Frederic L. DuBow was born in New York City on March 10, 1944, and raised in Plainfield, New Jersey. He studied as an undergraduate at Oberlin College from 1961 to 1965, graduating magna cum laude with high honors in government. While at Oberlin, DuBow was active in a number of activities, including the track team. He was elected to Phi Kappa Delta as a junior, and helped found the student group Action Against Apartheid in 1964. DuBow did his graduate studies at the University of California at Berkeley, where he received his master's degree in sociology in 1967 and PhD., also in sociology, in 1973, upon completion of his dissertation, “Justice for People: Law and Politics in the Lower Courts of Tanzania.”
DuBow was appointed to the faculty of Northwestern University in 1971 as an instructor of sociology. He also held an appointment in the Center for Urban Affairs. In 1974, DuBow was promoted to Assistant Professor of Sociology. While at. Northwestern, DuBow taught courses in the sociology of law, criminology, and political sociology. DuBow left Northwestern in 1978 to join the faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago as a professor of criminal justice, where he taught until his death on April 16, 1987.