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A Political Companion to W. E. B. Du Bois$
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Nick Bromell

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780813174907

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813174907.001.0001

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A Splendid Failure?

A Splendid Failure?

Black Reconstruction and Du Bois’s Tragic Vision of Politics

(p.271) 10 A Splendid Failure?
A Political Companion to W. E. B. Du Bois

Vijay Phulwani

University Press of Kentucky

In this essay, Vijay Phulwani posits that Du Bois uses the language of tragedy in 1935’s Black Reconstruction in America to emphasize the constraints and limitations created by white supremacy and subvert the tragic legend of Reconstruction. Informed by his changing understanding of the role of slaves and freedmen in the Civil War and Reconstruction, Du Bois’s ideas moved from an emphasis on internal racial uplift and external political agitation to a theory of economic separatism and a strategic embrace of segregation. Du Bois returned to the subject of Reconstruction many times throughout his career, using it to rethink and further develop his ideas about the form and content of black politics. Phulwani argues that by continuing to analyze Reconstruction, Du Bois was able to simultaneously narrate its history and model alternative strategies for building black political and economic power.

Keywords:   W. E. B. Du Bois, democracy, white supremacy, Reconstruction, Black Reconstruction in America, The Souls of Black Folk, Freedmen’s Bureau, politics, tragedy

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