The Abolitionist Tradition in the Making of W.E.B. DuBois’ Marxism and Anti-Imperialism



At every moment of his life, W.E.B. Du Bois remained of and in “the abolitionist tradition,” that is, the political and intellectual tradition arising out of the struggles of slaves and their allies to overthrow America’s despotic chattel empire. Abolitionist thinking helped educate Du Bois as a young scholar. As both academic and as “master of propaganda,” Du Bois likely wrote more on antislavery fighters, and the system they stood up against, than on any other subject. He meditated upon the significance of abolition for world history. As an activist, Du Bois took up the unfinished tasks of abolitionism, criticizing that movement’s limitations, but always looking up in reverential awe to the antislavery apostles, from John Brown to generations of slave rebels across the Americas. Just as importantly, the deeds and ideas of abolitionists, which Du Bois studied, absorbed, and never rejected, provided the very foundations for his mature Marxist and anti-imperialist convictions. Du Bois’ creative sense of class struggle, his Leninist understanding of imperialism and its global color line—all evolved out of his reflections on abolitionists’ battle for the uplift of the black worker in an era of consolidating imperialism.

The profound role of abolitionism in the making of twentieth-century black revolutionary traditions has been little explored, sometimes misunderstood. Scholars have appropriated Du Bois’ term “abolition-democracy” to articulate a vision for interracial democracy in the United States, of the kind that briefly flickered during the Radical phase of Reconstruction. However, this tendency often separates the idea of “abolition-democracy” from the concrete history of abolitionism, which produced it, and from later socialist and anti-colonial revolutions, which were its heirs. It makes “abolition-democracy” into a purely American affair, downplaying the global significance of abolition and the global meanings “democracy” took on for Du Bois.1 “Democracy” meant freedom from want, freedom from oppression, freedom from imperialism (socialism and self-determination). On the other hand, theorists of the black radical tradition rightly unearth the deep continuities between slave resistance and later anti-colonial movements, yet often uncouple organized, interracial abolitionism from that revolutionary history.2 Du Bois refused to see a divide between the creative resistance of slaves and the organizational work of abolitionists. Abolitionists and slaves learned from one another, thought widely about the imperialist world around them, and crafted nascent critiques of slavery, racism, patriarchy, and colonialism.

Du Bois was deeply attuned to abolitionist perspectives on the world and made them into the foundations for his own anti-imperialist thinking. This essay will trace three vectors of abolitionism in Du Bois’ thinking. First, it will show the centrality of abolitionism to Du Bois’ education and in the formation of his moral sensibilities—his sense of justice, of art, of how to lead and how to learn. Second, this essay will show how abolitionism shaped Du Bois’ thinking on slave revolts, class struggle, women’s emancipation, movement organization, and the relations between them. Finally, it will discuss the anti-imperialist dimensions to abolitionism, its tragic relations with imperialism’s rise, and how, in seeing these things, Du Bois theorized and historicized the global color line. Throughout, this essay suggests that the abolitionist tradition resonated well into the twentieth century, offering Du Bois and many other revolutionaries hints for renewed visions of democracy, anti-imperialism, and socialism. As black intellectuals turned their thoughts and deeds towards revolutionary anti-imperialism, they did not turn away from the old abolitionist tradition, supposedly steeped in liberal reformism, but re-affirmed its most radical vectors.

Abolitionist Sensibility in the Education of Dr. Du Bois

The antislavery movement was a central fact in the early life of W.E.B. Du Bois. His grandfather lived in liberated Haiti in the 1820s, but returned to America a decade later, perhaps participating in the radical phase of the antislavery movement, initiated after Nat Turner’s slave rebellion (1831).3 Du Bois himself was born three years after emancipation, in 1868, “the year in which the freedmen of the South were enfranchised, and for the first time as a mass took part in government.”4 Du Bois’ youth coincided with the counterrevolution against this “extraordinary experiment” in “abolition-democracy.” Du Bois grew up on the northern edge of the Appalachian Mountains, whose “mystic, awful voice,” he later wrote, beckoned John Brown to dream “his terrible dream” of guerrilla revolution within their verdant depths.5 In 1886, Du Bois delivered a high-school commencement speech on Wendell Phillips, the fiery antislavery, women’s rights, and labor agitator. By studying Phillips’s speeches, Du Bois later reminisced, he took “a long step toward a wider conception of what I was going to do” (similarly, Paul Robeson, as a high-schooler, educated himself in politics and oratory by reading Phillips’s speeches).6 Du Bois studied at Fisk University, one of the young colleges for newly-freed people, “born of the faith and sacrifice of the abolitionists.”7 He then moved to Harvard, where one of his teachers was famed abolitionist poet James Russell Lowell.8 He did doctoral work in history and the emerging field of “sociology,” writing a dissertation titled the Suppression of the African Slave Trade to the United States of America, 1638-1870 (1896). Such nearness to antislavery gave grounding to Du Bois’ later studies and sensibilities.

Du Bois’ early work and outlook as a sociologist had underpinnings in abolitionism. Already as a young academic, Du Bois found in the histories of racism, slavery, and antislavery subjects of “peculiar interest to the sociologist.”9 His early study of the abolition of the slave trade showed the inabilities of ruling classes to initiate humane reforms, unless compelled to. Even in this early work, Du Bois acknowledged that revolution—in this case, the Haitian Revolution—could be a profound driver of progressive social change.10 His work The Philadelphia Negro (1899) was a pioneering empirical study of how a black community, though besieged by racism, toiled, struggled, survived, and helped organize both radical abolitionism and the Underground Railroad.11 Both of these early monographs relied heavily on the knowledge produced by abolitionists, “the uncounted millions of antislavery tracts, pamphlets, journals, and addresses of the entire period of agitation.”12 Such a vast corpus of movement literature provided one foundation for Du Bois’ own knowledge of the world.

The very discipline of sociology in America, as practiced by Du Bois, was the outgrowth of abolitionist-driven social conflict. Sociology had been invented by reactionary European thinkers in the mid-nineteenth century to criticize the social upheavals of the age, particularly class-based revolutionary movements and communist ideologies.13 In the 1850s, proslavery apologist George Fitzhugh first imported “the word sociology” into America in his notorious work, Sociology for the South (1854). Sociology, for Fitzhugh, meant the critique of abolitionist-led disorder, which undermined stable hierarchies—based upon racial slavery, patriarchy, and class power—and paved the way for “communism.”14 To counter such ideological conceptualizations of social and racial order, abolitionists became scientific; they used facts, research, statistics, and first-hand accounts (slave narratives) to make their case against the sociology and pseudo-science of the slave’s power.15 They created their own movement counter-sociology, so to speak. By relying on abolitionist sources for facts, by writing sympathetically about abolitionist movements, and by writing against racist social theory, Du Bois’ own social science inherited the counter-sociology created by abolitionists. In fact, in his most profound critique of social science, the conclusion of Black Reconstruction, Du Bois denounces racist academics for their untruthful exclusion of abolitionist truth telling—i.e. the “slave biographies, like those of Charles Ball, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and Frederick Douglass; the careful observations Olmsted and the indictment of Hinton Helper.”16

Du Bois’ conception of literary art contained many abolitionist inflections. As a writer, Du Bois strove to be a “master of propaganda,” that is someone “who tells the truth and exposes evil and seeks with Beauty and for Beauty to set the world right.”17 Ideal Beauty and Truth, no doubt, but always with an earthly-political aim. Abolitionists described their own literary output as “propagandism” for similar reasons.18 In his 1913 essay, “The Negro in Literature and Art,” Du Bois argued that the abolitionist movement provided the resources for a vast field of black writers to first emerge, as lecturers, as autobiographers, as singers.19 This abolitionist-era upsurge of black literature supplied the genres and styles used by Du Bois. For instance, runaway slave William Wells Brown wrote newspaper articles, autobiographies, travel memoirs, novels, poems, and histories—all to wage a multi-front, multi-genre war for the cause of the oppressed. Du Bois mastered all the genres that Brown had before him.

Abolitionism had a profound effect on Du Bois’ poetic sensibility. Throughout his work, Du Bois quoted generously from the works of antislavery poets and writers, such as Whittier, Lowell, and Emerson, not to mention the myriad slave narrative writers. Du Bois even seems to have gleaned the term “double-consciousness” from Emerson’s essay “The Transcendentalist,” though he radically transformed its meaning. Within the European canon, Du Bois loved and quoted from Schiller, Byron, and Shelley, romantics whom even black abolitionists hailed as the “champions of freedom.”20 Yet, like abolitionists, Du Bois voraciously read and promoted movement poetry, not high literature, as editor and writer. For instance, most chapters of Black Reconstruction end with carefully chosen poems, not from Pound or Eliot, but from abolitionists, romantic rebels, obscure radicals, and young black poets.21 Those who spoke against the ugliness of reaction were those who came closest to Truth and Beauty. For as Du Bois argued in The Souls of Black Folk, quoting his abolitionist teacher Lowell, history was but

One death-grapple in the darkness

‘Twixt old systems and the Word.22

Above all Du Bois admired the Christian poetics of the slave spirituals, whose “rare beauty,” he wrote, was first proclaimed to the wider world outside the slave community by abolitionists.23 Throughout The Souls of Black Folk (1903), Du Bois quoted slave spirituals alongside lyrics by abolitionist poets Lowell and Whittier. Despite his secularism, Du Bois wrote with the Christian idioms forged by slaves and abolitionists. The ecstatic hope and prophetic beauty of their Biblical rhetoric had the power to move like no other, Du Bois believed. For through the confluence of “Negro religion” and “the dream of Abolition,” the “desire for freedom seized the black millions still in bondage and became their ideal in life.”24 Even as Du Bois evolved further into Marxism and materialism, the messianic poetry of antislavery Christianity remained at the heart of his writing style.

Du Bois further discovered in black abolitionists the ideal embodiment of leadership by “the Talented Tenth.” Black abolitionists, “led by Remond, Nell, Wells-Brown, and Douglass,” ushered in a “new period of self-assertion and self-development,” prior to the Civil War.25 They educated themselves into men of learning. They wrote and fought and taught others. They unflinchingly attacked—in print, pulpit, and plantation—the principle contradictions of American society. They cooperated with white reformers for “ultimate freedom and assimilation.”26 But they cooperated in order to teach truth about slavery and to transgress the norms of white supremacy, not to cow sycophantically to white liberals or white capital. When necessary, black abolitionist leaders created separate organizations, like the Negro National Conventions, “which bravely attacked the problems of race and slavery, crying out against persecution.”27 In short, wrote Du Bois in 1903, “too little notice has been taken of the work which the Talented Tenth among Negroes took in the great abolition crusade.”28 The defiant example of abolitionists, he continued, provided an alternative vision to that of black, middle-class leadership in “the present—a day of cowardice and vacillation, of strident wide-voiced wrong and fainted-hearted compromise; of double-faced dallying with Truth and Right.”29 Du Bois never rejected the abolitionist style of leadership, though his views of it changed. Originally, Du Bois saw in black abolitionist leaders a militant class of educated advocates who could guide the black masses to citizenship and “self-assertion.” After the first decade of the twentieth century, Du Bois rethought abolitionism as the vanguard of radical democracy, whose prophecies and politics had matured by learning from what the black laboring masses did and thought.

As a young activist, Du Bois took after the abolitionists. They were his inspiration to action. As a black activist in America—where anarchists, liberals, and social democrats largely ignored the race question—abolitionists were the only real models and moorings he could have. At the First Pan-African Conference (1900), which anticipated the later congresses that nurtured the leaders of Pan-African anticolonialism, Du Bois invoked American abolitionists as models for Pan-Africanism: “Let not the spirit of Garrison, Phillips, and Douglass wholly die out.”30 At the time he believed that American abolitionism had much to say about justice to the world. Later he realized that Africa had as much to say to the world, if not more. As an activist in the Niagara Movement, the predecessor to the NAACP, Du Bois conceived the movement as a re-consecration and revival of abolitionism. In fact, the Niagara Movement was founded during a 1906 pilgrimage of reformers, including Du Bois, to Harpers Ferry, to honor the sacrifices of John Brown. The movement’s statement of principles, composed by Du Bois, praised Brown, as well as Garrison, Phillips, Nat Turner, and Douglass. These abolitionists had envisioned all that had needed to be realized in the present. “The past promised it, the present foretells it,” Du Bois wrote of abolitionists’ visions of a society emancipated from racism and inequality.31

Abolition played a fundamental role in the intellectual formation of Du Bois, from his notions of leadership to the ways he studied the world. Though never rejecting the abolitionist lessons learned, his thought evolved considerably after his fortieth year. In 1909 he wrote John Brown, a far more radical assessment of abolitionism than anything he wrote previously. In 1911 he joined the Socialist Party (though briefly). The First World War pushed Du Bois into a fuller, though still incomplete understanding of the violence and depravity of global imperialism. The American occupation of Haiti gradually forced Du Bois to ponder America’s imperialism. The Russian Revolution, and Du Bois’ subsequent visits to the Soviet Union, finally offered him a new vision of human emancipation, beyond that of abolitionism.32 These events did not unseat or unsettle the abolitionist tradition for Du Bois but helped him to raise it out of the morass of liberal reformism. In subsequent years, Du Bois re-studied abolitionism and slavery, partially in the light of Marxism, creatively rethinking world history and the role of African peoples within it.

Runaways, Slave Rebels, and Abolitionists: Class Struggle and History

Du Bois described his biography John Brown (1909) as “one of the best written of my books.”33 There are many reasons he thought this. It was the first full monograph he wrote that fled from academic social science into the realms of poetry, prophecy, “propaganda.”34 Writing John Brown allowed Du Bois to use his abolitionist knowledge to write a history of abolitionism from the standpoint of the slave rebels, runaways, and free black radicals who nurtured the consciousness of Brown.35 In doing so, Du Bois rethought Atlantic antislavery as a movement initiated by revolution (Haiti) and ended by revolution (John Brown’s Raid, the Civil War). Du Bois repeated and refined the thoughts penned in John Brown in all his subsequent major works, from The Negro (1915), Darkwater (1920), The Gift of Black Folk (1924), and Black Reconstruction (1935) to The World and Africa (1946). No more did Du Bois see in abolitionism an idealized vision of enlightened black middle-class leadership, in alliance with antiracist white liberals. He now saw abolitionism at the heart of the class conflicts of the nineteenth century. He saw slave revolt and flight—“mass initiative and energy”—as the driver of international emancipation.36 He saw abolitionism as the organized movement that gave voice to the cries of the enslaved and offered a vision of democracy wider than any that had come before it. Indeed, after John Brown, Du Bois underwent his gradual transition from a neo-abolitionist thinker to an anti-imperialist and then Marxist thinker. That transition enabled him to see ever more clearly the revolutionary dimensions of abolitionist history.

In John Brown, as well as subsequent works, including Black Reconstruction, Du Bois elaborated his extraordinary hypothesis that “the flight of the fugitive slaves was the beginning of abolition.”37 Abolitionists had known and proclaimed this, yet the truth had been erased by the racist “propaganda of history.” With the rise of the monstrous Cotton empire and the defeat of Nat Turner’s Rebellion (1831), slaves resisted plantation capitalism by means other than revolt. “The black worker sought freedom by running from slavery,” wrote Du Bois. The “physical geography of America, with its paths north by swamp river and mountain range; the daring of black revolutionists like Henson and Tubman; and the extra-legal efforts of abolitionists”—all made it possible for slaves to flee by the tens of thousands. For these reasons, “Between 1830 and 1860 there were grave losses to the capital invested in black workers.”38 Runaways taught abolitionists new tactics (fugitive aid, self-defense), and taught them how the slave economy functioned. By writing and speaking, they furnished “text for abolition idealists.”39 By joining the movement, they “increased the number of abolitionists by thousands and spelled the doom of slavery.”40 Just as significantly, slaveholders’ frustration over Federal inability to enforce the Fugitive Slave Law brought them to secession and civil war. During the chaos of war, slaves ran off by the millions, helping to ends slavery forever—a magnificent movement which Du Bois famously named “the general strike of the black worker.” In short, the talented ninetieth, the fugitive slaves, ran ahead of reformers and reactionaries alike. Politics, Du Bois concluded, “followed the footsteps of the black slave.”41

With the publication of such essays as “The Damnation of Women” (1920) and “The Freedom of Womanhood” (1924), and perhaps through later dialogues with Shirley Graham (his second wife), Du Bois became increasingly, though not wholly, attuned to the part played by black women in nineteenth-century emancipation struggles. “The crushing weight of slavery fell on black women” Du Bois famously wrote.42 They worked in the field. They worked in master’s house and kitchen. They cared for the slave community. They gave birth to new black workers. In short, enslaved women produced and reproduced the entire slave system. Their resistance mattered, as Du Bois partially acknowledged.43 Women withdrawing their labor/reproductive power through flight dealt a crushing blow to slaveowners.44 Some “black revolutionists,” like Harriet Tubman, went back South to rescue hundreds of fugitives, and helped plan John Brown’s Raid. As speakers and writers, runaway women revealed the vilest and most disturbing crimes of the slave power, from torture to sexual violence. They taught abolitionists.45 In her 1947 biography of Frederick Douglass, Shirley Graham speculated that Anna Murray and other militant black women taught Douglass abolitionist ideology by reading him antislavery pamphlets (though no evidence exists that this exchange happened, it very accurately reflects the type of learning that abolitionism fostered).46 Oppressed along racial, gendered, and class lines, enslaved women offered a deeper vision of woman’s emancipation than any other seen in the west. The labor they did on the plantations prefigured the industrial-imperialist era in which the majority of women did unpaid labor in the household, and low-wage or no-wage labor in factory and field.47 As runaway, as “conspirator urging forward emancipation in various sorts of ways,” the black woman became the prime “protagonist in the fight for an economically independent woman.”48 Even further, Du Bois urged, the black woman was “a worker tending to emancipate all women workers.”49

Du Bois’ focus on the enslaved did not de-center the place of northern abolitionists in the emancipation struggle; it re-affirmed it. Runaway slaves fled to northern black abolitionists, uniting with them and “organizing themselves into a great black phalanx that worked and schemed and paid and finally fought for the freedom of black men in America.”50 Perhaps no event proved more auspicious for the long movements for black unity and self-determination than the fugitive-free black unity forged in abolitionism. Furthermore, the “great black phalanx” united with white reformers of the most radical sort, together “furnishing a leadership for the mass of black workers.”51 In Du Bois’ historical vision, abolition was a class movement, a “labor movement”—with multi-class participation, no doubt—which fought to emancipate black workers from the bondage which made industrial capitalism possible. Unfortunately, abolitionist revolt on behalf of black labor could not become a mass working-class movement of the white majority. For it denounced racial privileges accrued to white workers and viewed the uplift of white labor and the abolition of capital as secondary to antislavery and antiracism. Du Bois summed up the abolitionist vision thus: “After abolition there would come questions of labor, wage, and political power. But now, first, must be demanded that ordinary human freedom and recognition of essential manhood which slavery blasphemously denied…. Freedom was not an end but an indispensable means to the beginning of human progress.”52 This was, in fact, a powerful vision, which briefly became real. With John Brown’s Raid, secession, war, the “general strike” of the slaves, then, emancipation, the abolitionist vanguard “appeared as prophets” and “began to guide the nation out of the morass in which it had fallen.” Allied now with millions of freedmen after the war, the abolitionist vision of democracy (“abolition-democracy”) briefly obtained a power and reality greater than anything achieved by all other social movements in America.53

Only as Du Bois widened his historical vision to understand antislavery internationally, in the form of slave revolt, did he truly make “revision of Marx’s theory of revolution and class struggle” (in fact, much of what Du Bois had said of US emancipation did not depart drastically from what Marx had said).54 In works such as The Negro, Black Folk Then and Now and The World and Africa, Du Bois meticulously catalogued the resistance of slaves all across the Americas. What Du Bois discovered was astonishing. Modern mass protest against servile labor conditions did not begin with the industrial worker, but with the African slave, earlier and on a far greater scale. Hundreds of thousands of slaves ran off and formed maroon communities, “leading to pitched war in Jamaica and Haiti and to the independent state of Palmares in Brazil.”55 Slaves revolted incessantly for 300 years, with ever-increasing intensity, culminating in the Haitian Revolution (1791). The slave revolts, and Haiti in particular, “spelled the doom not only of the African slave trade but of slavery in America as a basis of an industrial system…. Unless the slave worker could be pacified, income based on slave labor would be destroyed.”56 The slave worker could not be pacified, and slavery crumbled across the Americas in the nineteenth century. Du Bois first situated American abolitionism within this international insurgency against slave owners. That terrible wave of revolt, desertion, and dreaming laid the basis for all that was to come in the twentieth century. As Du Bois put it, without mincing a single word: “The slave revolts were the beginnings of the revolutionary struggle for the uplift of the laboring masses in the modern world.”57 The history of slave rebellion proved that, from the beginnings of capitalism, “there was revolt and revolutionary thought not only in Europe.”58

These startling thoughts brought Du Bois right back to American abolitionism. Towards the end of his life, in 1962, Du Bois made revisions for a new edition of John Brown. He rejected very little of the first 1909 edition but appended new thoughts in the final chapter on “The Legacy of John Brown.” Du Bois placed Brown within a sweeping history of global class conflict. The “loot of India,” the slave trade, the rise of the Cotton Kingdom, the Industrial Revolution and the Haitian Revolution—all were “events [that] conditioned John Brown and his acts.”59 In the wake of Brown’s martyrdom and the end of slavery, came the colonization of the world, followed by “the great revolution in Russia” and “the resurrection of China.”60 Thus, Du Bois depicted cycles of enslavement and rebellion, repression and freedom, as the twin forces at the heart of modern history. The lesson of that history “is this great word: the cost of liberty is less than the price of repression.”61 “All this John Brown did not know,” Du Bois continued, and yet his life’s work was in consonance with it…. He was a pioneer in the fight for human equality and in the uplift of the masses of men.62 It is in this context that Du Bois delivered his most open, most explicit written defense of revolution: If it is a true revolution it repays all losses and results in the uplift of the human race. One could wish that John Brown could see today the results of the great revolution in Russia; that he could see the new world of Socialism and Communism expanding until it already comprises the majority of mankind.”63 By the time Du Bois wrote this, he had left the USA for free Ghana, and joined the Communist Party. His views on global class struggle and political tactics had certainly evolved, but they never lost their old moorings in the abolitionist tradition.

Antislavery, Anti-Imperialism, and the Global Color Line

Throughout his intellectual life, Du Bois pondered abolition’s global dimensions, and its ties to imperialism and anti-imperialism. Already, by the dawn of the twentieth century, Du Bois prophesied that the underlying problem of the coming hundred years would be the problem of the color line. The questions of race, slavery, and democracy, first posed by abolitionists, had become global problems. Early in his career, Du Bois had only partial understanding of and few solutions for the problem of western imperialism, and thus turned to the most liberal-paternalist aspects of the abolitionist tradition. For instance, in his 1900 essay, “The Present Outlook for the Dark Races of Mankind,” Du Bois urged that “the abolitionists with their pure and lofty ideals of human brotherhood… have left this generation a priceless heritage.” In the case of the USA, however, Du Bois believed that reviving the abolitionist “heritage” meant merely a tolerant and inclusive attitude to the dark races necessarily coming under the fold of America’s rising empire: “Negro and Filipino, Indian and Porto Rican, Cuban and Hawaiian, all must stand united under the stars and stripes for an America that knows no color line in the freedom of its opportunities.”64 Gradually—from World War I onward—Du Bois shed his illusions of benevolent empire. As he turned toward anti-imperialism, he situated abolitionism not within a narrative of slowly expanding universal liberalism, but within a long, tumultuous history of capitalist accumulation and anti-imperialist revolt. He began to unearth the still-understudied anti-imperialist dimensions of abolition.

Du Bois was perhaps the first to view slavery as an imperialist, not simply capitalist, institution, characterized by monopoly capital, low reproduction costs, territorial expansion, war, and white privileges.65 In Britain’s case, argued Du Bois, the twin sins of revenue from India and slavery in the West Indies made the industrial revolution and British world hegemony possible.66 Imperialist slavery underpinned America’s territorial expansion and capitalist development. In Black Reconstruction Du Bois called American slavery “Roman imperialism and Fascism.”67 “[M]onopolists and capitalists” financed slavery, as Du Bois’ own teacher, abolitionist James Russel Lowell, once pointed out.68 “Primitive accumulation” means controlling and driving down social reproduction costs to an inhuman minimum. No imperialist had more despotic authority over breeding and feeding than the American slaveholder. As Du Bois wrote, “the maintenance of a slave in the South cost the master $19 a year.” The slave “represented in a very real sense the ultimate degradation of man.”69 With state backing, the slave power engaged in vast territorial expansion and genocide: “The South had conquered Mexico without help and beyond lay the rest of Mexico, the West Indies and South America, open to Southern imperialistic enterprise.”70 Finally, on top of it all, the degradation of black labor offered material and psychological privileges to the white worker, preventing interracial working-class alliances, encouraging racial, interclass alliances..

Du Bois turned to abolitionist sources to trace the similarities between America’s slave-power imperialism and the early rise of Europe’s colonial imperialism. Abolitionists made much of the similarities between American slavery and European colonization of Asia and Africa, so much so that some slaveholders went to great lengths to dissociate their “benevolent,” “patriarchal” system from the unrestrained violence of European colonialism.71 Abolitionists further noted that Anglo-American monopolization of cotton textile production fueled the de-industrialization and imperialist domination of India and China.72 Interestingly, when Du Bois wrote on these issues he always turned to a forgotten abolitionist source, William Howitt’s Colonization and Christianity (1838).73 In The World and Africa, Du Bois triumphantly noted, “I have resurrected William Howitt’s Colonization and Christianity, a popular history of how Europeans treated natives in their colonies. The book was published in 1838, and since then imperial Europe tried to forget it.”74 Howitt had been a British abolitionist who lectured in American abolitionist circuits. His book was a scathing catalogue of European atrocity and Christian hypocrisy, which included American slavery and indigenous genocide as among the vilest forms of western colonization. Howitt’s book provided many of the facts for Du Bois’ late writings on imperialism. Karl Marx had also used the book as historical background for his chapter on “primitive accumulation” in Das Kapital.75

Though abolition had complex, often contradictory entanglements with imperialism, Du Bois saw in the question of land one of the great anti-imperialist prophecies of “abolition-democracy.” Abolitionists opposed the westward expansion of slavery upon expropriated indigenous lands. They opposed the paramilitary coups in Central America, which had been attempted to set up slave states. In some cases, abolitionists opposed all American expansion, all manifest destiny, whether led by slaveowners or free soilers.76 Other abolitionists experimented with projects of utopian socialism and land reform. But during the 1860s, as slaves and then freedmen were clamoring for land, “abolitionists were gradually developing…. They were beginning to realize the economic foundation of the revolution necessary in the South. They saw that the negro needed land.”77 To keep the former Confederate slaveholders at bay, the US state, through military force, set up a “dictatorship of labor” in the South, which reformed education, worked for the uplift of black and white labor, and envisioned land redistribution for the black worker. Perhaps with some hyperbole, Du Bois described this highest stage of “abolition-democracy” as “one of the most extraordinary experiments of Marxism that the world, before the Russian Revolution, had seen.”78

Long before the Russian Revolution, Du Bois had some sense of the relations between antislavery, land, anti-imperialism and full human freedom. For instance, in 1915, Du Bois suggested that if Haiti restrained foreign “capitalistic greed” and maintained a “contented peasantry” through land reform, “the triumph of the revolution would be complete.”79 From his adolescence onward, Du Bois had studied the writings of slave-turned land reformer T. Thomas Fortune.80 In the 1880s, Fortune had argued that the racial/class conflicts over land in the South would flare up into a global conflict, as Europe and America expropriated the lands of Asians and Africans. Writing in a period of rampant industrialism and imperialism, long before anticolonial and socialist movements meaningfully reposed the land question, Fortune lamented: “There are no ‘Liberators’ today and the William Lloyd Garrisons have nearly all gone the way of the world.”81 Like Fortune before him, Du Bois long hoped for some sort of revival of the abolitionist tradition to resist land theft and the color line.

Following his travels to the Soviet Union and conversion to Marxism, Du Bois further thought through abolitionist anti-imperialism in the light of the Russian Revolution, particularly in his unpublished manuscript, “Russia and America.” As Bill V. Mullen has perceptively argued, Du Bois conceived the manuscript as a “sequel” to Black Reconstruction. “Russia and America” charts the transformation of the USA, after the overthrow of Reconstruction, into the world’s foremost imperialist, counterrevolutionary power, placing that history in dialectical relation to the rise of the USSR as the foremost revolutionary, anti-imperialist counterforce. The manuscript indeed laments the failures of the American reform tradition, in comparison to the Russian revolutionary tradition, as Mullen has noted.82 But more than that, Du Bois pays moving tribute to radical abolitionism as an (unsuccessful) anti-imperialist precursor to Bolshevism. Describing the context of abolitionism, Du Bois wrote that the American empire attempted “to preserve slave labor, and the cotton and sugar which it used, and extend its area not only in this country, but also to the southwest and the Caribbean area. This aroused an organized antislavery movement, helped by fugitive slaves.”83 In short, abolitionism was a response to slavery and imperialist land theft, whose only resolution could be emancipation, land redistribution, and proletarian democracy, fleetingly realized during Reconstruction, fully realized in revolutionary Russia. Both Reconstruction and the Russian Revolution, Du Bois sincerely believed, offered prophecies for pulling humanity out of the “morass” of a world long-mired in “this conception of a slave supported society,” which had distorted Greek democracy, built the hideous empire of Rome, and culminated in the imperialist plunder of the entire world.84

As the global tide of anticolonialism began to sweep the world in the 1940s and 1950s, Du Bois began to place the long fight against slavery into a longer history of worldwide class struggle.85 Quite early in his career, Du Bois saw the history of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as one of mass slave revolt, culminating in Haitian abolition—which itself became an anticolonial revolution—and Radical Reconstruction.86 But that was only one side of the story. As Du Bois noted in his anti-imperialist writings, challenges to nascent colonialism, during the era of mass slave revolt, occurred worldwide. In “the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, there have been small revolts all over Africa,” from Algeria to South Africa.87 In China occurred the “revolt called the Taiping Rebellion,” in the wake of the opium wars, and then “the frenzied revolt of the Chinese under the Boxers in 1899, when the Christian World wanted to steal China’s treasures and partition her land.”88 In India, “from the middle of the eighteenth century to the middle of the nineteenth, bloody revolt and oppression was the history of this land. Revolts took place in 1758, 1775, 1782, 1790, 1805, 1814, 1817, 1823, 1837, 1844, 1850, culminating in the great mutiny of 1857.”89 In Britain, Ireland, France, and Germany arose revolutions and workers movements, which sincerely opposed American slavery. Interestingly, though not surprisingly, many American abolitionists supported these various uprisings in Africa, Asia, and Europe.90 Though he never elaborated upon this fully, Du Bois nevertheless had uncovered an “unnoticed, certainly unlistened to” wave of world revolt that had been defeated.91

More than anything, Du Bois the world historian was concerned with this great defeat, the terrible counterrevolution, that succeeded the abolition-era world revolts. For that great defeat caused the very problem that would define the twentieth century, the global color line. In America, white workers and northern capitalists eventually supported the end of slaveowner’s westward expansion, hoping to take indigenous lands for themselves.92 Reconsolidation of the America state, the ending of Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the near re-enslavement of black labor after the 1870s spurred the USA’s economic take off into the world’s (still) most powerful imperialism. As Du Bois reiterated again and again in his later works, the abolition of slavery withdrew from global imperialism a vast pool of dark labor. But “international and commercial imperialism began to get a vision.” “The abolition of American Slavery started the transportation of capital from white to black countries where slavery prevailed, with the same tremendous and awful consequences upon the laboring classes of the world which we see about us today. When raw material could not be raised in a country like the United States, it could be raised in the tropics and semi-tropics under a dictatorship of industry, commerce, and manufacture, and with no free farming class.”93 At the same time, in the wake of Asian revolts, Britain consolidated its rule in India under the Raj. The door to Chinese markets was kicked wide open for imperialist intrusion, and indentured Asian labor proliferated.94 In sum, imperialism had not been the necessary or natural subordination of the passive, backward races to the civilized West. Imperialism was capitalism’s response to the era of reform and revolt most powerfully embodied by the ending of chattel slavery.95 This great counterrevolution would, in turn, require revolutions of a different kind, which needed, in their own ways, to reinvoke the shattered dreams of “abolition-democracy”: “And the rebuilding, whether it comes now or a century later, will and must go back to the basic principles of Reconstruction in the United States during 1867-1876—Land, Light, and Leading for slaves black, brown, yellow, and white, under a dictatorship of the proletariat.”96

Conclusion: Reconstructing the Abolitionist Tradition

In studying American abolitionism, Du Bois did not discover a comforting, humanitarian, liberal tradition with the power to rejuvenate the “democratic” principles of the US project (though abolitionism certainly had those dimensions to it). Instead, he found a truly democratic tradition, often in outright contradiction to the great US political experiment, which had been imperial from its inception. According to Du Bois, abolitionism had been enmeshed in much bigger actions and transformations. The movement had been inspired by the Haitian Revolution, driven by runaway slaves and structurally connected to hundreds of years of desertion, rebellion, and marronage which eventually helped to topple the system of enslaved black labor. That wave of revolt was in itself part of global revolts against a colonial system on the rise. Thus situating abolitionism, Du Bois did not see in emancipation a victory for humanitarian liberalism; he saw a halfway victory amidst a great global defeat. The forces of repression revamped themselves and re-enslaved, or further enslaved, the non-white peoples of Africa and Asia, increasing the bloodstained wealth and wars of the world. That global counterrevolution required renewed revolutions, on a greater scale, to fulfill the unfinished tasks of abolition. By the end of his life, Du Bois firmly believed that communism, as well as the movements of black and brown people for self-determination, offered the challenge that would redeem the abolitionist tradition. Hence, the abolitionist tradition pushed Du Bois into Marxism and anti-imperialism, though creatively so. Abolitionist heritages of prophecy, utopianism, and consciencism fostered in Du Bois a poetic voice, an independence from dogma, and a willingness to stand by a principle, even if it meant pushing it to extreme conclusions or pushing oneself beyond the pale of respectability.

Du Bois had never been alone in taking a revolutionary path through the abolitionist tradition. Paul Robeson, for instance, described himself as “reared and nurtured in the abolitionist tradition.” His parents had been runaways and reformers, and the education received from them, Robeson affirmed, shaped his own anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist convictions.97 C.L.R. James deepened his Pan-Africanism and formulated his concept of “self-activity”—proletarian spontaneity—by studying the Underground Railroad and the Haitian Revolution.98 Black feminists turned to abolitionism in search of a feminist tradition conscious of racial oppression.99 Malcolm X received his first political education reading abolitionist pamphlets in prison.100 To this day, black political prisoners, if given the opportunity, study abolitionism, and today’s anti-prison activists explicitly invoke the tradition of abolitionism.101 Indeed, abolitionist-style radicalism is a very American phenomenon, yet the reasons for its persistence and its meaningfulness has been its significance to world history. As Kwame Nkrumah put it, “colonial emancipation became the dominating phenomenon of the mid-twentieth century, just as the abolition of slavery was of the corresponding period of the nineteenth, with just as crucial consequences in national and international politics and economics.”102

The invocations of abolitionism persist, and its legacies and failures permeate the wide world today. For with every move towards freedom, the masters have raised the price of repression. The end of slavery forced the masters to deepen their colonization of the world. Decolonization, one of the magnificent triumphs of human endeavor, forced the warring masters to unite in their financial domination over the Third World. In 1962, in John Brown, Du Bois described a world in which “the absentee landlord was replaced by the absentee investor so that the owners of capital knew less and less how their capital was used and were rewarded for this ignorance by increase of profit.”103 That certainly describes the world today, the result of waves of counterrevolution. All this has had inflections in the US. For with the ever-increasing call for democracy, dignity, and black self-determination, which always coincided with movements around the world, has come increased repression and imprisonment, greater division, demoralization, and accumulation. Despite the desperation of the moment, the tides of war, fascism, and fundamentalism, the lessons Du Bois learned from abolition do still apply. Traditions of protest are long and deep, and ever “the cost of liberty is less than the price of repression.”

1 Lawrie Balfour, Democracy’s Reconstruction: Thinking Politically with W.E.B. Du Bois (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

2 Neil Roberts, Freedom as Marronage (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015); Cedric Robinson, Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000).

3 W.E.B. Du Bois, The Autobiography of W.E.B. Du Bois: Soliloquy of My Life from the Last Decade of its First Century (New York: International Publishers, 1968), 66-67.

4 W.E.B. Du Bois, Dusk of Dawn: An Essay Toward an Autobiography of a Race Concept, in Nathan Huggins, ed., W.E.B. Du Bois: Writings (New York: The Library of America, 1986), 559.

5 W.E.B. Du Bois, John Brown (New York: International Publishers, 1962), 39.

6 Du Bois, Dusk of Dawn, in Writings, 567-568; Paul Robeson, Here I Stand (Boston: Beacon Press, 1988), 25-27.

7 Du Bois, “The Talented Tenth” (1903), in Writings, 854.

8 Du Bois, The Autobiography, 132. Historians have made little of the possible influences of Lowell on Du Bois. Likely, Du Bois did not interact with the elder poet much, yet he quoted Lowell’s abolitionist poetry in his later writings. Lowell’s antislavery prose contains thrilling analyses of the relations between class struggle and revolution, the intersections of race and class in America, and sympathetic accounts of anticolonialism in Haiti, Ireland, and elsewhere. See, James Russell Lowell, The Antislavery Papers of James Russell Lowell, 2 Volumes (Boston: Houghton and Mifflin, 1902).

9 Du Bois, The Suppression of the African Slave Trade in the United States of America, 1638-1870, in Writings, 193.

10 Ibid, 74-96.

11 W.E.B. Du Bois, The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study (Philadelphia: Ginn and Co., 1899).

12 George Washington Williams, History of the Negro Race in America, from 1619 to 1880, Volume II, 1800-1880 (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1883), 60.

13 Lorenz von Stein, The History of the Social Movement in France, 1789-1850 Translated by Kaethe Mengelberg (Bedminster Press, 1964).

14 George Fitzhugh, The Sociology of Slavery; or, the Failure of Free Society (Richmond Virginia: A. Morris, Publisher, 1854).

15 Slave narrative writers always privileged fact and empirical observation over sentiment. See especially abolitionist-sociologist Richard Hildreth’s scathing reply to Tocqueville’s sociology, Despotism in America: An Inquiry into the Nature, Results, and Legal Basis of the Slaveholding System in the United States (Boston: John P. Jewett, 1854).

16 W.E.B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880 (New York: The Free Press, 1992), 715.

17 Du Bois, “Criteria of Negro Art” (1926), in Writings, 995.

18 Liberator, 18 June 1847.

19 Du Bois, “The Negro in Art and Literature” (1913) in Writings, 864.

20 Thomas Smallwood, A Narrative of Thomas Smallwood, (Colored Man): Giving an Account of His Birth—The Period He was Held in Slavery—and Removal to Canada, Etc., Together with An Account of the Underground Railroad (Toronto: James Stephens, 1851), iv.

21 James Edward Ford, “The Imperial Miracle: Black Reconstruction and the End(s) of Whiteness,” in Nick Bromell, ed., A Political Companion to W.E.B. Du Bois (University of Kentucky Press, 2018), 101-120. As Ford rightly points out, Du Bois’s wide-ranging poetry quotations were not literary adornments, they were often arguments in themselves.

22 Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, in Writings, 372.

23 Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, in Writings, 537; Fugitives and abolitionists first collected slave songs and published them. See Lucy McKim-Garrison, “Introduction,” in Slave Songs of the United States (New York: A. Simpson and Co., 1867); Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Army Life in A Black Regiment (Boston: Fields and Osgood, 1870), 197-223; John Andrew Jackson, The Experience of a Slave in South Carolina (London: Passmore and Alabastor, 1867), 35-37.

24 Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, in Writing, 500-501; Gary Dorrien, The New Abolition: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Black Social Gospel (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015).

25 Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, in Writings, 397.

26 Ibid.

27 Du Bois, “The Talented Tenth” (1903), in Writings, 844-845.

28 Ibid.

29 Ibid, 846.

30 W.E.B. Du Bois, “To the Nations of the World” (1900), in Eric J. Sundquist, ed., The Oxford W.E.B. Du Bois Reader (New York: Oxford University, 1996), 626.

31 Du Bois, “The Niagara Movement” (1906), in Du Bois Reader, 375. Du Bois believed the Niagara Movement re-consecrated the sacrifices of John Brown, but it followed more the tactics of Garrison. In fact, Du Bois wrote a “Garrison Pledge” for the Niagara movement, offering up the radical white abolitionist as the model for the interracial group of reformers to follow. W.E.B. Du Bois, “Garrison and the Negro” (1905), in Herbert Aptheker, ed., Against Racism: Unpublished Essays, Papers, Addresses, 1887-1961 (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1985), 81-83.

32 Du Bois, The Autobiography, 29-43.

33 Ibid, 259.

34 Earlier The Souls of Black Folk had also departed from social science, but they were fugitive essays put together into a book later. For the argument that John Brown had been a poetic departure from social science, see Robinson, Black Marxism, 196.

35 Part of the reason he wrote John Brown in this way, was that he had originally desired to write a biography of either Frederick Douglass or Nat Turner. Instead he put the driving ideas for those never-written biographies into John Brown. Herbert Aptheker, ed., The Correspondence of W.E.B. Du Bois, Volume 1, 1877-1934 (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1973), 61-64.

36 Herbert Aptheker, The Literary Legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois (New York: Kraus International, 1989), 65.

37 Du Bois, John Brown, 9.

38 W.E.B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America, 13.

39 Ibid, 20.

40 Ibid, 13; See also, W.E.B. Du Bois, Black Folk, Then and Now: An Essay in the History and Sociology of the Negro Race (New York: Henry Holt, 1939), 202.

41 Ibid, 81.

42 Du Bois, “The Damnation of Women” (1920), in Writings, 956. There are many commentaries and critiques on this essay, which show its nascent notions of “intersectionality” as well as Du Bois inability to acknowledge some of the black female sources he quotes. See Balfour, Democracy’s Reconstruction, 97-115.

43 For a deeper elaboration, see Alys Eve Weinbaum, “Gendering the General Strike: W.E.B. Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction and Black Feminism’s ‘Propaganda of History,’” South Atlantic Quarterly Summer (2013), 437-462. As Weinbaum discusses, Du Bois had a prescient understanding of the importance of enslaved women’s reproductive labor to the rise of capitalism, but he only stresses resistance to productive labor in the chapter on the “general strike.” Nevertheless, as Weinbaum rightly argues, Du Bois did intimate things necessary for black feminist assessments of slave resistance.

44 Stephanie Camp, Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004).

45 Jesse Olsavsky, “Women, Vigilance Committees, and the Rise of Militant Abolitionism, 1835-1859,” Slavery and Abolition, Vol., 39, No. 2 (2018), 357-382.

46 Shirley Graham, There was Once a Slave: The Heroic Story of Frederick Douglass (New York: Julian Messner, 1947), 73-74. It is known, however, that Anna Murray gave Douglass essential aid in escaping slavery.

47 W.E.B. Du Bois, The Gift of Black Folk (Boston: The Stratford, Co., 1924), 261.

48 Ibid, 261, 273.

49 Ibid, 273.

50 Du Bois, John Brown, 64.

51 Du Bois, Reconstruction, 13.

52 Ibid, 20.

53 Ibid, 83. Du Bois had no illusions about abolitionism. Abolitionism critiqued and helped overthrew one labor system compatible with capitalism but did not always go all the way in critiquing capitalism writ large. Thus, in Black Reconstruction, Du Bois usually treats abolitionism as a revolutionary movement, but occasionally criticizes it as a bourgeois movement, with some compatibilities with northern capitalism.

54 Robinson, Black Marxism, 196; Robin Blackburn, An Unfinished Revolution: Karl Marx and Abraham Lincoln (London: Verso, 2011).

55 W.E.B. Du Bois, The World and Africa: An Enquiry into the Part which Africa has Played in World History (New York: International Publishers, 1947), 53-54; On the profound impact of Haiti on Atlantic slavery and abolition, see Gerald Horne, Confronting Black Jacobins: The US, the Haitian Revolution, and the Origins of the Dominican Republic (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2015).

56 Ibid, 65-66.

57 Ibid, 60.

58 Du Bois, The World and Africa, 53.

59 Du Bois, John Brown, 296.

60 Ibid.

61 Ibid, 287.

62 Ibid, 299.

63 Ibid, 296. Emphasis added.

64 Du Bois, “The Present Outlook for the Darker Races of Mankind” (1900), in Du Bois Reader, 52-53.

65 Scholarship is now catching up with Du Bois’s insight that slavery was not simply capitalist, but imperialist. Matthew Karp, This Vast Southern Empire: Slaveholders at the helm of American Foreign Policy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2016).

66 Du Bois, The World and Africa, 66. Here Du Bois followed Eric Williams, but Du Bois always emphasized wealth drain from India alongside West Indian slavery as the makers of British industrial-imperial power.

67 Du Bois, Black Reconstruction, 30.

68 James Russell Lowell, “Texas,” in The Antislavery Papers of James Russell Lowell, Volume 1 (Boston: Houghton and Mifflin, 1902), 9-10.

69 Du Bois, Black Reconstruction, 9.

70 Ibid, 47.

71 Theodore Wright and Samuel Cornish, The Colonization Scheme Considered (Newark, New Jersey: Aaron Guest, 1840).

72 Manisha Sinha, The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016). This is one of the few works to explore the anti-imperialist dimensions of abolition.

73 William Howitt, Christianity and Colonization: A Popular History of the Treatment of the Natives by Europeans in All their Colonies (London: Longman, 1838).

74 Du Bois, The World and Africa, ix.

75 Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume 1, Trans., Ben Fowkes (London: Penguin, 1990), 873-943.

76 In fact, many abolitionists, Garrisonian and otherwise, called for the dissolution of the expansionist US State. See, for instance, Smallwood, A Narrative of Thomas Smallwood.

77 Du Bois, Black Reconstruction, 327.

78 Ibid, 358. C.L.R. James, presumably learning from Du Bois, also saw in Reconstruction an anticipation of twentieth-century peasants’ struggles. C.L.R. James, “Peasants and Workers,” in Spheres of Existence (London: Allison and Busby, 1980), 209.

79 Du Bois, The Negro (New York: Holt, 1915), 69-70.

80 David Levering Lewis, W.E.B. Du Bois: Biography of A Race, 1868-1919 (New York: Henry Holt, 1993), 38-39.

81 T. Thomas Fortune, Black and White: Land, Labor, and Politics in the South (New York: Fords, Howard, and

Hulbert), IV, 14.

82 Bill V. Mullen, Un-American: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Century of World Revolution (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2015), 86-95.

83 W. E. B. Du Bois, “Russia and America,” W.E.B. Du Bois Papers, Special Collections, University of Massachusetts, Amherst,

84 W. E. B. Du Bois, “Russia and America,” W.E.B. Du Bois Papers, Special Collections, University of Massachusetts, Amherst,

85 A number of historians have studied Du Bois’s turn to anticolonial politics during this period. See, for instance, Bill Mullen, Un-American: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Century of World Revolution (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2015); Gerald Horne, Black and Red: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Afro-American Response to the Cold War (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1986).

86 Du Bois, “Haiti,” (1944), in Against Race, 244-249.

87 Du Bois, The Negro; Then and Now, 380.

88 W.E.B. Du Bois, “The Color of Asia,” in Bill V. Mullen and Cathryn Watson, eds., W.E.B. Du Bois on Asia: Crossing the World Color Line (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2005), 94.

89 Du Bois, “The Freeing of India,” in W.E.B. Du Bois on Asia, 151.

90Manisha Sinha, The Slave’s Cause, 339-381.

91 Du Bois, The World and Africa, 37. Only Cedric Robinson has passingly noted the importance of this wave of revolt in the context of Du Bois’s thought. See Black Marxism, 239-240.

92 W. E. B. Du Bois, “Russia and America,” W.E.B. Du Bois Papers, Special Collections, University of Massachusetts, Amherst,

93 Du Bois, Black Reconstruction, 48.

94 Zach Sell, “Asian Indentured Labor in the Age of African American Emancipation,” International Labor and Working Cass History 91 (2017), 8-27; Sven Beckert, Empire of Cotton: A Global History (New York: Vintage, 2015), 274-312.

95 Imperialism was also a response to internal economic crises. In this way, the 1870s was almost identical to the 1970s. Anti-imperialist revolt mixed with economic crisis leads to counterrevolutionary restructuring of the global imperialist economy.

96 Du Bois, Black Reconstruction, 635.

97 Paul Robeson, Paul Robeson Speaks: Writings, Speeches, Interviews, 1918-1974 (New York: Brunner, 1978),

149, 263.

98 C.L.R. James, “The Haitian Revolution in the Making of the Modern World” in You Don’t Play With Revolution:

The Montreal Lectures of C.L.R. James (Oakland California: AK Press, 2009), 60.

99 Angela Davis, Women, Race, And Class (New York: Random House, 1981); Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment (New York: Routledge, 2009).

100 Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X (Ballantine: 1964), 179.

101 Russel Shoatz, Maroon The Implacable: The Collected Writings of Russel Maroon Shoatz (Oakland California PM Press, 2013); Angela Davis, Abolition Democracy: Beyond Empire, Prisons, And Torture (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2005).

102 Kwame Nkrumah, Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism (New York: International Publishers, 1965),


103 Du Bois, John Brown, 298. Emphasis added.