Social movement theory: Lessons from the sociology of W. E. B. Du Bois

Aldon Morris*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article addresses why movement scholars had no idea that the civil rights and black power movements of the 1960s and 70s were imminent. In fact, their theories led them to predict that these movements were impossible because only whites possessed history-making agency. These scholars accepted the dogma that black people, their culture, and their institutions were inferior and incapable of organizing and leading powerful movements. This article demonstrates that the black sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois predicted those movements a half century before they occurred. He did so because he conducted concrete empirical analyses of the black community, and his lived experiences led him to reject the thesis of black inferiority. This article argues that the field of social movements remains too white and elitist and that this condition causes less robust and accurate analysis. The article suggests ways to make needed changes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-136
Number of pages12
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Social movement theory: Lessons from the sociology of W. E. B. Du Bois'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this