Pioneers of Black Studies
ERNEST KAISER An editor of Freedomways
W.E.B. Du Bois was the great forerunner in Black scholarship. His doctoral dissertation at Harvard, The Suppression of the African Slave Trade to the United States of America, 1638- 1870, was published in 1896 as volume one in the Harvard Historical Studies series. In 1899 he turned from history to sociology with The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study, and in 1903 he published a collection of essays, The Souls of Black Folk. James Weldon Johnson said, "This book [Souls] had a greater effect upon and within the Black race in America than any other single book published in this country since Uncle Tom's Cabin."
C.L.R. James said in an essay for Freedomways, "Dr. Du Bois wrote on the American slave trade, on Black urban life and on the Black community in the rural South. Modern European critics recognize that in American historical scholarship he initiated a method which has profoundly influenced all succeeding American writers on history and sociology."
James continued, "Always the intellectual pioneer, he startled American historians by his audacious revaluation of the historical role of John Brown. His Black Reconstruction is one of the finest books of history ever . . . published on the American continent."