, the Biological Superiority Theories, and their derivatives.  I propose here, however, to present a more comprehensive analysis.  This proposal mostly determines the direction.  A valid theory of race relations must necessarily be universalist; it attempts to explain and elucidate certain characteristics of a peculiar culture in context.  In “Caste, Class, and Race” I was interested in conceptual definition and societal distinction; in the undertaking I was concerned particularly with the universal manifestation of race relations and their functions, especially in the United States.

 In regard to the economics of race relations, as crucial economics involve pivotally the differentiating forces in our type of society,  I attempt to define and analyze them, and to show their elemental relationship to race relations in the United States.  It is in this context that I expect to demonstrate the critical aspects of Negro exploitation and discrimination.  It is here that the Negro comes face to face with almost insuperable barriers to job assignments and to adventures in business enterprise.  His subjection to social discrimination has been built mainly upon these concrete economic frustrations.  The latter blot out, as nothing else, his “place in the sun.”

 There is an apparently singular social-class problem arising among members of the race—problem unknown to other American subcultures.  It seems to emerge from forces of racial rejection in the larger society and from the relatively static nature of the Negro social status structure.  The relatively larger lower-status base with its tradition of permanence has engendered elements of lower-class cultural idealism which establish their own vicious circle inimical to efforts toward inclusion in the mainstream culture.  I have sought to examine the social ramifications of this tendency.

 Sometimes the fact that neither capitalism, democracy nor communism is centered in lower-class ideals may be overlooked.  The major social movements of the world have little if any creative interest in lower-class culture.  In no country does social equality mean a leveling of the social status structure of the major society to meet the cultural accommodations and demands of the lower classes,1 and the Soviet Union would be the most unlikely place to look for such a tendency.  The independent nations are cool toward it.   The leadership of the subcultures of other American Immigrants has lost respect for it—if indeed that leadership ever countenanced it.

 The attempt, therefore, by some spokesmen of the Negro lower class to work within the social penumbra of the Black middle class to perpetuate lower class traits and purposes seems doomed to ultimate disillusionment.  In the United States it must eventually be a dead-end movement.  The lower class, according to American tradition, should be uplifted and become preoccupied with values of the larger society as a birthright, not encouraged to be smug and obstinate in degradation—the latter frequently referred to as “our Black culture” to the gratification of the group’s most determined White detractors, who exclaimed triumphantly to White liberals, “I told you so.”  The advanced nations of the world have become increasingly dedicated to a functional “war on poverty.”  The social situation of the “hard core” unemployed in the Black Ghetto has now been recognized as a national scandal.

 Rapidly, since 1954 especially, the Negro problem has assumed a dominant place in the thinking of American people.  The country has consciously passed the crisis point of no turning back.  The problem has “surfaced.”  Both government and business have now openly admitted their share of responsibilities for the consequences of cultural subordination.  They have thus taken the initiative in developing plans for racial betterment.  The major civil rights groups have been willing to cooperate with the central powers in organization and execution of these problems.  There are, however, alienated Negro groups and individuals who are understandably vexed and confused, and who are explicit in their determination to make the society, both Black and White, pay or suffer for past wrongs—all the way from fire, looting, and gunshot, to the blackmail of financial “reparations.”

 I have attempted to show—and the government seems now to realize it—that the years of racial repression and exclusion have severely limited the capacity of Negroes to compete for the newly available opportunities.  Compensatory assistance, therefore, in education, job training, and business enterprise becomes an urgent obligation of the state.  The programs should include deprived Whites as well as Blacks.  The road has been tortuous and long but it has been dynamic, exciting, and promising.  Indeed, the future of race relations is now visible and encouraging than ever before.

 There can hardly be an explanation of race relations unless one is able to understand or at least to identify the culture and the societal system from which these relationships emerged.  It is a sociological fact that racial discrimination constitutes collective, not essentially individual, behavior.  Thus I accept in principle Emile Durkheim’s approach.  To understand conclusions about the collective aspects of the belief and practice of a group, one must be able to comprehend the social functions which they fulfill.  Different social systems are constituted differently; and major social processes, such as contemporary race relations, must be sought in the elementary constitution of the society.

 The various constituent elements of a society—economic, political, religious, familial, moral—tend, more or less, to be integrated differently in different social systems.  “For the sociologist as for the historian, social facts vary with the social system of which they form a part; they cannot be understood when detached from it.  This is why two facts which come from two different societies cannot be profitably compared merely because they seem to resemble each other; it is necessary that the societies resemble each other.”2   The patterns are recognizable by the relative structural significances of their subordinate systems, which constitute a hierarchy of relevance.

 Furthermore, we should guard against attributing the importance of component systems to judgments about their dispensability.  A given component may be indispensable and still assume a quite subordinate function in the total societal organization.  In fact, given certain essential constituents, supplementary systems and institutions may be expected to follow logically.  William Graham Sumner’s observation that there is a strain toward consistency in the elements of a society emphasizes these salient characteristics.  Once the societal patterns become established, they also become culturally limited.  It does not, therefore, assimilate or reject cultural traits indiscriminately.  Some traits, compatible to one society, may remain forever alien to another.  The meaning of any social system or institution, therefore, tends to be determined by the pattern of society.  The ubiquitous religious function, for example, tends to be defined differently among different social groups, varying from predominance in some to subsidiary in others, and with widespread variations in beliefs, ritual, and theology. 

 Societies’ major social systems are historical products.  The factors determinative of change in them are both internal and external.  Simple, relatively isolated tend to be static; complex societies, ordinarily in communication with others, tend to be dynamic.  But change may involve even growth or decay; it may be gradual or revolutionary.  It may be predictable or peculiar open to the vicissitudes of history.  Contemporary Western society is so distinct from all preceding forms of social organizations and relatively so recent that it seems necessary not only to indicate the pertinent differences but also to explain European involvement in it.  We shall hope in this way to help clarify the mysticism that largely permeates most discussions of race relations.