The articles published in this special issue of The Annals were prepared for a conference titled The Study of African American Problems held in February 1999. The articles are a manifestation of the rich scholarly legacy created by W.E.B. Du Bois at the end of the nineteenth century-a legacy that continues to bear fruit at the start of the twenty-first century. While the works in this volume of The Annals are based on Du Bois's prospectus, "The Study of the Negro Problems," originally published in this journal 100 years ago and reprinted in this volume, they follow strongly the spirit rather than the letter of that article.
Du Bois's lifework was to focus the attention of society on the problems of African Americans, and these were centered on the need to develop leadership and social capital for blacks within a wider system that was unwilling to include them. In order to help develop the most complete possible picture of the black community, he identified four broad areas of study: social interpretation, historical study, statistical investigation, and anthropological measurement. The articles in this important issue of The Annals expand these practical categories, adding issues (of gender, for example) to some and broadening the definition of others. However, all the topics fall within the purview of what Du Bois saw as affecting all African Americans.
Du Bois felt that scholars were missing an important opportunity by not studying blacks. He pushed the academic community to take blacks seriously from a scientific perspective, while at the same time making an important contribution to world scholarship. This outstanding volume of The Annals is not a critique of Du Bois, but rather a reflection on the issues that were first raised by him and an effort to relate those themes to work that is being done today. Here scholars write both of their work and of the inspiration provided to them by this seminal and highly regarded thinker.