While largely ignored by the historical profession when published in 1935, W. E. B. Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction in America has come to be regarded as a landmark of historical scholarship and essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the era of Civil War and Reconstruction. Du Bois irrefutably exposed the racism underlying the prevailing Dunning school of interpretation of Reconstruction. In its place he advanced ideas, radical for the time, that have become commonplace in historical writing—among them that slavery was the fundamental cause of the Civil War, that blacks were active agents of historical change, that the struggle over control of black labor was central to the era’s politics, that Reconstruction was a time of enormous promise and numerous accomplishments, that to understand it one must examine the entire nation, not just the South, and all the classes, from Northern industrialists and workers to Southern freedpeople, planters, and poor whites, and that the overthrow of Reconstruction was a tragic defeat for democratic ideals, both within the United States and across the globe.

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