Book chapter: Redress or Socialism? W. E. B. Du Bois’s Silence on Black American Reparations

W. E. B. Du Bois

Chapter Authors: James B. Stewart and William A. Darity, Jr.

Book: The Oxford Handbook of W. E. B. Du Bois

Book Editors: Aldon D. Morris, Michael Schwartz, Cheryl Johnson-Odim, Walter Allen, Marcus Anthony Hunter, Karida L. Brown, Dan S. Green

Date of Chapter Publication: March 21, 2024

Abstract: This chapter examines W. E. B. Du Bois’s views regarding claims for reparations for Black Americans descendants of persons enslaved in the United States, deriving from the multigenerational impact of slavery, legal segregation, and ongoing discrimination and stigmatization. The chapter insists that a comprehensive reparations program must include a specific plan to compensate victims and heirs, whether in monetary or nonmonetary fashion. Although Du Bois’s analysis in Black Reconstruction could undergird substantive claims for reparations, he limited the national claim for redress to removal of restrictions denying equal access to crucial arenas, especially electoral politics and employment. Furthermore, he actually opposed monetary payments. This chapter characterizes Du Bois’s endgame as a domestic and international socialist revolution that neglects a call for reparations. It concludes that identifying Du Bois as a progenitor of the contemporary reparations movement obscures his refusal to demand compensation for the community victimized by American white supremacy.