Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Hill, Michael R. 2005. “Jesse Lawson and the National Sociological Society of 1903.” Pp. 127- 140 in Diverse Histories of American Sociology, edited by Anthony J. Blasi. Sponsored by the History of Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association. Leiden (The Netherlands): Brill.


Copyright 2005 Michael R. Hill


The National Sociological Society, rather than the American Sociological Society (now Association), was apparently the first American organization with national aspirations to place, in 1903, the fateful word "Sociological" in its corporate name. Unfortunately, the recent centennial of the National Sociological Society (NSS) passed unnoticed and uncelebrated. The NSS, convened in 1903, was a shortlived organization of African Americans and whites, Northerners and Southerners, academic men, politicians, clergymen, and others, who vigorously confronted the most pressing conundrum in Jim Crow America: how to solve the race problem. The NSS was championed by Jesse Lawson -- an African-American attorney, educator, and sociologist in Washington, D.C. -- who became the organization's first and only president. The remarkable interracial NSS meeting in November, 1903, was a tribute to Lawson's energy, cooperative vision, and organizational skills. The NSS, with its sharply-focused emphasis on addressing a deeply difficult and divisive social problem, its inclusive embrace of African American and white members, its national reach, and its decidedly political agenda, was born full-grown and died as quickly, but serves us still as a concrete historical instance of a crucial element too often lacking in professional sociological organizations today: corporate mobilization for responsible social change (cf., Feagin 2001; Feagin and Vera 2001; Gilman 2004; Hill 2001).