Sociology Index

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Howard Washington Odum

Howard Washington Odum (1884 – 1954) was an American sociologist. Beginning in 1920, he served as a faculty member at the University of North Carolina, founding the university press, the journal Social Forces, and what is now the Howard W. Odum Institute for Research in Social Science. He also founded the university's School of Public Welfare. With doctorates in psychology and sociology, he wrote extensively across academic disciplines, influencing several fields, including ecology.

Howard Washington Odum received his first doctorate, in psychology, at Clark University in Worcester, where he studied with G. Stanley Hall. He received his second doctorate, in sociology, at Columbia University. While at Columbia, he studied with Franklin Henry Giddings, focusing on race. Howard Washington Odum published dissertations were on black studies: the first was on religious traits in folk songs, and the second was on black social life. Odum's contribution to the social sciences has been an influence on multiple disciplines.

Howard Washington Odum wrote three novels in addition to more than 20 scholarly texts, was President of the American Sociological Association in 1930, and was also a founding member of the Southern Regional Council, and his publication Southern Regions of the United States (1936) brought out a wide variety of facts and figures about the Southeast.

While at Chapel Hill, Howard Washington Odum also founded the journal Social Forces in 1922, and the H.W. Odum Institute for Research in Social Science in 1924. Odum hired and collaborated with the university's first female faculty member. Howard Washington Odum's book Race and Rumors of Race (1943), exploring racial tensions in the South and rising activism among blacks, was an early documentation of the civil rights movement. Odum's views on race progressed over time, and he documented folk life, hate crimes, lynchings, and the rich oral histories of African-American communities in the South.