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Democracy's ReconstructionThinking Politically with W.E.B. Du Bois$
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Lawrie Balfour

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195377293

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195377293.001.0001

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Two. Unreconstructed Democracy and the Claim of Reparations

Two. Unreconstructed Democracy and the Claim of Reparations

(p.23) Two. Unreconstructed Democracy and the Claim of Reparations
Democracy's Reconstruction

Lawrie Balfour (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter looks at Du Bois's efforts to correct distorted understandings of Reconstruction, by focusing on African Americans' role in abolition and by redefining the post-war era as the nation's only genuine experiment in democracy. It is argued that examining the connections Du Bois draws between historical consciousness and the disappointments of the post-Reconstruction period enlarges our understanding of the disappointments that followed the civil rights era or “second reconstruction.” Although Du Bois does not expressly advocate reparations for the former slaves and their descendants, the chapter turns to The Souls of Black Folk and Black Reconstruction to suggest the possibilities opened up by a shift from a political language of formal equality, which is premised on the erasure of the past, to a language that affirms and refigures the past as a vehicle for social change. It asks how reparations might constitute such a language.

Keywords:   W. E. B. Du Bois, Reconstruction, African Americans, abolition, civil rights era, The Souls of Black Folk, Black Reconstruction, reparations

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