Dr. W. Montague Cobb was born on Oct. 12, 1904 in Washington, DC. His mother, Alexizne Montague Cobb grew up in Massachusetts and is partly of Native American descent. His father, William Elmer Cobb grew up in Selma, Alabama. They met in Washington DC when W. Montague’s father started his own printing business for the Black community.
The tipping point for Cobb’s initial interest in anthropology came from a book about the animal kingdom his grandfather owned. In this book, illustrations of human beings were separated by race, yet illustrated with what Cobb described as “equal dignity.” This generated a discussion on the concept of race, as the same type of “equal dignity” was not granted in the society.
Dr. William Montague Cobb was a pioneering 20th-century physical anthropologist. As the first African American to earn a Ph.D in anthropology, and the only one until after the Korean War, his main focus in the anthropological discipline was studying the concept of race and the negative impact it has on communities of color.