Franz Boaz - Anthropologist and Civil Rights Leader

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Franz Boas, ( 1858 – 1942 ) is a well-known, widely respected anthropologist and teacher

often referred to as the Founder of American Anthropology. But there were other contri –

butions by Boas, possibly not as well known, but in my opinion, equally important and

deserving of recognition. Boas did not limit his outspoken opinions to just anthropology,

he was equally outspoken regarding his opinions on human rights and equality, individual

liberty and equal opportunity. And he did so in an era of evolutionism, slavery was still

accepted by many and racism was a way of life. . I’m sure a great many people are

familiar with this aspect of Franz Boas. I believe, however, that there is an equally large

number of individuals that aren’t. I hope, with this paper, to educate some of these indi-


As a child, Boas was raised to value the importance of learning and of knowledge,

personal freedom, and the right for equal opportunity among all human beings (Glick,

1982; Liss 1997 ). He based his political views on these core values and actively took

part in any political activity he believed in. For example, Boas despised Nazism and

would combat them and everything they stood for very early on. Boas helped

hundreds of Europeans that sought escape and needed asylum. He organized meetings,

wrote letters, working tirelessly to help as many of the displaced individuals that he

could.. Since Nazism was also occurring during the Great Depression in the United

States, Boas also spoke frequently, giving speeches and writing in periodicals about

economical in-equality .

Boas was also extremely active in the human rights movement. He fervently believed

In the absolute value of equal rights for all individuals and peoples and hated class-

fying them and lumping people into categories ( Bunzel; 1962:9). Boas seems

to have been concerned about Indian rights and their unfair treatment for most of his life...
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