Read Black Reconstruction in America: Toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860-1880 by W.E.B. Du Bois Free Online
Book Title: Black Reconstruction in America: Toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860-1880|
The author of the book: W.E.B. Du Bois
ISBN 13: 9781412846677
Edition: Transaction Publishers
Date of issue: May 6th 2013
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 447 KB
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Reader ratings: 4.8
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A truly extraordinary work. Beautifully written, cogently and convincingly argued. Passionate and powerful and vital. Read it.
"Some Americans think and say that the nation freed the black slave and gave him a vote and that, unable to use it intelligently, he lost it. That is not so. To win the war America freed the slave and armed him; and the threat to arm the mass of the black workers of the Confederacy stopped the war. Nor does this fact for a moment deny that some prophets and martyrs demanded first and last the abolition of slavery as the sole object of the war and at any cost of life and wealth.
So, too, some Americans demanded not simply physical freedom but votes, land, and education for blacks, not only in order to compass the economic emancipation of labor, but also as the only fulfillment of American democratic ideals; but most Americans used the Negro to defend their own economic interests and, refusing him adequate land and real education and even common justice, deserted him shamelessly as soon as their selfish interests were safe. "
"Reconstruction, therefore, in the South degenerated into a fight of rivals to control property and through that to control the labor vote. This rivalry between dictators led to graft and corruption as they bid against each other for the vote of the Negro, while meantime Negro labor in its ignorance and poverty was agonizing for ways of escape. Northern capital compromised, and Southern capital accepted race hate and black disfranchisement as a permanent program of exploitation."
Still in mid-read, but wanted to share this, not least for how relevant to the last few months it seems:
“Above this lowest mass rose a middle class of poor whites in the making. There were some small farmers who had more than a mere sustenance and yet were not large planters. There were overseers. There was a growing class of merchants who traded with the slaves and free Negroes and became in many cases larger traders, dealing with the planters for the staple crops. Some poor whites rose to the professional class, so that the rift between the planters and the mass of the whites was partially bridged by this smaller intermediate class.
While revolt against the domination of the planters over the poor whites was voiced by men like Helper, who called for a class struggle to destroy the planters, this was nullified by deep-rooted antagonism to the Negro, whether slave or free. If black labor could be expelled from the United States or eventually exterminated, then the fight against the planter could take place. But the poor whites and their leaders could not for a moment contemplate a fight of united white and black labor against the exploiters. Indeed, the natural leaders of the poor whites, the small farmer, the merchant, the professional man, the white mechanic and slave overseer, were bound to the planters and repelled from the slaves and even from the mass of the white laborers in two ways: first, they constituted the police patrol who could ride with planters and now and then exercise unlimited force upon recalcitrant or runaway slaves; and then, too, there was always a chance that they themselves might also become planters by saving money, by investment, by the power of good luck; and the only heaven that attracted them was the life of the great Southern planter.”
And this, longer, but so beautifully written I could not dare cut a word, and which also seems painfully worth reading during our present times:
"This brings us down to the period of the Civil War. Up to the time that the war actually broke out, American labor simply refused, in the main, to envisage black labor as a part of its problem. Right up to the edge of the war, it was talking about the emancipation of white labor and the organization of stronger unions without saying a word, or apparently giving a thought, to four million black slaves. During the war, labor was resentful. Workers were forced to fight in a strife between capitalists in which they had no interest and they showed their resentment in the peculiarly human way of beating and murdering the innocent victims of it all, the black free Negroes of New York and other Northern cities; while in the South, five million non-slaveholding poor white farmers and laborers sent their manhood by the thousands to fight and die for a system that had degraded them equally with the black slave. Could one imagine anything more paradoxical than this whole situation?
America thus stepped forward in the first blossoming of the modern age and added to the Art of Beauty, gift of the Renaissance, and to Freedom of Belief, gift of Martin Luther and Leo X, a vision of democratic self-government: the domination of political life by the intelligent decision of free and self-sustaining men. What an idea and what an area for its realization — endless land of richest fertility, natural resources such as Earth seldom exhibited before, a population infinite in variety, of universal gift, burned in the fires of poverty and caste, yearning toward the Unknown God; and self-reliant pioneers, unafraid of man or devil. It was the Supreme Adventure, in the last Great Battle of the West, for that human freedom which would release the human spirit from lower lust for mere meat, and set it free to dream and sing.
And then some unjust God leaned, laughing, over the ramparts of heaven and dropped a black man in the midst.
It transformed the world. It turned democracy back to Roman Imperialism and Fascism; it restored caste and oligarchy; it replaced freedom with slavery and withdrew the name of humanity from the vast majority of human beings.
But not without struggle. Not without writhing and rending of spirit and pitiable wail of lost souls. They said: Slavery was wrong but not all wrong; slavery must perish and not simply move; God made black men; God made slavery; the will of God be done; slavery to the glory of God and black men as his servants and ours; slavery as a way to freedom — the freedom of blacks, the freedom of whites; white freedom as the goal of the world and black slavery as the path thereto. Up with the white world, down with the black!
Then came this battle called Civil War, beginning in Kansas in 1854, and ending in the presidential election of 1876 — twenty awful years. The slave went free; stood a brief moment in the sun; then moved back again toward slavery. The whole weight of America was thrown to color caste. The colored world went down before England, France, Germany, Russia, Italy and America. A new slavery arose. The upward moving of white labor was betrayed into wars for profit based on color caste. Democracy died save in the hearts of black folk.
Indeed, the plight of the white working class throughout the world today is directly traceable to Negro slavery in America, on which modern commerce and industry was founded, and which persisted to threaten free labor until it was partially overthrown in 1863. The resulting color caste founded and retained by capitalism was adopted, forwarded and approved by white labor, and resulted in subordination of colored labor to white profits the world over. Thus the majority of the world's laborers, by the insistence of white labor, became the basis of a system of industry which ruined democracy and showed its perfect fruit in World War and Depression. And this book seeks to tell that story. "
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Read information about the authorIn 1868, W.E.B. Du Bois (William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, pronounced 'doo-boyz') was born in Massachusetts. He attended Fisk College in Nashville, then earned his BA in 1890 and his MS in 1891 from Harvard. Du Bois studied at the University of Berlin, then earned his doctorate in history from Harvard in 1894. He taught economics and history at Atlanta University from 1897-1910. The Souls of Black Folk (1903) made his name, in which he urged black Americans to stand up for their educational and economic rights. Du Bois was a founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and edited the NAACP's official journal, "Crisis," from 1910 to 1934. Du Bois turned "Crisis" into the foremost black literary journal. The black nationalist expanded his interests to global concerns, and is called the "father of Pan-Africanism" for organizing international black congresses.
Although he used some religious metaphor and expressions in some of his books and writings, Du Bois called himself a freethinker. In "On Christianity," a posthumously published essay, Du Bois critiqued the black church: "The theology of the average colored church is basing itself far too much upon 'Hell and Damnation'—upon an attempt to scare people into being decent and threatening them with the terrors of death and punishment. We are still trained to believe a good deal that is simply childish in theology. The outward and visible punishment of every wrong deed that men do, the repeated declaration that anything can be gotten by anyone at any time by prayer." Du Bois became a member of the Communist Party and officially repudiated his U.S. citizenship at the end of his life, dying in his adopted country of Ghana. D. 1963.