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Rosemary Lévy Zumwalt tells the remarkable story of Franz Boas, one of the leading scholars and public intellectuals of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The first book in a two-part biography, Franz Boas begins with the anthropologist’s birth in Minden, Germany, in 1858 and ends with his resignation from the American Museum of Natural History in 1906, while also examining his role in training professional anthropologists from his berth at Columbia University in New York City.
Zumwalt follows the stepping-stones that led Boas to his vision of anthropology as a four-field discipline, a journey demonstrating especially his tenacity to succeed, the passions that animated his life, and the toll that the professional struggle took on him. Zumwalt guides the reader through Boas’s childhood and university education, describes his joy at finding the great love of his life, Marie Krackowizer, traces his 1883 trip to Baffin Land, and recounts his efforts to find employment in the United States. A central interest in the book is Boas’s widely influential publications on cultural relativism and issues of race, particularly his book The Mind of Primitive Man (1911), which reshaped anthropology, the social sciences, and public debates about the problem of racism in American society.
Franz Boas presents the remarkable life story of an American intellectual giant as told in his own words through his unpublished letters, diaries, and field notes. Zumwalt weaves together the strands of the personal and the professional to reveal Boas’s love for his family and for the discipline of anthropology as he shaped it.
About the Author
Rosemary Lévy Zumwalt is vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college emerita at Agnes Scott College. She is the coauthor of Franz Boas and W. E. B. Du Bois at Atlanta University, 1906 and the author of numerous books, including Wealth and Rebellion: Elsie Clews Parsons, Anthropologist and Folklorist and American Folklore Scholarship: A Dialogue of Dissent.
“[Franz Boas] has its rewards, especially in its generous use of correspondence.”—Kwame Anthony Appiah, New York Review of Books
"Zumwalt's book is a testament to far-reaching, thorough, and careful archival work."—Diana E. Marsh, Journal of American Folklore
"Zumwalt has woven together a variety of materials from a range of sources into a comprehensive and coherent story."—Elliott Oring, Journal of Folklore Research
“Zumwalt leads us to know Franz Boas as never before, and we should be grateful. She gives us his engrossing love and life story across vast continents. She lets us walk with him into the classroom as well as into his home. She marvelously gives him voice, so we can discern his message for our time as well as in his.”—Simon J. Bronner, author of American Folklore Studies: An Intellectual History
“Rosemary Zumwalt has written a biography of Franz Boas truly for the twenty-first century. Going beyond George Stocking and Douglas Cole, she focuses here on Boas’s early life in its historical and cultural setting. We eagerly await her second and concluding volume.”—Ira Jacknis, Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley