After publication of W.E.B. Du Bois's selected correspondence, in three volumes, and of his Education for Black People and Prayers for Dark People, there remained a significant number of papers, essays, and addresses that had never seen print. With the publication of this book, I believe that the consequential manuscripts in the collection he charged me with editing in 1946 and left in my custody in 1961 now have been made available.
Included is a major effort of about thirty thousand words in which Du Bois offered his views on the position of Afro-American people in the mid-1930s, and on the relationship of the New Deal to that position, and made suggestions for an innovative strategy in the struggle for freedom.
These papers clearly trace Du Bois's dramatic political development from a generally conservative orientation to a more and more liberal and then, in his final two decades, an increasingly radical outlook. Always present, however, was an implacable detestation of racism; the volume's title reflects his historic and courageous stand on this central issue in U.S. and modern world history.
Several aspects of Du Bois's fabulous career are illuminated in these papers. These include important material on his estimate of Booker T. Washington and his role not only in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) but also in the Niagara Movement and in helping plant the seeds of what became the National Urban League. Some of the papers convey moving insights into aspects of his character--notably his long essay on the great art galleries of Europe and his early analysis entitled "The Spirit of Modern Europe." In these writings as a group Du Bois shows his restraint, courtesy, extraordinary energy, and transparent honesty. There are occasional flashes of things which appear nowhere else in his published writings. Startling, for example, in light of the impression conveyed in other works that racism hardly touched his childhood, is the sentence in an 1890 paper written for a Harvard class in English: "In early youth a great bitterness entered my life and kindled a great ambition."
Du Bois consistently emphasized not only the racial aspect of Black oppression but also, beginning about 1904, its class features. He also was keenly aware of the national qualities in the Afro-American experience. Here we find him giving attention to all three elements and often to their interrelationships.
Certain historical hypotheses, only now being developed, appear in these pages--for example, the relationship between slave resistance and the bourgeoisdemocratic movements in Europe, and the suggestion that racism was relatively absent in the early colonial period and was provoked by ruling elements as an instrument for maintaining power.
Du Bois comprehended the significance of Black people's political power . . .