Edgar Tristram Thompson papers, 1915 - 1985

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Thompson, Edgar Tristram, 1900-
Edgar Tristram Thompson taught Sociology at Duke University from 1937 until his retirement in 1970. The papers include correspondence with Herbert Blumer, Charles Ellwood, Eric Hoffer, Everett Hughes, and Howard Jensen; teaching materials from undergraduate and graduate courses in race relations, religion, and social anthropology; lecture notes from Thompson's mentor and sociology instructor Robert E. Park; research on plantations in Hawaii and in Africa as the Hugh le May Fellow at Rhodes University; development and operations of a Black Studies program and Center for Southern Studies at Duke University; short papers discussing race relations at Duke University and racial identity; autobiographical histories of Thompson's students; manuscripts for many books on race relations; records of participation in Alpha Kappa Delta and American Sociological Association conferences; a campus-wide graffiti survey; and addresses to the Mayor's Committee on Interracial Affairs of Durham. English.
4.5 Linear Feet
3,000 Items
Collection ID:
University Archives Record Group:
29 -- Papers of Faculty, Staff, and Associates
29 -- Papers of Faculty, Staff, and Associates > 02 -- Individuals


Scope and content:

The material in this collection addresses American race relations and scholarly treatment of race from about 1940 to 1970. The bulk of the records date from 1920 to 1970. Included are manuscripts of papers by Thompson, his thesis, a bound volume of selected writings, personal and professional correspondence, printed matter, research notes, proofs, departmental budgets and other materials relating to the study and teaching of sociology. Primary sources include handwritten autobiographical histories written by African American students and surveys from a nationwide graffiti project. Major subjects in the manuscripts include race relations in the United States and in other countries, the South, religion in the South, international plantation systems, and sociological anthropology. There is also a small amount of material on the sociology of language. Also included are histories of the Department of Sociology, articles presented in symposia and conferences by Thompson, correspondence concerning the development, establishment, and operations of the Duke Center for Southern Studies (1965 to 1969) and the formation of a Black Studies program (1969). There are also papers from the Mayor's Committee on Interracial Affairs of Durham from 1945. Other materials include newspaper articles which address problems and violence in race relations and publicity of race relations events at Duke.

In addition to scholarly topics in sociology, this collection introduces perspectives on race relations at Duke University during the politically active 1960s and 1970s. There are a number of articles about Duke-sponsored race relations learning activities. Thompson was a strong advocate of learning about personal racial heritage and understanding social structures and events though that frame. He tried for many years, without success, to gain the Ford Foundation's sponsorship of race relations conferences and seminars; this topic received much attention from scholars in sociology. Correspondents include contemporary sociologists Herbert Blumer, Charles Ellwood, Eric Hoffer, Everett Hughes, and Howard Jensen. Thompson's greatest influence was Robert E. Park, a former instructor who was also an expert on race relations theory and plantation systems.

The Edgar T. Thompson papers were originally unorganized. Folders contained many types of documents covering a variety of topics and were loosely grouped by date according to year of accession of the material. The folders have since been further grouped into several series, and further by date within each series, where applicable. Many items in this collection are undated. A list of Thompson's writing can be found at the front of the bound volume The Papers of Dr. Edgar T. Thompson.

Biographical / historical:

Edgar Tristram Thompson received his instruction in sociology and education from the University of South Carolina and the University of Chicago. Thompson was a Professor of Sociology at Duke University from 1935 to 1970 and founder and chair of the Center for Southern Studies. He conducted plantation research in South Africa from 1965-1968 as a Hugh Le May Fellow at Rhodes University. Thompson served as President of the Southern Sociological Society in 1961 and was a participant in many conferences on race relations. He was an expert on the the anthropology of race and plantation society in the South; he also did extensive research on community structures. His main works were Race Relations and the Race Problem; a Definition and an Analysis (1939), Race and Region (1949), Race: Individual and Collective Behavior (1958) and The Plantation: An International Bibliography (1983).

Acquisition information:
The Edgar Tristram Thompson papers were received by the University Archives as a transfer in 1963-1990.
Processing information:

Processed by Matt Harkins and Emily J. Glenn

Completed October 2002

Encoded by Jill Katte, May 2003

Physical location:
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult University Archives, Duke University.
Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

In accordance with the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 as amended, Duke University permits students to inspect their education records and limits the disclosure of personally identifiable information from education records.

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Terms of access:

Copyright for Official University records is held by Duke University; all other copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Edgar Tristram Thompson Papers, Duke University Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.