Books: Non-Fiction

Black Reconstruction in America

Book – Non-fiction. By W. E. B. Du Bois. Introduction by David Levering Lewis. 2014. 623 pages.
Originally published in 1935, Du Bois’ Black Reconstruction was the first book to challenge the prevailing racist historical narrative of the era and in sharp, incisive prose, tell the story of the Civil War and Reconstruction from the perspective of African Americans.

Time Periods: 18th Century, 19th Century, Civil War Era: 1850 - 1864, Reconstruction Period: 1865 - 1876, Industrial Revolution: 1877 - 1899
Themes: African American, Reconstruction, Democracy & Citizenship, Racism & Racial Identity

Black Reconstruction in America tells and interprets the story of the 20 years of Reconstruction from the point of view of newly liberated African Americans.

Though lambasted by critics at the time of its publication in 1935, Black Reconstruction has only grown in historical and literary importance. In the 1960s, it joined the canon of the most influential revisionist historical works. Its greatest achievement is weaving a credible, lyrical historical narrative of the hostile and politically fraught years of 1860-1880 with a powerful critical analysis of the harmful effects of democracy, including Jim Crow laws and other injustices.

W. E. B. Du Bois was a public intellectual, sociologist, and activist on behalf of the African American community. He profoundly shaped Black political culture in the United States through his founding role in the NAACP, as well as internationally through the Pan-African movement.

Du Bois’s sociological and historical research on African-American communities and culture broke ground in many areas, including the history of the post-Civil War Reconstruction period. Du Bois was also a prolific author of novels, autobiographical accounts, innumerable editorials and journalistic pieces, and several works of history. [Publisher’s description]

Excerpts

“As negroes moved from unionism toward political action, white labor in the North not only moved in the opposite direction from political action to union organization, but also evolved the American Blindspot for the Negro and his problems. It lost interest and vital touch with Southern labor and acted as though the millions of laborers in the South did not exist.

Thus labor went into the great war of 1877 against Northern capitalists unsupported by the black man, and the black man went his way in the South to strengthen and consolidate his power, unsupported by Northern labor. Suppose for a moment that Northern labor had stopped the bargain of 1876 and maintained the power of the labor vote in the South; and suppose that the Negro with new and dawning consciousness of the demands of labor as differentiated from the demands of capitalists, had used his vote more specifically for the benefit of white labor, South and North?”

“How, After the war, triumphant industry in the North coupled with privilege and monopoly led an orgy of death that engulfed the nation and was the natural child of war; and how revolt against this anarchy became reaction against democracy, North and South, and delivered the lands into the hands of an organized monarchy of finance while it overthrew the attempt at a dictatorship of labor in the South.”

“How the freedman yearned to learn and know, and with the guiding hand of the Freedmen’s Bureau and the Northern school-marm, helped establish the Public School in the South and taught his own teachers in the New England college transplanted to the black South.”

“How the Civil War meant emancipation and how the black worker won the war by a general strike which transferred his labor from the Confederate planter to the Northern invader, in whose army lines workers began to be organized as a new labor force.”

ISBN: 9780199385652 | Published by Oxford University Press, USA.