The Souls of Black Folk

The Souls of Black Folk Black Reconstruction in America and the Influence of Socialism

After the publishing of "The Souls of Black Folk,” W.E.B. Du Bois published "Black Reconstruction in America,” which was a historical account of the United States after the Civil War. Distinct from the previously widely accepted white history taught in schools, Du Bois' account relied more on the experience of the black man.

Previously, Reconstruction was accepted as a positive part of American history that ultimately resulted in industrialization. Du Bois' telling of history, however, focuses on the economic progress and on the classes that existed throughout Reconstruction. After Reconstruction, lower class blacks and whites remained separate from one another. While they did the same jobs, they never did these jobs in integrated settings. They failed to revolt against the richer white groups.

In his analysis, Du Bois references Karl Marx's socialist work "The Communist Manifesto" through his mentioning of a "failed revolt.” In Marx's “Manifesto,” Marx argues that the working class gets so consumed in its work, that they become alienated. This alienation develops into revolt when this group comes to realize that they are performing lowly tasks for more powerful people. This failure of revolution, according to Du Bois, points to the ultimate failure of Reconstruction. Because of this, white Democrats were able to gain control of state governments, pass segregation laws, and take political power away from blacks and many poor whites during the turn of the Century.

Steering away from his purely theoretical analysis, Du Bois focused on statistical data to provide an accurate analysis of the American economic system of the time. "Black Reconstruction" focuses not only on state governments, but also on spending, legislation, and debts. While Reconstruction ultimately failed, according to Du Bois, because of its inability to provide people with an opportunity to revolt, While Reconstruction was fairly ineffective, Du Bois argues that there were some positive attributes that came from it, particularly the creation of a public education system in the Southern states.