Guide to the Edgar Tristram Thompson papers, 1915 - 1985


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.

Descriptive Summary

Record Group
Edgar Tristram Thompson papers
1915 - 1985
Thompson, Edgar Tristram, 1900-
4.5 Linear Feet, 3,000 Items
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Collection Overview

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.

Restrictions on Access & Use

A majority of collections are stored off site and must be requested at least 48 business hours in advance for retrieval. Contact Rubenstein Library staff before visiting. Read More »

warning Access Restrictions

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.

In off-site storage; 48 hours advance notice is required for use.

warning Use Restrictions

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.

Contents of the Collection

1. Correspondence, 1934-1981.

Includes personal and professional correspondence from Herbert Blumer, Charles Ellwood, Eric Hoffer, Everett Hughes, and Howard Jensen about curriculum ideas, race relations, activities among colleagues, politics, and comments on papers and presentations.

Arranged by date.

Box 1
Folder 1
Box 1
Folder 2
Box 1
Folder 3
Box 1
Folder 4

2. Lectures, 1951-1952, undated

Includes course outlines and reading lists from undergraduate and graduate courses taught by Thompson as Professor of Sociology at Duke University and Northwestern University. The course subjects cover race relations, physical anthropology, racial identity in the United States, and culture. The Readings in Introductory Sociology folders contain short summaries and commentaries of assigned readings for an entire course section.

Arranged by course subject.

Northwestern University, 1951-1952
Box 1
Folder 5
Duke University, Readings in Introductory Sociology
Box 1
Folder 6-7
Duke University, Lectures in Race and Culture
Box 1
Folder 8
Duke University, Course syllabi and reading lists
Box 1
Folder 9

3. Student Papers, 1951-1952, undated

Includes papers written by undergraduate and graduate students of Thompson. Of particular interest are the Negro Life Histories, where Thompson asked students to write autobiographically about their personal experiences with race.

Arranged by date.

Box 1
Folder 10
Box 1
Folder 11
Negro Life Histories
Box 1
Folder 12-13

4. Programs of Study, 1930-1970.

Includes extensive documentation of years of effort by Thompson and his colleagues to bring a race relations conference to Duke University.

Arranged by program.

Center for Southern Studies, 1930-1966
Box 1
Folder 14
Center for Southern Studies, 1967-1970
Box 1
Folder 15
Center for Southern Studies, Budget, 1930-1966
Box 1
Folder 16
Center for Southern Studies, Publicity, 1965-1966
Box 1
Folder 17
Afro-American Program, 1968-1969
Box 1
Folder 18

5. Research, 1940-1981.

Includes field notes, research assignments and assorted correspondence relating to scholarly study of race relations. Thompson followed the work of Robert E. Park while studying intermarriage, plantations, and race relations in Hawaii. Thompson was the Hugh Le May Fellow at Rhodes University in Rhodesia, Africa where he studied plantations and race relations. He later returned to study apartheid and social class in Africa during the summer of 1966. Thompson also conducted local research for a national survey of graffiti at universities around the United States and followed local developments and trends in racial composition of Durham, NC.

Arranged by research topic.

Box 1
Folder 19
Box 1
Folder 20-21
Box 1
Folder 22-23
Box 1
Folder 24
Box 2
Folder 25
Negro Population of Durham
Box 2
Folder 26
Box 2
Folder 27
Box 2
Folder 28

6. Conferences, 1966-1969.

Included are conference notes, programs, and collected conference papers of events where Thompson was a speaker or organizer. Thompson participated in conferences and symposia of Alpha Kappa Delta and the American Sociological Association on religion, race relations, and race in the South. The Proposals folder includes extensive documentation of years of effort by Thompson and his colleagues to bring a race relations conference to Duke University.

Arranged by topic of conference.

The Changing South, 1966
Box 2
Folder 29-30
American Sociological Association, 1967
Box 2
Folder 31
The Bible Belt in Continuity and Change, 1969
Box 2
Folder 32
LQC Lamar Society, 1969
Box 2
Folder 33
Religion in the Solid South, 1969
Box 2
Folder 34
Proposals, 1963-1969
Box 2
Folder 35
Miscellaneous [conferences]
Box 2
Folder 36

7. Writings, 1932-1985.

Includes drafts of 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) and related correspondence. Also includes short published and unpublished papers, a bound volume of collected papers, and Thompson's dissertation, The Plantation (1932).

Arranged alphabetically by paper title or subject.

Bibliography on Race Relations
Box 2
Folder 37
Book Reviews
Box 2
Folder 38
Box 2
Folder 39
The Concept of Race
Box 2
Folder 40
Decency and the Good Old Boy Syndrome
Box 2
Folder 41
Dictionary of American History
Box 2
Folder 42
Ecology of Race Relations
Box 2
Folder 43
Language and Race Relations
Box 2
Folder 44
The Negro
Box 2
Folder 45
Box 2
Folder 46
Plantations as a Social System
Box 2
Folder 47
The Plantation and its Legacy
Box 2
Folder 48
The Plantation in the Pacific Area
Box 2
Folder 49
Race Classification
Box 2
Folder 50
Race Region
Box 2
Folder 51
Race Relations Reader
Box 2
Folder 52
Race Relations Reader, Correspondence
Box 2
Folder 53
Regional Varieties of Race Relations
Box 2
Folder 54
Short Works
Box 2
Folder 55
Sociology at Duke University
Box 2
Folder 56
US News and World Report
Box 2
Folder 57
The Papers of Dr. Edgar T. Thompson
Box 3
Folder 58
The Plantation
Box 3
Folder 59

8. Robert E. Park materials, 1920-1976.

Includes correspondence, lecture notes, reading lists, and general short writings by Robert E. Park, a professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago during the 1930s. Also includes correspondence and drafts related to Park's biography, written by Winifred Raushenbush and edited by Thompson and Everett Hughes.

Arranged by date.

Biography, 1967-1976
Box 3
Folder 60
Lectures, 1920-1934, undated
Box 3
Folder 61
Miscellaneous [Park materials], 1917, undated
Box 3
Folder 62

9. Personal Materials, 1930-1977.

Includes speeches made by Thompson, notes from Mayor's Committee (Durham, North Carolina) meetings, Kiwanis membership honors, a biographical sketch, and a family genealogy.

Speeches, 1930-1958, undated
Box 3
Folder 63
Mayor's Committee on Interracial Affairs of Durham
Box 3
Folder 64
Box 3
Folder 65
Thompson family genealogy
Box 3
Folder 66

Historical Note

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).

Subject Headings

Preferred Citation

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


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