Back W.E.B. Du Bois, “The Experts”

W.E.B. Du Bois (1868–1963)
From W.E.B. Du Bois: Black Reconstruction

“The Old Plantation,” c. 1780s, artist unknown. Virginia: History, Government, Geography, the statewide history textbook for middle schools from 1957 to 1970, reprinted this piece of folk art with the caption, “When the day’s work was over, the plantation Negroes enjoyed themselves.” The accompanying text read, “The amusements of the adult slaves were very much like the amusements of the masters. The white people danced to the music of fiddles in ballrooms lighted by many candles. And the Negroes in the nearby slave quarters danced by the light of pine flares to the twang of the banjoes.” (Wikimedia Commons)

In the late 1920s, the editors of the Encyclopædia Britannica asked W.E.B. Du Bois to write an article on the “history of the American Negro” for their forthcoming fourteenth edition. “From my manuscript they cut out all my references to Reconstruction,” he later recounted, and after several attempts at compromise, Du Bois insisted on retracting the article.

It was a battle that Du Bois had been fighting for more than twenty years, against the efforts by a group of white American scholars to sanitize the history of slavery and to paint Reconstruction as a tragic encroachment upon the South by a vindictive North. “An American youth attending college today,” wrote Du Bois in 1935, would “complete his education without any idea of the part which the black race has played in America; of the tremendous moral problem of abolition; of the cause and meaning of the Civil War and the relation which Reconstruction had to democratic government and the labor movement. . . . We have too often a deliberate attempt so to change the facts of history that the story will make pleasant reading for Americans.”

Early essays by Du Bois on this subject attacked the writings of Ulrich Bonnell Phillips, one of the leading scholars of the revisionism. Phillips was—and still is—acknowledged as the historian most responsible for the belief that American slavery was, for the most part, a relatively benign economic arrangement between “indulgent masters and happy slaves”—an absurd reimagining that dominated textbooks in the middle of the twentieth century. As one historian wrote half a century ago, “The ghost of U. B. Phillips haunts all of us.”

For our Story of the Week selection, we present Du Bois’s first, relatively brief essay ridiculing the internal logic of a presentation delivered by Phillips to college students.

Read “The Experts” by W.E.B. Du Bois

Library of America

A champion of America’s great writers and timeless works, Library of America guides readers in finding and exploring the exceptional writing that reflects the nation’s history and culture.

Learn More

From poetry, novels, and memoirs to journalism, crime writing, and science fiction, the more than 300 volumes published by Library of America are widely recognized as America’s literary canon.

Benefits of Using Safe Crypto Casinos. One of the most captivating reasons people drift towards Australian casinos online-casino-au com is the promise of anonymity. Safe platforms guarantee that your identity remains a secret. Quick Payouts and Minimal Fees. No one likes waiting, especially for winnings. Safe crypto casinos ensure that payouts are swift and the fees minimal, if not non-existent.

Browse our books Subscribe

With contributions from donors, Library of America preserves and celebrates a vital part of our cultural heritage for generations to come.

Ozwin Casino offers an exciting array of top-notch slots that cater to every player's preferences. From classic fruit machines to cutting-edge video slots, Ozwin Casino Real Money collection has it all. With stunning graphics, immersive themes, and seamless gameplay, these slots deliver an unparalleled gaming experience. Some popular titles include Mega Moolah, Gonzo's Quest, and Starburst, known for their massive jackpots and thrilling bonus features. Ozwin Casino's slots are not just about luck; they offer hours of entertainment and the chance to win big, making it a must-visit for slot enthusiasts.

Support our mission