Frank Boas was a fore runner of American anthropology leaving behind a dynamic legacy and a strong influence on his students; some of whom were large cultural figures. He introduced the idea of cultural relativism in a time when racism was deeply integrated within scientific ideas. Emphasizing that not one culture was better than the next but simply different and that racial differences were not based on the scientific evidence used at the time (Stocking). Seldom is it discussed the influence Boas had on Zora Neale Hurston; nor are her anthropological learnings usually mentioned (Behar 149). “It seemed to me that the human beings I met reacted pretty much the same to the same stimuli. Different idioms, yes. Circumstances and conditions having the power to influence, yes. Inherent difference, no “Boas’ influence on Hurston is heard in her writings (Dust Tracks on A Road 171). This concept of people having no inherent difference was a side effect of Boasian cultural influence on Hurston.
Frank Boas’ legacy stands on the right side of history and the scientific evidence we have accumulated. A legacy that is punctuated with understanding and research. The cons of his legacy include that in spite of his knowledge he was not able to take a strong social stand. Hurston needed funding for her research and he failed to push against racial prejudices of society and advocate for her funding from reasonable sources (McDowell 145).
- Stocking, Jr. George W. “Franz Boas and the Culture Concept in Historical Perspective.” American Anthropologist 68.4 (1966): 867-82. Web.
- Behar, Ruth, and Deborah A. Gordon. Women Writing Culture. Berkeley: U of California, 1995. Print.
- Hurston, Zora Neale. Dust Tracks on a Road: An Autobiography. Urbana: U of Illinois, 1984. Print.
- McDowell, Nancy. “: Confronting the Margaret Mead Legacy: Scholarship, Empire, and the South Pacific. Lenora Foerstel, Angela Gilliam.” American Anthropologist 95.2 (1993): 493-94. Web.