Oliver Cox

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Oliver Cox
Oliver Cox.png
BornAugust 24, 1901
Trinidad and Tobago
DiedSeptember 4, 1974

Oliver Cromwell Cox (24 August 1901 – 4 September 1974) was a Trinidadian-American sociologist noted for his early Marxian viewpoint on fascism.

Cox was born into a middle-class family in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago and emigrated to the United States in 1919. He was a founding father of the world-systems perspective,[1] an important scholar of racism and its relationship to the development and spread of global capitalism, and a member of the Chicago school of sociology[2] In 1929 he developed poliomyelitis (polio), causing both his legs to be permanently crippled and that was when he gave up his plans to study law. He was the son of William Raphael Cox and Virginia Blake Cox.


Early Education[edit]

He attended Saint Thomas Boys' School when he was in Trinidad, where he studied Math, English, Language and more.[3] Cox attended YMCA High school and Crane Junior College in Chicago.[4]


In 1927, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Northwestern University. He also attended the University of Chicago Economics Department and graduated with a master's degree in June 1932. From there, he continued at Chicago in the sociology department, where he received both his master's degree and his Ph.D. His master's degree was completed in 1932, and then six years later in 1938 he graduated with his Ph.D.


William Raphael Cox is the father of Cox and worked as a captain of a revenue schooner, and later on as a customs and excise officer.[5] Virginia Blake Cox was the mother of Cox and his seven siblings.[6] Cox's uncle, Reginald Vidale was the Catholic school master at St. Thomas Boys’ School. He was a prominent teacher in the local school system and was highly respected in the community. Reginald transitioned from the position of a teacher to the Inspector of schools in 1943 and later became a city councilman, an alderman, and then mayor of Port Spain.[5] Cox has three nieces Ann V. Awon-Pantin, Esther Awon-Thomasos, and Juliet  Awon-Uibopuu/


Cox first initiated his teaching career at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas. From there, he also lectured at Tuskegee Institute in 1944, where many thought he would "bring them prestige."[7] Later in 1949, he moved to Missouri, where he taught at Lincoln University until March 11, 1970, where he told the president at the college, Walter Daniels, that he was retiring. Cox moved and accepted a position as a Visiting Professor in the sociology department that was encouraged by Alvin W. Rose at Wayne State University of Michigan.[8]


Cox was a Marxist[9] who criticized capitalism and race in Foundations of Capitalism (1959), Capitalism and American Leadership (1962), Capitalism as a System (1964) and his last, Jewish Self-Interest and Black Pluralism (1974). Perhaps Cox's most profound and influential book was Caste, Class and Race, published in 1948. Also in 1948 Cox published Race: A Study in Social Dynamics. In a scathing "Introduction" to The Black Anglo Saxons by Nathan Hare, Cox ridiculed what he regarded as a misguided approach to the study of race relations he called "The Black Bourgeoisie School" headed by E. Franklin Frazier. The title of Caste, Class and Race referred to the vigorous criticism of W. Lloyd Warner's caste conception of race in the USA.[10]


The Racial and Ethnic Minorities' Oliver Cromwell Cox Article Award (for Anti-Racist Scholarship) is given out annually and also The Section on Racial and Ethnic Minorities' Oliver Cromwell Cox Book Award (for Anti-Racist Scholarship).[11] Cox was the first ever recipient of the DuBois-Johnson-Frazier Award by the American Sociological Association.


  • "It is remarkable that some of the most precious rights of human welfare are attributed to the advocacy and practice of communists; and yet, in the same breath, we are asked to hate communists." Caste, Class and Race: A Study in Social Dynamics, Monthly Review Press, New York, (1959) pg. xxxiii
  • "it should not be forgotten that, above all else, the slave was a worker whose labor was exploited in production for profit in a capitalist market. It is this fundamental fact which identifies the Negro problem in the United States with the problem of all workers regardless of color." ibid. pg. xxxii
  • "Racial antagonism is part and parcel of this class struggle, because it developed within the capitalist system as one of its fundamental traits. It may be demonstrated that racial antagonism, as we know it today, never existed in the world before about 1492; moreover, racial feeling developed concomitantly with the development of our modern social system." ibid. pg. xxx
  • ""The capitalist State is not a spiritual product; its function, from its inception in the medieval town, has always been primarily to secure the interest of a certain class." "ibid".

Selected works[edit]

  • "Factors Affecting the Marital Status of Negroes in the United States," University of Chicago (PhD, Sociology), 1938
  • Caste, Class, and Race: A Study in Social Dynamics, 1948
  • Foundations of Capitalism, 1959
  • Capitalism as a System, 1964
  • Race Relations: Elements and Social Dynamics, 1976
Book Chapters
  • "Leadership Among Negroes in the United States," in Studies in Leadership, by A. W. Gouldner (ed.), 1950
  • "Introduction," in The Black Anglo Saxons, by Nathan Hare, 1965.
Journal Articles
  • "Marital Status and Employment of Women," Sociology and Social Research, 25, 1940
  • "Employment, Education, and Marriage of Young Negro Adults," Journal of Negro Education, 10, 1941
  • "Lynching and Status Quo," Journal of Negro Education, 14, 1945
  • "Jewish Self-Interest in 'Black Pluralism'", The Sociological Quarterly, 15(2), 1974

Archival Papers[edit]

Cox's manuscript for "Capitalism as a System" is available for research in the Oliver Cromwell Cox Papers at the Walter P. Reuther Library in Detroit. http://reuther.wayne.edu/node/14325


  1. ^ Wallerstein, Immanuel (2000). "Oliver C. Cox As World-Systems Analyst". Research in Race and Ethnic Relations. 11: 173–183.
  2. ^ Cheseboro, Anthony (1998). "Conflict and Continuity: E. Franklin Frazier, Oliver C. Cox and the Chicago School of Sociology". Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society. 92 (2): 150–172.
  3. ^ "Cox, Oliver C. | Encyclopedia.com".
  4. ^ Celarent, Barbara (2010). "Review of Caste, Class, and Race, Oliver Cromwell Cox". American Journal of Sociology. 115 (5): 1664–1669. doi:10.1086/652956. ISSN 0002-9602. JSTOR 10.1086/652956. S2CID 143682597.
  5. ^ a b Hunter, Herbert M. (1983). "Oliver C. Cox: A Biographical Sketch of His Life and Work". Phylon. 44 (4): 249–261. doi:10.2307/274575. ISSN 0031-8906. JSTOR 274575.
  6. ^ Allahar, Anton L. (2016). "Cox, Oliver Cromwell". Oxford African American Studies Center. doi:10.1093/acref/9780195301731.013.73715. ISBN 9780195301731. Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  7. ^ Scott, John. 2007. Fifty Key Sociologists the Formative Theorists. London: Routledge.
  8. ^ Hunter, Herbert M. (1983). "Oliver C. Cox: A Biographical Sketch of His Life and Work". Phylon. 44 (4): 249–261. doi:10.2307/274575. ISSN 0031-8906. JSTOR 274575.
  9. ^ Cox describes his relationship to Marxist thought in his 1948 study Caste, Class, and Race: A Study in Social Dynamics:

    At best, Marxian hypotheses are "servants, not masters." Indeed, it has been said that Karl Marx himself was not Marxian because in his studies he strived to understand modern society, while the religious Marxists, in their exegetical discussions, center their attention not upon the ongoing social system but rather upon an explanation and criticism of Marx — a sort of rumination of his conclusions, incidental errors and all. If, therefore, parts of this study seem Marxian, it is not because we have taken the ideas of this justly famous writer as gospel, but because we have not discovered any other that could explain the facts so consistently. (p. xi)

  10. ^ Herbert M. Hunter, Sameer Y. Abraham, "Race, class, and the world system: the sociology of Oliver C. Cox", Monthly Review Press, 1987
  11. ^ "Racial and Ethnic Minorities Award Recipient History". American Sociological Association. 2011-03-08. Retrieved 2021-03-05.


  • Biography on the African-American Registry
  • Oliver Cox, Caste, Class, and Race, Monthly Review Press, 1948. [1]
  • Cedric J. Robinson, "Oliver Cromwell Cox and the Historiography of the West," Cultural Critique 17 (Winter 1990/91), 5-20.
  • H.M. Hunter (Editor), The Sociology of Oliver C. Cox: New Perspectives (Research in Race and Ethnic Relations), JAI Press, 2000.
  • Christopher A. McAuley, The Mind of Oliver C. Cox, University of Notre Dame Press, 2004.
  • Todd Cronan, "Oliver Cromwell Cox and the Capitalist Sources of Racism," Jacobin (Sept. 5, 2020).

External links[edit]