Massachusetts Historical Society


In the Shadow of World War: Revisiting W. E. B. Du Bois's Black Reconstruction


Author: Chad Williams, Brandeis University
Comment: Adriane Lentz-Smith, Duke University

Black Reconstruction by W. E. B. Du Bois stands as one of the most groundbreaking books in American history. Scholars have acknowledged how the book, published in 1935, and Du Bois’s arguments in it, pioneered the study of Reconstruction today. This paper explores the genesis and conceptual roots of Black Reconstruction by placing them in conversation with Du Bois’s connection to World War I. The full meaning of Black Reconstruction is incomplete without an understanding of the impact of World War I on Du Bois’s political evolution and approach to history.

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