W.E.B. Du Bois's massive essay about the Reconstruction period in the aftermath of the US Civil War. Du Bois argues that the period represented an potential revolutionary moment in which the southern black population played an active and crucial role.
The story of transplanting millions of Africans to the new world, and of their bondage for four centuries, is a fascinating one. Particularly interesting for students of human culture is the sudden freeing of these black folk in the Nineteenth Century and the attempt, through them, to reconstruct the basis of American democracy from 1860-1880. This book seeks to tell and interpret these twenty years of fateful history with especial reference to the efforts and experiences of the Negroes themselves.
For the opportunity of making this study, I have to thank the Trustees of the Rosenwald Fund, who made me a grant covering two years; the Directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who allowed me time for the writing; the President of Atlanta University, who gave me help and asylum during the completion of the work; and the Trustees of the Carnegie Fund who contributed toward the finishing of the manuscript. I need hardly add that none of these persons are in any way responsible for the views herein expressed.
It would be only fair to the reader to say frankly in advance that the attitude of any person toward this story will be distinctly influenced by his theories of the Negro race. If he believes that the Negro in America and in general is an average and ordinary human being, who under given environment develops like other human beings, then he will read this story and judge it by the facts adduced. If, however, he regards the Negro as a distinctly inferior creation, who can never successfully take part in modern civilization and whose emancipation and enfranchisement were gestures against nature, then he will need something more than the sort of facts that I have set down. But this latter person, I am not trying to convince. I am simply pointing out these two points of view, so obvious to Americans, and then without further ado, I am assuming the truth of the first. In fine, I am going to tell this story as though Negroes were ordinary human beings, realizing that this attitude will from the first seriously curtail my audience.
W. E. BURGHARDT DU BOIS
Atlanta, December, 1934