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Black Reconstruction in America 1860-1880

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  1,594 Ratings  ·  56 Reviews
The pioneering work in the study of the role of Black Americans during Reconstruction by the most influential Black intellectual of his time.
Paperback, 768 pages
Published December 1st 1999 by Free Press (first published 1935)
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Jan 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is the book that made me realize how we in the US failed both Blacks and our democracy (by undermining equality) when we let Reconstruction fail so miserably after the Civil War.
Jan 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017-nonfic
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 deman
Jul 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anti-racist folks, history fans
Wow. This book is monumental. It took me weeks to read it, and it was completely worth it. Du Bois provides an exhaustively detailed account of the Reconstruction years, delves into the foundations of public education, and, with solid economic/Marxist analysis, thoroughly repudiates the previously published work on the period. In my provincial middle and high school education, the Reconstruction period got nary a mention, and this book more than makes up for that. I was very glad for the interne ...more
It would not have been American, however, not to have maintained some color discrimination, however petty.

Broken limbs, broken heads, the mangling of bodies, all prove that it was a contest between enraged men: on the one side from hatred to a race; and on the other, desire for self-preservation, revenge for past grievances and the inhuman murder of their comrades.

How extraordinary, and what a tribute to ignorance and religious hypocrisy, is the fact that in the minds of most people, even those
Aug 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
DuBois' massive Black Reconstruction is a challenging read, but well worth the effort and time.

Before this book, mainstream American history portrayed Black slaves as passive recipients of the gift of freedom, and blamed them for the failure of the Reconstruction governments.

DuBois turned this analysis around, and showed how four million Black people won their own freedom, won the right to vote, and started to build a real American democracy in the wake of the Civil War before Southern and Nort
David Bates
May 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
In 1929 the editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica requested that W.E.B. Du Bois draft an article on the subject of southern Reconstruction following the American Civil War for the forthcoming edition. In a passage challenging the interpretation of reconstruction governments which had become dominant in the United States over the course of the previous generation, Du Bois insisted that “it was Negro loyalty and the Negro vote alone that restored the South to the Union; established the new democr ...more
Jan 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historiography
Basic elements of the story of America's civil war will be familiar to many who have grown up in this country. Yet, as W.E.B. DuBois shows in the final chapter of this book, there are myths and propaganda that can occlude understanding. This book demystifies by filling in the spaces outside of the physical battlefields with an exhaustive mass of data. It is well-organized; with each chapter beginning with a summary and ending with a song or a poem.

Others reviewers stress economic elements of DuB
Dec 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
When I was in graduate school, I noted somewhat facetiously in a seminar that modern historians of African-American history and Reconstruction were all writing books that essentially said, "DuBois was right about this too...." I was reminded of the revolutionary nature of this book when I decided to set aside time over winter break to read the book. As I read through DuBois' tome, I couldn't help but see ideas that would later be fleshed out and developed by modern historians like Eric Foner and ...more
Bayliss Camp
Aug 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I decided to read this book after attending a community book forum on Ta-Nehisi Coates's _Between the World and Me_. This was one of the books recommended for further reading.

I should also confess I read it in part because my high school US history teacher -- a man otherwise quite good at what he did -- chose to skip over this part of America's story. That's right: we covered the Civil War and then went straight to the Panama Canal, as if nothing of interest happened in between. Reading this bo
Feb 08, 2008 added it
How many realize that the Union won the Civil War because, quite against its own will, it turned into a successful armed slave insurrection? And that, for a brief generation, the rewards won by this conquest of power actually made the U.S. resemble its egalitarian rhetoric, far more than it ever has since? Unbelievably powerful.
I was up at 12 am last night studying for a test on the American Reconstruction, and I came upon this passage in my textbook. (The bolding, obviously, is mine.)
Vocal advocates of smaller government argued that Reconstruction had been a mistake; pressured by economic hardship, northern voters abandoned their southern Unionist allies. One of the enduring legacies of this process was the way later Americas remembered Reconstruction itself. After "Redemption," [overthrow of the Republican party by D
Dec 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Im in a study group that read this chapter per month. It is really an amazingly researched and has exciting language. Makes you understand the civil war and reconstruction as a labor struggle. the sad thing was that this book was almost impossible to find. The entire Brooklyn library system had one missing copy and i couldnt find any book stores that sold it.
Apr 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you are interested in Sociology, Criminology or Black History, you must must must read DuBois. DuBois invented Anime theory, do not let your criminology professor lie to you, DuBois never got the respect he deserved because he was 1) an American (which in criminological history, didn't get you far) and 2) Black, which in the mid 1800s didn't get you far.
Jun 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Observations through history by sociologist and civil rights activist W.E.B Du Bois. This title details the economic struggles that Black America faced slightly before and after the Civil War. All around great read. A good book to read over after a couple of years.
Sep 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book continues to be relevant in today's political/economic/educational climate. It is, simply put, the truth. His chapters on public schooling and history as propaganda are must-reads for anyone seeking an introduction to educational history in the US.
Nov 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This should be required reading in every American History class. This was definitely one of the best history books I've ever read, Du Bois is amazing!
Mar 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: race
Phenomenal. W.E.B. DuBois crafts a masterful and comprehensive narrative of the politics of the Reconstruction period. Beginning with a prelude about slavery, he plunges first into the role of the slaves in the Civil War against the context of a North that was unclear and uncoordinated on its purposes in the war. His notion of the slaves as having conducted a "general strike" as well as his detailed exploration of the symbolic and material impact of black soldiers in the Union profoundly shape h ...more
Mike Emett
Aug 28, 2015 rated it liked it
This had to be a quick read for it was one of twelve books I have to read for a graduate seminar class this semester. What I like about this books is the fresh view of reconstruction in that blacks were active actors in this period of time and not lazy bums soaking in perks from republicans after the civil war.. Nor was this an homage to how southern whites were innocents raped in more ways than one. However, for the most from there it is well only ok. VERY repetitive throughout, in many cases v ...more
Oct 27, 2012 marked it as to-read
Shelves: check-this-out
Every Black American and every inclusive, serious genealogist and family history researcher needs to read this book, to begin to understand WHAT WAS DONE TO OUR FAMILIES, THEIR COMMUNITIES, PERSONAL PROPERTY and LIVELIHOODS, right after Emancipation and through the SABOTAGED RECONSTRUCTION. What does DuBois write about South and North Carolina? The United States needs to understand and appreciate this book!
Chris Miller
Jul 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
For anyone naive enough to believe that we live in a post-racial America, this book goes a long way to dispelling that idea. Published in 1935, this is du Bois' effort to respond to fifty years of bad history about the reconstruction era, and his prodigious effort to trace the efforts state by state through the South. It is long. It is thorough. It is thought provoking. It should be read by anyone trying to understand the Alt-Right and many fringe groups who have approached acceptance in our cur ...more
Mark Bowles
Aug 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A. Synopsis: This book tells the “efforts and experience” of blacks during Reconstruction. Dubois says that his story is based on the assumption that the “Negro in American and in general is an average and ordinary human being, who under given environment develops like other human beings.” (xi) Dubois says that he is not trying to convince the person who believes hat the “Negro is a distinctly inferior creature.” Dubois sought only to show that blacks were equal members of society.
B. Look at W.E
W.E.B. Du Bois’ Black Reconstruction in America is broad in scope. He did not limit himself to Reconstruction in one state or another. Instead, he focused on the South in general and South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida specifically; this resulted in an opus of great length. While he dealt with the aforementioned states specifically, the issues that he discussed apply to the South as a whole. He addressed economics, politics, and education prior to the Civil War ...more
Nov 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars purely because of the huge number of editing mistakes throughout the book.
Ata Hualpa
Sep 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: us-empire
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: african-studies
Education, Economics, Power. Exploitation of human over human. The revisionist accounts of history. All of these elements which lead naturally to racism have a central role in this monumental effort by W.E.B. Du Bois. He received a Rosenwald scholarship and two years time to research and write this book, which was a one of a kind when it was published in 1935. Most studies of the 10 years immediately following the Civil War (the period known as Reconstruction) had naturally extended the assumed ...more
This is a monumental work of research, meant to counter the white narratives of reconstruction as being a failure due to the ignorance and laziness of recently emancipated blacks. Additionally, DuBois shows how slaves fled their masters' plantations to join the Union army and, by doing so, created the incentive for Abraham Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, winning the Civil War for the north. Interestingly, DuBois labels this as a "general strike," an anarcho-syndicalist term that ...more
Luis Rivera
Mar 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jake Cole
Feb 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Utterly, irrevocably essential. I got a good ol' private school education growing up, yet I can't remember spending more than a single class period on the Reconstruction, and even then only learning about it in broad strokes that portrayed it as a corrupt failure on the part of "carpetbaggers," a term that was never even fully defined. Du Bois wrote this work of incendiary revisionism in 1935, but it's furious rejoinder to a historicity erected around white supremacist denial is as relevant toda ...more
Ralowe Ampu
Oct 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
w.e.b. dubois isn't really, literally writing about ontology here, but his minute catalogue of historical facts and dates and oddly-inconsistently notated figures threw me into the abyss of my own being as a purportedly black subject. blackness went into question for me here, as it is casually recognizable in the world today right now as we know it. a kind of quantum theoretical splintering broke off in my mind every time dubois would recreate some historic scene where possession (that is, the a ...more
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In 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 ...more
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“One reads the truer deeper facts of Reconstruction with a great despair. It is at once so simple and human, and yet so futile. There is no villain, no idiot, no saint. There are just men; men who crave ease and power, men who know want and hunger, men who have crawled. They all dream and strive with ecstasy of fear and strain of effort, balked of hope and hate. Yet the rich world is wide enough for all, wants all, needs all. So slight a gesture, a word, might set the strife in order, not with full content, but with growing dawn of fulfillment. Instead roars the crash of hell...” 9 likes
“It was not, then, race and culture calling out of the South in 1876; it was property and privilege, shrieking to its own kind, and privilege and property heard and recognized the voice of its own.” 1 likes
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