The Legacy of Black Reconstruction

On February 23, 1968, less than three months before his assassination, Martin Luther King Jr rose to speak at New York’s Carnegie Hall about the life and legacy of W. E. B. Du Bois. His address — delivered as part of a celebration of Du Bois on what would have been his one-hundredth birthday — focused on the contributions of this “intellectual giant” and his efforts to “teach us something about our tasks of emancipation.”

Among the elements of Du Bois’s life that King felt merited special attention was the book Black Reconstruction in America, which Du Bois had written in 1935 at the height of the Great Depression and, by 1968, was slowly gaining more attention and influence among radical historians. Black Reconstruction mattered for King because it was Du Bois’s attempt to…

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