What follows is the paper I gave this past weekend at the ninth annual meeting of the Society for U.S. Intellectual History in Dallas. I received excellent comments from our chair, Amy Wood, and from several audience members–comments that have made me rethink some of my argument. But I publish here without editing in the hopes that I receive more comments. 

To decipher Donald Trump’s election, several gobsmacked liberal journalists have been reading about Reconstruction. They seem to think the era of Reconstruction, when tangible racial progress was realized only to be wrecked by white revanchists, speaks to the present. MSNBC pundit Chris Hayes has declared that books about Reconstruction are “all of what I’m reading.” Slate ’s Jamelle Bouie, to make sense of Trump’s racist and nativist appeals, has blogged his way through W. E. B. Du Bois’s 1935 magnum opus, Black Reconstruction in America . This is not the first time that Black Reconstruction has been put to good use. It won’t be the last.

Black Reconstruction was revisionist not only for reversing the Dunning School premise that Reconstruction was ruinous—Du Bois believed it had advanced American democracy unlike anything else—but also in its assumption that blacks had agency. Du Bois argued that black slaves emancipated themselves during the Civil War by resisting work on Confederate plantations and by swamping approaching Union lines. This theory of black agency became the historical discipline’s conventional wisdom by the latter decades of the twentieth century, one more demonstration of the fact that Black Reconstruction casts an enormous shadow over American historiography.

Du Bois returned to Atlanta University in 1932 and tried to implement a plan to make the Negro Land Grant Colleges centers of black power. Atlanta approved of his idea, but later retracted its support. When Du Bois tried to return to NAACP, it rejected him too. Active in several Pan-African Congresses, Du Bois came to know Fwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana, and Jono Kenyatta the president of Kenya. In 1961, the same year Du Bois joined the Communist party, Nkrumah invited him to Ghana as a director of an Encyclopedia Africana project. He died there on August 27, 1963, after becoming a citizen of that country. (Bowker Author Biography)

What follows is the paper I gave this past weekend at the ninth annual meeting of the Society for U.S. Intellectual History in Dallas. I received excellent comments from our chair, Amy Wood, and from several audience members–comments that have made me rethink some of my argument. But I publish here without editing in the hopes that I receive more comments. 

To decipher Donald Trump’s election, several gobsmacked liberal journalists have been reading about Reconstruction. They seem to think the era of Reconstruction, when tangible racial progress was realized only to be wrecked by white revanchists, speaks to the present. MSNBC pundit Chris Hayes has declared that books about Reconstruction are “all of what I’m reading.” Slate ’s Jamelle Bouie, to make sense of Trump’s racist and nativist appeals, has blogged his way through W. E. B. Du Bois’s 1935 magnum opus, Black Reconstruction in America . This is not the first time that Black Reconstruction has been put to good use. It won’t be the last.

Black Reconstruction was revisionist not only for reversing the Dunning School premise that Reconstruction was ruinous—Du Bois believed it had advanced American democracy unlike anything else—but also in its assumption that blacks had agency. Du Bois argued that black slaves emancipated themselves during the Civil War by resisting work on Confederate plantations and by swamping approaching Union lines. This theory of black agency became the historical discipline’s conventional wisdom by the latter decades of the twentieth century, one more demonstration of the fact that Black Reconstruction casts an enormous shadow over American historiography.

Du Bois returned to Atlanta University in 1932 and tried to implement a plan to make the Negro Land Grant Colleges centers of black power. Atlanta approved of his idea, but later retracted its support. When Du Bois tried to return to NAACP, it rejected him too. Active in several Pan-African Congresses, Du Bois came to know Fwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana, and Jono Kenyatta the president of Kenya. In 1961, the same year Du Bois joined the Communist party, Nkrumah invited him to Ghana as a director of an Encyclopedia Africana project. He died there on August 27, 1963, after becoming a citizen of that country. (Bowker Author Biography)

In 1935, W. E. B. Du Bois published an influential book titled Black Reconstruction in America . This excerpt, from a chapter titled “The Propaganda of History,” questions the ways in which Reconstruction was being studied and taught at the time. This is Handout 15.4 (p. 273) in The Reconstruction Era and the Fragility of Democracy . 

The following is an excerpt from a chapter titled “The Propaganda of History” in W. E. B. Du Bois’s influential 1935 book Black Reconstruction in America .

How the facts of American history have in the last half century been falsified because the nation was ashamed. The South was ashamed because it fought to perpetuate human slavery. The North was ashamed because it had to call in the black men to save the Union, abolish slavery and establish democracy.

What follows is the paper I gave this past weekend at the ninth annual meeting of the Society for U.S. Intellectual History in Dallas. I received excellent comments from our chair, Amy Wood, and from several audience members–comments that have made me rethink some of my argument. But I publish here without editing in the hopes that I receive more comments. 

To decipher Donald Trump’s election, several gobsmacked liberal journalists have been reading about Reconstruction. They seem to think the era of Reconstruction, when tangible racial progress was realized only to be wrecked by white revanchists, speaks to the present. MSNBC pundit Chris Hayes has declared that books about Reconstruction are “all of what I’m reading.” Slate ’s Jamelle Bouie, to make sense of Trump’s racist and nativist appeals, has blogged his way through W. E. B. Du Bois’s 1935 magnum opus, Black Reconstruction in America . This is not the first time that Black Reconstruction has been put to good use. It won’t be the last.

Black Reconstruction was revisionist not only for reversing the Dunning School premise that Reconstruction was ruinous—Du Bois believed it had advanced American democracy unlike anything else—but also in its assumption that blacks had agency. Du Bois argued that black slaves emancipated themselves during the Civil War by resisting work on Confederate plantations and by swamping approaching Union lines. This theory of black agency became the historical discipline’s conventional wisdom by the latter decades of the twentieth century, one more demonstration of the fact that Black Reconstruction casts an enormous shadow over American historiography.

Black Reconstruction :: W E B Du Bois. org


Black Reconstruction: An essay toward a history of the.

Posted by 2018 article

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