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Atlanta University has a long tradition of research and analysis on the condition of Afro-Americans. Between 1898-1914, Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, then at Atlanta University, organized a series of conferences on the problems and conditions of American Blacks, which focused on such topics as business, crime, education, health and mortality, social welfare policies for Blacks, and urbanization. At the time, these were the first efforts to build "an increasing body of scientifically ascertained fact" and made Atlanta University the "only institution in the world carrying on a systematic study of the Negro and his development, and putting the results in a form available for …. scholars." These conferences generated twenty monographs on various phases of Black life. The data collected were a necessary prerequisite for developing public policies and programs designed to alleviate the plight of African-Americans. The University's publication of PHYLON: A Journal of Race and Culture from 1939-1996 has carried on the DuBois tradition.


In 1968 Clark College established the Southern Center for Studies in Public Policy (SCSPP) as a research, training, teaching, and community outreach organization to more effectively provide needed services to people of color and low-income communities. It was designed to serve as a mechanism for faculty and students to develop competence in the formulation, assessment, and implementation of public policies which impact African-Americans and low-income people in the South. The goal of the SCSPP was to seek ways to improve the relative economic, educational, political, and social position of disadvantaged people, principally through research, training, and technical assistance. The research creates the knowledge to develop more effective strategies, policies, and programs.


With the consolidation of Atlanta University and Clark College in 1988 to form Clark Atlanta University (CAU), the SCSPP's capabilities to conduct research/ policy analysis on issues impacting the poor and people of color in the South were greatly enhanced. The SCSPP began to provide new data on the past and contemporary predicament of African-Americans and analyze existing and proposed public policies which have the greatest impact on the lives of Black Americans, particularly those living in the South: community and economic development, criminal justice, education, employment, environment, health, housing, public finance, social welfare, and transportation.


Under the leadership of Dr. Bob Holmes for over thirty years SCSPP has produced several noteworthy accomplishments. The yearly publications of the Status of Black Atlanta and the Georgia Legislative Review provides scholars and policymakers tremendous insight into the political state of Georgia. Additionally, numerous studies were conducted on racial disparities in business, criminal justice, education, housing, political representation, transportation, and legislative outputs that impact people of color and low income. Because of the growing concerns over the enormous economic, environmental, political, and social consequences of the plethora of governmental programs, the SCSPP makes the coordination of the vast array of multi-disciplinary and systematic research on public policy issues possible.


In 2023, President George T. French renamed SCSPP to the W.E.B. Du Bois Southern Center for Studies in Public Policy to honor Dr. Du Bois. The Du Bois Policy Center will continue to conduct serious and timely research on the American South and expand its focus on African Diaspora to complement the domestic and international works of Dr. Du Bois.

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