Boston: The Stratford Co., 1924. First edition. Part of the Knights of Columbus Racial Contribution Series. Binding is bright and attractive aside from some slight darkening to spine and minor rubbing to corners. Minor marginal toning. A fresh, near-fine copy of a historical work that detailed the contributions of Black people to the United States from the first colonies to the present. Publisher’s blue cloth titled in gilt. Octavo. 349 pp. Item #17437
In 1899, W.E. Burghardt Du Bois (1868 – 1963) published The Philadelphia Negro, his first major study of Black life in the United States. The monumental study was the result of over eight hundred hours of interviews in 2,500 households in Philadelphia’s seventh ward. Du Bois’ work in Philadelphia “prefigured much of the politically engaged scholarship that Du Bois pursued in the years that followed and…reflected the two main strands of his intellectual engagement during this formative period: the scientific study of the so-called Negro Problem and the appropriate political responses to it,” (ANB). After completing the Philadelphia study and a study of southern Black life in Farmville, Virginia, Du Bois began teaching sociology and directing research at Atlanta University. He published the hugely influential collection of essays The Souls of Black Folk (1903) while at Atlanta, which brought Du Bois to the forefront of revolutionary Black scholarship in the United States. In 1910, Du Bois left Atlanta to join the NAACP as an officer, its only Black board member, and to edit its monthly magazine, the Crisis. By the publication of the present work, Du Bois was enmeshed in the study of Pan-Africanism, Marxism, and the colonization of Africa, and had begun to publish more radical contributions in the Crisis.
The present work marks the midpoint of Du Bois’ career as a sociologist, historian, and activist. It is a precursor to Du Bois’ most important historical work, Black Reconstruction in America: An Essay toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, which he published in 1935. The Gift of Black Folk also includes a lengthy chapter on Black soldiers, which reflects Du Bois’ advocacy during World War I. He fought for officer training for Black soldiers, and, in 1919, launched an NAACP investigation into charges of discrimination against Black troops in Europe. Another chapter, “The Freedom of Womanhood,” explores “how the black woman from her low estate not only united two great human races but helped lift herself and all women to economic independence and self expression,” (p. 259). The present work both reflects Du Bois’ early-career sociological studies of Black American life and anticipates his major historical works, including Black Reconstruction in America as well as The World and Africa: An Inquiry into the Part Which Africa Has Played in World History (1947). See American National Biography.