W.E.B. Du Bois in the Tradition of Radical Blackness: Radicalism, Repression, and Mutual Comradeship, 1930-1960


If the people of the world and particularly of the United States really understood the facts of the case and knew what was in dispute, there is no doubt but what peaceful progress could be made toward the solution of problems of poverty, of health, of education, of enjoyment of the gifts of the world. But because so many people are interested in the present organization of production and distribution of wealth and are comfortable and powerful because of it, we have the mistake of widespread and continuous effort to stop people from thinking, to stop them from knowing, to stop them from doing what is perfectly legal to do in order to make this a better world.

W.E.B. Du Bois, 17 December 1953

We invent witchwords. If in 1850 an American disliked slavery, the word of exorcism was ‘abolitionist’. He was a ‘nigger lover’. He believed in free love and murder of kind slave masters. He ought to be lynched and mobbed. Today the word is ‘communist’… If anybody questions the power of wealth, wants to build more TVA’s, advocates civil rights for Negroes, he is a communist, a revolutionist, a scoundrel, and is liable to lose his job or land in jail.

W.E.B. Du Bois, 8 August 1949


Influenced by the catastrophic failure of capitalism in 1929 and its ravaging of Black folk, the proliferation of fascism in Europe and the entrenchment of white supremacy in the United States, visits to the Soviet Union in 1926 and 1936, and sustained study of Marxism, W.E.B. Du Bois underwent a gradual but enduring move to the left.1 Throughout the 1930s, the evolution of this scholar, editor, and race leader manifested in increased militancy on issues including the role of Black workers in the production of history, the importance of racial solidarity and cooperation to economic development, and self-determination in the racialized world as a prerequisite for peace, progress, and prosperity. Arguably more than any other project, the drafting and publication of Black Reconstruction in America: An Essay Toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860-1880 embodied and enunciated these ideals.2 As John Munro writes, this work “shook the historiographical and political landscape” by analyzing the Civil War and Reconstruction as phases of capitalist exploitation, U.S. imperialism, global white supremacy, and Black labor insurgency. Du Bois’s earnest study of Marxism, long-standing dedication to Pan-Africanism, and increasing commitment to Black internationalism underwrites his assertion that, “The emancipation of man is the emancipation of labor and the emancipation of labor is the freeing of that basic majority of workers who are yellow, brown, and black.”3 Moving forward, his close connection with leftwing institutions and individuals strengthened his commitment to anticolonialism, anti-imperialism, antiracism, and socialism. He was active in numerous Black and interracial organizations including the Civil Rights Congress (CRC), the Council on African Affairs (CAA), the Jefferson School of Social Sciences (JSSS), the National Committee to Defend Negro Leadership (NCDNL), and the Peace Information Center (PIC). He counted among his comrades some of the most important Black progressives of the twentieth century, including James W. Ford, Shirley Graham Du Bois, Doxey Wilkerson, Esther V. Cooper Jackson, and Benjamin J. Davis, Jr. These associations and associates made him a prime target of McCarthyism and its permutations: he, along with several of his PIC comrades, were indicted as foreign agents; he lost his passport for nearly a decade; and he routinely experienced violations of his privacy and civil liberties.

This essay argues that the dialectic between radicalism and repression defined Du Bois’s leftward turn in the three decades preceding his relocation to Accra, Ghana in October 1961.4 It examines: 1) the networks, relationships, exchanges, and intimacies that animated, and were animated by, his anti-systemic praxis, and 2) the reciprocal challenges to domination, methods of defense, and forms of dedication that offered fortification against state and social backlash. In doing so, it employs the “tradition of radical Blackness,” which designates a theory of struggle and an approach to scholarship, and “mutual comradeship,” which specifies a political commitment and an ethical practice. What follows is an analysis of Black Reconstruction as an embodiment of Du Bois’s radicalization; Du Bois’s peace activism as the epitome of the tradition of radical Blackness; and Shirley Graham Du Bois as the paradigmatic mutual comrade.

Black Reconstruction and the Radicalization of W.E.B. Du Bois

In many respects, Black Reconstruction is representative of Du Bois’s radicalization process that accelerated throughout the 1930s. His attention to class conflict signaled his growing facility with Marxism. His argument that slavery as a system of surplus value extraction was the unequivocal cause of the Civil War anticipated his later critiques of imperial capitalism as the source of world war. Likewise, his analysis of Reconstruction as a global phenomenon augured his increasing internationalism that connected the condition and fate of all racialized and colonized laborers. And, his emphasis on Black folks as self-determining subjects underscored his bourgeoning belief that the oppressed masses possessed the capability to liberate themselves. Moreover, his discussion of white workers captured both his disillusionment with this group that led him to advocate separate Black economic cooperation throughout the 1930s, and his later belief that Black and white workers must unite against the ruling class to bring about a socialist future. Eric Foner contends that for Du Bois, “the tragedy of Reconstruction was that white laborers, in the North and South, failed to see their interests were intimately tied up with the emancipated slaves. Reconstruction represented a lost opportunity, a moment when black and white labor could have united to seek common goals but failed to do so.”5 The major themes of Black Reconstruction reflected that Du Bois had moved to the left in the 1930s and departed from his earlier liberal position. The denunciations of his detractors also signaled his move to the left. One such critic was sociologist Kelly Miller. The two had been longtime associates, helping to establish the American Negro Academy in 1897 and working together to challenge Booker T. Washington at the turn of the century.6 In 1938, Miller assailed Du Bois for promoting Black self-determination, economic autonomy, and labor empowerment. He chided:

Dr. Du Bois has now become an evangelist of the new doctrine proclaiming to his race, ‘Repent ye for the kingdom of Labor is at hand.’ What assurance have we that [K]arl Marx and communism can overcome race prejudice where religion, education and philanthropy have failed. Even if we take for granted that the destruction of capitalism is good for the nation, what assurance has Du Bois… that it will be good for the Negro?

Miller accused Du Bois of being backward and irrelevant for abandoning his “lofty pedestal of human rights and race equality,” and for putting his faith in a “dubious political-economic experiment.”7 Perhaps Du Bois had this attack in mind when he described Miller as “intellectually lazy” and insincere, with a “reputation for instability of judgement and disloyalty to most causes.”8 Despite these denunciations, Du Bois’s belief in the potential of the oppressed, racialized, and exploited masses to create a world free from the domination of one class—or one nation—by another only increased.

As Du Bois completed the first draft of Black Reconstruction in December 1933, he was engaged in intensive study of Marxism, “as everyone must these days.” This immersion led him to conceptualize two leftist courses to teach at Atlanta University, “Karl Marx and the Negro Problem” and “The Economic History of the Negro.” The Marx course, which was to include a study of Capital and The Communist Manifesto, and assignments that applied Marxism to the Negro problem in the U.S., was the first of its kind at Atlanta University, and one of the first to be taught in the U.S. academy. He insisted that the radical economist Abram Harris (who himself had just completed a new interpretation of Marx) rush him a list of works “which the perfect Marxian must know.” Most of Harris’s recommendations, including History of Economic Doctrines by Charles Gide and Charles Rist and The Essentials of Marx by Algernon Lee, ended up as required readings for the Marx course. Du Bois also assembled a classroom library on socialism and communism, which was “probably at the time the best in the South.” For “The Economic History of the Negro,” he used The Black Worker, co-authored by Harris and Sterling D. Spero, as the primary textbook.9 Later, Du Bois suspected that these courses, especially the Marx course, “eventually stirred up opposition” against him. Foreshadowing the more intense antiradicalism and red-baiting to come, Spelman President Florence Read attempted to keep out his “radical influence” by delaying his full appointment to Atlanta University’s faculty and stymieing his attempts to start Phylon.10

To complete Black Reconstruction, Du Bois enlisted the help of several Howard University radicals, including Emmett Dorsey, E. Franklin Frazier, and of course, Abram Harris.11 According to lifelong radical Doxey Wilkerson, who became one of Du Bois’s confidantes as he moved leftward, the “Marxist coterie” at Howard in the 1930s included himself, Abram Harris, Dorothy and Ralph Bunche, Sterling Brown, and Eugene Holmes. Black communist leader James Jackson referred to this group as the “Red Top Roundtable,” which included those mentioned by Wilkerson, as well Dorsey (known as “Sam”) and Frazier.12 While they helped Du Bois check facts and gather data, they all participated in the second Amenia Conference on a New Programme for the Negro, held August 18-21, 1933. The conference, which Du Bois principally organized, aimed to bring together young thought leaders to have a frank discussion about the status of the American Negro, and to innovate a plan suited to the improvement of the Black condition in the 1930s. The proposed discussion topics—the weakness and accomplishments of old programs, the possibilities and pitfalls of organized business, liberal reform, socialism, and communism, voluntary and involuntary segregation and nationalism, the relation of American Negroes to those in Africa, the Caribbean, and South America, the possibilities of revolt and revolution—reflected Du Bois’s increasingly radical and internationalist leanings.13 Thirty-three students, writers, and teachers attended the conference and critically examined and evaluated “the Negro’s existing situation in the changing and world scene” and considered “underlying principles for future actions.” They suggested that an interracial partnership of labor unionists taking the lead in political and economic life. They also urged Blacks to unite across “seeming class differences” to ameliorate conditions of economic dispossession that pervaded Black existence.14 The centering of workers, the emphasis on resolving economic conditions, and the critique of extant welfare organizations was a sign of the times, as the ravages of the Great Depression had resulted in a world-wide political shift to the left.

The criticism of the extant labor movement’s anti-black and elitist methods of organizing, particularly its policy of securing employment and wage increases primarily for highly skilled whites, was consonant with Du Bois’s criticism of the failure of integrationist efforts, and his promotion of all-black cooperatives to secure Black economic betterment. As Miller had noted condescendingly, Du Bois put all of his hope and faith in “co-operation, chiefly consumers,’ partly producers,’ carried on within the Negro race through segregated activities, partly forced and partly voluntary, and calculated to train the Negros as socialistic citizens of whatever new state comes out of this depression.” This economic “protective separatism” demanded the leadership of young educated men and women who were not “selfish and stupid exploiters,” and Black business leaders retrained along socialist lines to strive for industrial democracy and not the profit motive.15 Moreover, the conference’s condemnation of fascism and rejection of communism was consonant with Du Bois’s politics of the moment. Participants resolved, “The conference is opposed to fascism because it would crystalize the Negro’s position at the bottom of the social structure. Communism is impossible without a fundamental transformation in the psychology and attitude of white workers on the race question and a change the Negro’s conception of himself as a worker…”16 In “Statement on the Negro Problem,” Du Bois likewise held that each race was entitled to “find a national centre for [its] highest hopes”; that Black folk had the right to earn a living and to develop themselves to their “highest capabilities”; and that Blacks should have an equal representation in the government and equal share in New Deal appropriations.17 He had reached this conclusion as early as 1926 after his trip to the Soviet Union. Reflecting on that visit he wrote, “I saw clearly, when I left Russia, that our American Negro belief that the right to vote would give us work and decent wage… and that our poverty was not our fault but our misfortune, the result and aim of our segregation and color caste; that the solution of letting a few of our capitalists share with whites in the exploitation of our masses, would never be a solution of our problem…” He did not, however, believe that “extreme communism” of the Soviet or the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA) variety was adequate to address the unique plight of Blacks, not least because he deplored violent revolution. He believed the latter was suicidal at best for Black folk. Du Bois implored that the best course of action for his race was not to lead any armed insurgency, but to wait watchfully, assess the situation, and carefully prepare for struggle—much like his Black Reconstruction portrayal of the enslaved Africans who took up arms during the Civil War.18

In 1934, Du Bois’s increasing inclination toward autonomous cooperative economic development caused him to part ways with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for the first time. Since its inception, The Crisis had been financially independent from the NAACP, which allowed it to function as a periodical dedicated to radical reform, despite the conservative and capitalist bent of the NAACP executive board. However, when the Depression hit it was unable to sustain itself, so in 1932 it became a “traditional organ” of the Association to stay afloat financially. This inevitably led to increased scrutiny and vehement disapproval of Du Bois’s argument that pervasive anti-blackness in the United States required Black folks in the U.S and beyond to organize and work in unison to build and sustain their own institutions.19 In writings including the “The Right to Work,” “Does the Negro Need Separate Schools?” “A Negro Nation Within a Nation,” and “Social Planning for the Negro, Past and Present,” Du Bois urged Blacks to plan a separate economy in the spirit of survival, self-preservation, and sustainable struggle.20 Such espousal of “socialism as a racial program” and self-determination through pragmatic segregation was antithetical to the NAACP program and inaugurated an untenable dispute with Walter White and the executive board. Du Bois’s criticism of White’s tepid and uniformed explanation of the NAACP’s stance on segregation resulted in the Board voting on May 21, 1934 that no salaried officer of the Association could criticize “the policy, work, or officers” in The Crisis. Given this curtailment of intellectual freedom, Du Bois felt his only option was to resign, which he did officially on June 26, 1934. This dispute was a harbinger for Du Bois’s ouster from the NAACP in 1948 because of his criticism of White’s capitulation to the Truman administration, and his own support for Henry A. Wallace’s presidential bid.21

The May 1935 publication of the carefully researched and copiously revised Black Reconstruction—on which Du Bois had been laboring diligently since 1931—was the crowning achievement of this era.22 In it, he offered up the following radical thesis:

Under extraordinary difficulties, a group of black men, trained in slavery and ignorance, emancipated without land or capital, misled, cheated and despised by thousands of their white fellows, became by the help of other whites and by their own efforts, 12,000,000 Americans with a degree of intelligence and efficiency that gives them the right to stand as average working people comparable with those of any modern white nation; and that thus they are forerunners of the uplift of the majority of mankind; and their complete emancipation means the complete emancipation of the working classes of the world. Unless, moreover, American Negroes succeed in the United States, the masses of the modern world cannot succeed in their effort to emerge into real manhood.

The tome aimed not only to craft a comprehensive, critical, and truthful study of the Civil War and Reconstruction, but also to develop a science of history that “arraigned” extant American historical practice. Such a science would combat white historians’ tendency to document only what they wished to remember, to defend the racism of the South, and to erase slavery from the history of the United States. It would also refute popular academic myths, including that the South did not really support slavery and was actually moving toward emancipation at the time of the Civil War, and that slavery was an insignificant period in American history that could be omitted and forgotten. In effect, Black Reconstruction single-handedly challenged the “Dunning school,” which construed Reconstruction as a miscarriage of justice and an abdication of democracy, with its rampant corruption and mismanagement. In this rendering, Andrew Johnson and the Ku Klux Klan rightfully wrested control from carpetbaggers, scalawags, and freedmen, who colluded to put inferior and childlike Blacks into power. Such interpretation provided ideological fodder for segregation and anti-black violence.23 Rather than emphasize the indolence, criminality, shiftlessness, sickness, and dependence of the formerly enslaved, Du Bois’s narrative illuminated that, against all odds, this group raised crops, cultivated land, accumulated property, voted, made laws, helped to bring democracy to white and Black folk alike, and helped to establish a robust public school system. In this way, his analysis of the effects of the war and emancipation on the nation decentered whiteness and vivified the struggles and efforts of freedmen. He thus denuded the “fairy tales” parading as histories of Reconstruction.24

Some speculate that this leftist exegesis and investigation got Du Bois blacklisted from subsequent race projects, namely An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy. Wilkerson, who first met Du Bois when he was working on the Carnegie Corporation funded study, explained: “Myrdal and I broke ideologically largely on an idealist versus a materialist approach to interpretation of history. Black Reconstruction is not the kind of interpretation Myrdal was writing.” Myrdal attributed Southern racism to “the attitudes of people” even though, as a socialist, he “knew better”;25 by contrast, Du Bois employed a materialist analysis to explicate the unfolding of Reconstruction and to elucidate the economic imperatives of its racist rollback. As such, Black Reconstruction made numerous contributions to radical scholarship. His original insights inaugurated an epistemologically revolutionary narrative that animated his own politics and activism for years to come: that ordinary Black toilers were in fact the agents of freedom and progress.26

Peace Activism and the Tradition of Radical Blackness

The tradition of radical Blackness describes Black communist, socialist, and leftist analyses of the structural and material conditions of local, national, and global Blackness, and efforts to imagine and bring into being liberating possibilities for all oppressed people. It centers critical political economy analysis, attends to intra-racial class conflict and antagonism, theorizes the international character of Blackness as a special condition of surplus value extraction, and strives for the eventual overthrow of capitalism. As such, it is distinct from Cedric Robinson’s Black radical tradition, which emphasizes racial-cultural challenges to international racial oppression.27 Black Communist leader James W. Ford’s 1929 report to the Second World Congress of the League Against Imperialism is a brilliantly enunciates the tradition of radical Blackness. He insisted that the extant stage of capitalist development was constituted by the “imperialist oppression of the Negro peoples of the world.” This oppression included the consolidation of Africa’s partition and the “complete enslavement of its people;” the arresting of industrialization, which hindered the development of the “toiling masses;” and the relegation of the Continent to a source of raw material, a market for European goods, and a dumping ground for accumulated surplus capital. In the United States, Blacks suffered an intensification of exploitation by “white big business” and the “rising Negro bourgeoisie” that supported the subjection of the Black working class. The exacerbation of these conditions by rigid racial barriers, disenfranchisement, and lynching gave Black exploitation its special character: super exploitation. The West Indies, subjected to U.S. militarism and occupation, was largely transformed into a marketplace for American goods. Moreover, throughout Africa, the U.S. South, and the Caribbean, the ruling class impressed Black workers into forced labor, laying railroads, building roads and bridges, working in mines, entrapped on plantations through peonage, and subjected to convict leasing. They suffered intolerable working conditions and routinized violence.28 Claudia Jones, another eminent Black communist theorist, made the related argument that the exploitation of Black folks in the United States was national in character: “We know that the semi-slavery of the Southern sharecroppers; the inferior status of the Negro people in industry, North and South… the Jim Crow practices of New York and Chicago, as well as Birmingham and Tampa… all can be traced back step by step to the continued existence of an oppressed Negro nation within our border.”29 As such, contended another comrade, Harry Haywood, “Beyond all doubt, the oppression of the Negro, which is the basis of the degradation of the ‘poor whites,’ is of separate character demanding a special approach.”30

The tradition of Radical Blackness, informed by and engaged with real world struggles, encompasses African descendants’ multivalent and persistent anti-systemic and counterhegemonic challenges to political economies and legitimating discourses that sustain racialized and gendered exploitation, exclusion, dispossession, and class-based domination. It is often routed through or enunciated from within the United States given the latter’s importance to the development of the capitalist world-economy since the seventeenth century, rise to global hegemony after World War II, histories of anti-black terror rooted in capitalist imperialism, and endemic antiradical liberal statist pedagogy. Here, the theorization of “triple exploitation” by a number of radical Black women is instructive. In 1936, Louise Thompson offered one of the earliest articulations, explaining that Black women were oppressed based on their gender, race, and relationship to the mode of production. Marvel Cooke and Ella Baker published an article that year in which they studied this form of super exploitation as it related to Black domestic workers. Cooke and Baker explained that the nexus of Blackness, gender, poverty, and structural lack exacerbated by the Great Depression forced domestic workers to pauperize their labor in the “Bronx slave market” for the abysmal wage of less than thirty cents an hour. As well, Black domestics were socially degraded by white, often Jewish, women who became a “new employer class [of]… lower middle-class housewi[ves], who, having dreamed of the luxury of a maid, found opportunity staring [them] in the face in the form of Negro women pressed to the wall by poverty, starvation, and discrimination.”31 In 1940, Esther V. Cooper took on triple exploitation from a different angle in her Master’s thesis. She advanced the idea that organizing and unionizing Black domestics was essential to socialist revolution because they were one of the most exploited groups in the labor force. False and anti-black assumptions that this class of workers was “unorganizable,” she contended, increased their vulnerability and revealed their social stigma.32 Jones also analyzed how the relationship of Black women to the mode of production, the labor market, and the capitalist social relations reduced them to absolute other. In 1948, she pointed out to her comrades that U.S. Black women were a significant portion of wage earners, with many of them being heads of household. Reactionary capitalist forces waged a campaign to push them out of the industrial sector to reduce them to service jobs with low wages. Thus, it was the duty of radical forces to make inroads in women’s organizing to protect their tenuous economic advances.33 In a 1949 article entitled, “An End to the Neglect of the Problems of Negro Women!” Jones concluded that the empowerment of Black women should be prioritized because, given their special form of subjection, they were the most militant and therefore the most essential to Negro liberation as one aspect of world revolution; and her Blackness that made her a prime target of the U.S. government cahllegne the civil righs lip-service cry of his reactisociasoNegrNenn. Through their activism, journalism, and theorizing, this cadre of radical Black women underscored the conjuncture of racialization, bourgeois forms of exclusion, and the sexist and patriarchal character of labor exploitation.

Much of Du Bois’s scholarship on the relationship between white supremacy, Western imperialism, and the colonization of the “colored” world was consonant with these positions. Like Jones, Du Bois had argued that Black Americans were a “nation within a nation.” In 1935, for example, he wrote that white people dispossessed Black folk economically, politically, socially, and educationally, and had little interest in ensuring the latter’s survival or future if it entailed freedom, self-determination, and equality. The only path to empowerment, he advised, was through, “a concentration of inner Negro forces—a group movement among Negroes, particularly along economic lines, involving increased racial separation and voluntary segregation, taking advantage of every single point that will increase group loyalty…”34 As well, in “The African Roots of War” (1915) and “The Realities in Africa: European Profit or Negro Development” (1943), he highlighted that, while fighting Germany in each of the World Wars, the imperial powers continued to undermine the self-determination of Africans through their colonial-capitalist plunder. He further developed the inextricability of colonialism, racialized oppression, and capitalist warmongering in subsequent writings, including “Imperialism, United Nations, and Colonial People” (1944), Color and Democracy: Peace and the Colonies (1945), “The Rape of Africa” (1956), and “Africa and World Peace” (1960). Additionally, in a 1949 unpublished essay entitled, “The American Negro Woman,” Du Bois attempted to outline the importance of Black women, given their unique structural and material conditions, to proletarian struggle and to the potential resolution of working class exploitation. He explained that the Black woman’s role as worker, head of household, and leader in cultural development had been essential to the progression of American culture. Whereas in previous writings, such as “The Woman in Black” (1913) and “The Freedom of Womanhood” in The Gift of Black Folk (1924), he emphasized Black women’s spiritual strength and the idealism of Black womanhood, in “The American Woman in Black” he opined that their position provided the key to resolving the central problem of the “woman question”—economic dependence.35

Throughout the mid-1940s and 1950s, Du Bois recognized that the United States was increasing war expenditures, training young men “for murder,” jailing peace proponents, barring foreign peace advocates from entering the country, and overshadowing peace conferences held in Paris, Rome, Bombay, and Prague with the threat of nuclear war. Consequently, his peace activism after WWII brought together all of his critiques of U.S. domestic and foreign policy. For him, peace meant the end of imperialism, the achievement of self-determination, the eradication of apartheid and Jim Crow segregation, gender equality, the end of anticommunist repression, and “decent and humane” material and social conditions for all. He analyzed the inextricability of seemingly disparate forms of U.S. aggression, including the oppression and hyper-incarceration of U.S. Black folks, denial of human rights to oppressed throughout the world, intervention in the Korean Civil War, exclusion of China from the United Nations, occupation of the Philippines, and violent slander of the Soviet Union and communism as the source of all international problems.36 In doing so, he underscored the linkages between racialization, imperialism, anticommunism, and war. In 1950, he ran for the New York seat of the United States Senate to amplify his peace activism. Significantly, he was the first Black person from New York to run for this office. With the motto “peace and civil rights,” he became the candidate of the American Labor Party because they were “the only recognized political party in New York that st[ood] unequivocally for Peace and world conference to end war; [and] for the overthrow of McCarthyism, the witch hunts, and race prejudice.”37 Though he did not expect to win, he seized the opportunity to “talk freely,” and without the threat of imprisonment, about peace. In his platform he took a stand against war, McCarthyite slavery, the influence of finance capital on governance, and demanded civil liberties for the masses of workers.38 During his rigorous speaking tour, he castigated the repressive Cold War climate, the McCarran Bill—what he called the “Fugitive Slave Law of 1950”—big business, the military state, the Korean War, and continued colonialism in Africa and Asia. Additionally, he linked the threat of World War III to the continued subjection of radicals to red-baiting, “witch-hunts, loyalty purges, contempt frame-ups and inquisitions.” In other words, he argued that capitalist exploitation, the negation of civil rights, imperialism, colonialism, and antiradicalism were antithetical to a durable peace.39

Along with running for the Senate, Du Bois founded the PIC with a cadre of progressives on April 3, 1950 to spread knowledge about the peace movement that was bourgeoning across the world, and to promote friendship and cooperation between nations. Unfortunately, it was only in existence until October 12 due to unrelenting surveillance and investigation. Members of the PIC went on speaking tours to raise funds and to cultivate a network of support. They collaborated with and spoke before a host of leftwing organizations, including the American Labor Party, the Furriers Union, the Progressive Party of Los Angeles, the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship, and the CRC.40 They distributed a bi-weekly periodical called Peacegram to furnish facts about councils, activities, demonstrations, and petitions that were challenging the threat of war. They also published leaflets including The People of the World Want Peace and The Negro People Speak of Peace to provide an alternative narrative to the rampant war propaganda of the U.S. government. Most importantly, they helped to circulate the Stockholm Peace Appeal, also known as the “ban the bomb petition.” The document emerged in March 1950 out of a worldwide consensus that called for the outlawing of atomic weapons, international controls to enforce the measures, and the treatment of any country that used atomic bombs as war criminals that had committed crimes against humanity.41 Wilkerson noted, “The Peace petitions and declarations circulated by the Peace Information Center ‘caught on’ in a big way among the people of our country. They helped give rise here to a powerful upsurge for peace… Dr. Du Bois and his associates are bright symbols of the widespread opposition of the U.S. people to the war drive of the Truman administration.”42

The Cold War state considered such candor about and commitment to world peace un-American and illegal. On February 16, 1951, Du Bois and his PIC comrades Sylvia Soloff, Kyrle Elkin, Elizabeth Moos, and Abbott Simon were indicted under the Foreign Agent Registration Act of 1938 for operating as “unregistered foreign agents” and for failing to register the PIC.43 U.S. v. Peace Information Center, et al. proceeded in November 1951. The government called as its star witness O. John Rogge, a former Assistant Attorney General and founding member of the Peace Information Center. Interestingly, it was Rogge who had invited Du Bois to a Cultural and Scientific Conference for World Peace that aimed to better U.S.-Soviet relations, and it was Rogge’s home that had served as the meeting place for the P.I.C.’s formation.44 In his testimony, he claimed that the objective of the P.I.C. was not peace, but rather to enact the Soviet Union’s foreign policy. He also argued that the purpose of the World Committee of the Defenders of Peace, for which the P.I.C. was ostensibly an agent, was to focus international attention on the American use of the atomic bomb to distract the world from Soviet aggression in Korea.45 The prosecution also tried to use “parallelism” to convict the defendants. As Bernard Jaffe, one of the defense lawyers explained, “You established the evil of Communism; once you established that evil of Communism anyone who parallels the principles which are espoused by that evil spirit are themselves guilty. At the time the Du Bois prosecution took place, it was not an outlandish theory, and it had never before been rejected by a court during that period.”46 Though parallelism was one of the primary techniques used in anticommunist hearings, its use was rejected for perhaps the first time in the PIC trial. Since the prosecution was “[d]eprived of the use of parallelism, unable to confuse the issues with redbaiting” the PIC was acquitted of all charges on November 20, 1951.47

Despite the indignity, harassment, slanderous publicity, and cloud of criminality that continued to overshadow this prolific freedom fighter, Du Bois remained an unrelenting proponent of peace. In a 1953 television appearance with leftist lawyer and Congressman Vito Marcantonio, he reasoned that the use of fear by “powerful interests in the United States” to rationalize armament and aggression had particularly detrimental consequences on the racialized, the colonized, and the working class. Through perpetual war, the ruling class extracted cheap land and labor from Africa, Asia, Russia, and the Balkans; weaken organized labor power in the U.S. and Europe to increase private profit; and continue corporate control in Latin America and the Caribbean. He enjoined, “Cease fire now. Bring back our troops… dismantle our costly forts that encircle the world. Stop our aid to empires trying to conquer colonial peoples struggle desperately to be free…. Cut our impossible tax burden, house our people, educate our children and declare a world policy of peace on earth, goodwill toward men.”48 Given its dogged pursuit of a future free from racialized imperialist capitalist exploitation, and its subjection to vicious anti-black and antiradical repression, Du Bois’s peace offensive is the apotheosis of the tradition of radical Blackness.

Shirley Graham Du Bois and Mutual Comradeship

In a letter dated May 31, 1964, Shirley Graham Du Bois excoriated her longtime comrade Esther V. Cooper Jackson. First, Cooper Jackson and the Du Bois Memorial Committee had neglected to read a message W.E.B. Du Bois had specifically prepared for his funeral service in the United States shortly before his death. Graham Du Bois attributed the omission to bald cowardice. She insisted that to callously disregard “HIS VOICE FROM THE GRAVE [that was] once more calling on the America which he loved and had served to rise up in its strength and beauty to meet the challenge and go forward” was both politically and ethically bankrupt. She roundly condemned those who “dare[d] to whittle THIS GIANT down to their puny proportions” by offering an anemic rendering of Du Bois’s “far more eloquen[t], far more powerfu[l], far more clea[r], and far more authoritativ[e]” words. Second, the proposed contents of the memorial issue the Freedomways editors were planning in tribute to the late Doctor incensed Graham Du Bois. Her outrage centered on what she perceived to be an attempt to “rehabilitate” his image to conform with American bourgeois respectability politics. She detested the suggestion that the reactionary Roy Wilkins write about Du Bois as the founder of the Crisis insofar as, “THERE IS [NO] PERSON IN THE WORLD WHO WANTS TO READ ROY WILKINS ON ANY PHASE OF W.E.B. DU BOIS.” She rejected the inclusion of Rufus Clement, whose unceremonious retirement of Du Bois from Atlanta University for old age was not only a personal attack on her husband, but also a more general assault on Black study. She repudiated any contribution from the alleged informant Hugh Smythe, who she claimed was, “known throughout Africa as a clever CIA agent.” She strongly disapproved of Langston Hughes, who had disavowed his earlier radicalism by dropping Du Bois from every book he wrote for young people, and was equally dismissive of political moderates including Rayford Logan, Sterling Brown, and Peter Abrahams. Graham Du Bois enjoined, “W.E.B. Du Bois belongs to the ages! If this generation of Americans cannot accept him as he is—do not try to gild his image for them. He doesn’t need articles written about him by pigmies.”49

The above reprimand, with its demand of solidarity, critique of political and intellectual liberalism, and expectation of truthful representation, was a quintessential articulation of comradeship. In “Four Theses of the Comrade,” Jodi Dean argues that comradeship “points to a relation, a set of expectations for action.” It is not an identity, she asserts, but an articulation of “the sameness of those who share a politics, a common horizon of political action.” In addition to a unity in political beliefs, it is a commitment to common practice: “Comradeship binds action and in this binding works toward a certain future.” Instead of divisive particularities, comradeship emphasizes the correspondences that make organized struggle possible.50 Most importantly, “Comradeship isn’t personal. It’s political.”51 To the latter point, Graham’s indignation at the memorial committee’s exclusion of Du Bois’s words was not personal; rather, her concern was political. She considered it a missed opportunity to share an important message about struggle with those who were continuing Du Bois’s fight against U.S. statist and imperial domination. To replace his insurgent instruction with paltry platitudes amounted to a dereliction of duty.

For Dean, there are four main theses of the comrade. First, comradeship is characterized by sameness, equality, and solidarity predicated on the eschewal of the determinants of capitalist society. Second, anyone but not everyone can be a comrade; the work of building socialism, not identity, is paramount. Third, the individual is anathema to the comrade insofar as the latter challenges differentiations that reproduce hierarchy and undermine egalitarianism. Comradeship requires an interchangeability based on a common political direction. Finally, comradeship as relationality requires the practice of truth. Stated another way, comrades are united through struggle for a political truth that must materialize in the world to bring about the commonly held vision of the future.52 In this vein, Graham Du Bois had no patience for the inclusion of anticommunists (Roy Wilkins), stoolpigeons (Hugh Smythe), and intellectual McCarthyists (Langston Hughes), which amounted to capitulation to Cold War liberalism.53 Whether or not her accusations were accurate, she was nonetheless attempting to protect Du Bois’s counterhegemonic oeuvre from the distortion and misrepresentation of a “generation of Americans” inhered in “the determinants of capitalist society.” Relatedly, her exhortation that “Du Bois belongs to the ages!” was an insistence that his contributions be truthfully represented by and for persons committed to Black liberation, and safeguarded from Negro reformism. Thus, Graham Du Bois’s defense of her late husband’s legacy was a paradigmatic act of comradeship.

Insofar as “Four Theses of the Comrade” offers a catholic rendering of comradeship, mutual comradeship departs from this characterization in two important ways. First, Dean posits that to account for race, ethnicity, and nationality “degenerate[s]” the political function of the comrade by undermining its generic quality. Comradeship thereby becomes “mistaken for a relation supposed to benefit an individual, and… equated with relations mediated by the state.”54 By contrast, mutual comradeship as a political commitment necessarily prioritizes the racialized, colonized, and oppressed to expose statist imposition, not least because, historically, white supremacy compounded the effects of imperialism, colonialism, capitalist exploitation, and antiradical repression. For Frantz Fanon, “The cause is effect: You are rich because you are white, you are white because you are rich. This is why a Marxist analysis should always be slightly stretched when it comes to addressing the colonial issue.”55 Similarly, mutual comradeship necessarily retrofits the specifications of the comrade to the politics of the tradition of radical Blackness, triaging the racialized realities of domination, exploitation, and exclusion.

In particular, mutual comradeship as a method of combating Cold War repression required attention to race, ethnicity, and nationality. Radical Black journalist and activist Charlotta Bass wrote in 1945 that the State Un-American Activities Committee in Los Angeles was as racist as it was antiradical. She assessed, “It appeared that the committee was in search of people who fought discrimination and segregation… [They] were called, not exactly to testify but to have their thoughts ‘controlled’ and themselves and their political character crucified by this pro-Fascist Committee.”56 James Ford made a related argument in a letter to Du Bois written on July 11, 1952, noting that he and Esther V. Cooper Jackson were organizing a “counter-attack” against Smith Act repression of “progressive minded people,” since this state violence was “directed indiscriminately against Negro leaders.”57 On December 9 of that year, Reverend Edward D. McGowan, Co-chair of the NCDNL, explained that the intent to oppress radical Black leaders as the first step to suppressing the liberties of Black people more broadly drove the “thought-control Smith Act”.58 The “Statement for Amnesty for Benjamin J. Davis” acknowledged that, “The Negro People are the greatest sufferers under [the Smith] Act, as it prevents militant leaders protesting any abuses inflicted upon the Race.”59 Likewise, a document entitled, “An Appeal in Defense of Negro Leadership” listed numerous Black leaders that had been persecuted or murdered because their Blackness exacerbated their communism, radicalism, and/or militancy. The list included Du Bois, Bass, Paul Robeson, Alphaeus Hunton, Claudia Jones, William Patterson, and Mary McLeod Bethune. The federal government denied these leaders passports for international travel; slandered as “subversives” by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC); arrested, indicted, and convicted under the Smith Act; cited for contempt of court for refusing to “name names”; denied citizenship if foreign-born; and threatened with or subjected to Ku Klux Klan violence. They were targeted not least for their involvement in leftwing organizations that championed the rights of the racialized and colonized, like the CAA, CRC, the National Negro Labor Council (NNLC) and the Sojourners for Truth and Justice (STJ). Government authorities even targeted those persons who belonged to more moderate organizations, like the NAACP and the National Council of Negro Women, especially if they sympathized or associated with interracial or Black radical organizations that prioritized rights and equality for Black folk. The Appeal expounded,

Things have reached such a state in our country that almost any Negro leader who dares to fight hard for Negro rights is headed for trouble with the law, with ‘public opinion,’ or with hoodlum assassins… They are labeled ‘subversive,’ or ‘communistic,’ or ‘undesirable aliens,’ or ‘dangerous trouble-makers’… These growing attacks against Negro leaders are really directed against Negro citizens as a whole. They are designed to frighten off our leaders and curb the mounting struggles of the masses of our people against the rising tide of ‘white supremacy’ during these years of war hysteria—especially since our country has been waging war against the colored peoples of China and Korea, and helping imperialist governments suppress the liberation struggles of other colored peoples in Asia and Africa… Moreover, it is no accident that those Negro leaders singled out for attach are precisely the ones who fight hardest to establish the dignity and full citizenship of the masses of our people.60

As these documents show, the racialized nature of violence, intimidation, government oppression, and imperialism required close attention to race, ethnicity, and nationality. Rather than undermining or degenerating the political efficacy of comradeship, such attention provided deeper analysis, stronger commitment, and more militant care for those at the conjuncture of anti-blackness and antiradicalism.

Second, while “Four Theses of the Comrade” conceptualizes comradeship as a political relation, mutual comradeship is also an ethical practice rooted in the tradition of radical Blackness. Here, “ethical practice” describes cooperative social activity based on shared values, a common conception of “social good,” and mutual political goals. Expectations and standards are set and maintained through consistent participation in a variety of interactions, including conversation, debate, organizing, institution building, and political struggle. Ethical practice is dependent upon justice and honesty to ensure equal treatment among comrades. Importantly, it also demands courage—the willingness to place one’s self at risk for the betterment of others—to cultivate reciprocal care and concern.61 Mutual comradeship as an ethical practice included protection from and defense against state repression; dedication of time and other resources to leftwing causes; mutual support for radical organizations, institutions, and periodicals; and the provision of jobs and income for persons whose politics deemed them undesirable as employees. It also required concern for and responsibility to all stigmatized groups—including Blacks, Jews, workers, immigrants, and Communists—given their linked fates. The mutual comradeship of Doxey Wilkerson and W.E.B. Du Bois throughout 1947 evidenced such practice. After hiring Du Bois in January to make a weekly contribution to The People’s Voice at $30 per column, on March 12, Wilkerson invited him to wield his expertise and influence by writing a statement about Secretary of Labor Lewis B. Schwellenbach’s proposal to make the Communist Party illegal. This piece was important because this anticommunist attack had negative implications for other minoritized groups: “It is apparent that this proposal is right in the Hitler tradition—first ban the Communist, then destroy the unions, then oppress and annihilate minority groups. It is clear to us that an emerging American fascism would use the negroes much as Hitler used the Jews.”62 When the magazine was slow in remunerating Du Bois for his work, Wilkerson made sure that he was paid.63 In turn, Du Bois recommended that Wilkerson, along with Shirley Graham Du Bois, Paul Robeson, and other notable radicals, be invited to the formal presentation of An Appeal to the World to the United Nations on October 23. And, on December 12, Wilkerson invited Du Bois to address the JSSS’s Fourth Annual Dinner, as the Board of Trustees had been “very eager to present [him] at one of [their] public forums.”64 Over the next two decades these activist-intellectuals continued their close collaboration in leftwing organizations including the CAA, CRC, Committee for Cooperation with the New South, and JSSS.

Du Bois’s second wife was one of his most important comrades. For more than thirty years, this “two-person united front” worked together to promote Black liberation, socialism, peace, and other left-wing causes, and to endure the surveillance, red-baiting, ostracism, and marginalization wrought by pervasive antiradicalism in the United States.65 Du Bois afforded Graham unstinting assistance, advancement, and appeasement in the early phase of their relationship. She sought his advice, solicited his approval, and secured his support on a multitude of issues, ranging from writing to work.66 He regularly advised her on employment; recommended her for prestigious positions; loaned her money; utilized his extensive networks to obtain information for her; helped her get published; took her to important events; and served as her mentor and confidant.67 In later years, as he moved precipitously to the left, his efforts were returned manifold as she became his most ardent advocate. In fact, persons who were well acquainted with Graham, like John Henrik Clarke, and persons who had a protracted relationship with Du Bois, like Ethel Ray Nance, charged that she was responsible for his radicalization, not least because she surrounded him with progressives, leftists, and outright communists.68 According to their inner circle, she had a profound impact on both his politics and his protection; comrades including Alice Childress, Ana Livia Cordero, and Esther V. Cooper Jackson contended that Graham “mothered” him, defended him, and assured that he still earned income and lived comfortably despite the backlash that accompanied his radicalism.69

In 1948, for example, she headed the “Emergency Committee for Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois and the NAACP,” which was organized to challenge his ouster on December 31 of that year. The reason for his termination was unclear; the NAACP claimed it was for unsanctioned political activity; an FBI confidential informant claimed it was “for urging the Wallace line too strongly;” and Graham claimed it was for his criticism of Walter White’s obsequiousness to the Truman administration, which Du Bois argued affiliated the NAACP with “the reactionary war mongering colonial imperialism of the present administration.”70 Each of these explanations betray that the NAACP fired him for his radical politics. Graham fumed that the NAACP had been hostile to Du Bois since he returned in 1944. That year, acting as a representative of the organization at a State Department meeting, he had made his leftist anticolonial and anti-imperial politics blatant in his critique of the Dumbarton Oaks proposal. He admonished, “I am depressed to realize with what consistency the matter of colonies has been passed over… this proposal, as I read it, virtually says to six hundred million human beings, if not to the majority of mankind, that the only way to human equality is the philanthropy of masters who have historic and strong interest in preserving their present power and income.” The longer statement, which he shared in a subsequent speech that year, included an even more explicit condemnation of imperialism, colonialism, capitalist exploitation, and war:

In the past and the recent past we know how the lure of profit from the rich, unlettered and helpless countries has tempted great and civilized nations and plunged them into bloody rivalry. We know what part colonial aggression has played in this present world disaster. We know that capital investment can earn more in Africa, Asia and the South Seas… If this situation is not frankly faced and steps toward remedy attempted… we shall leave the door wide open for renewed international rivalry to secure colonies and eventually and inevitably for colonial revolt.71

In an article for Masses & Mainstream, Graham Du Bois lambasted the NAACP for betraying “Negroes all over the world by treating so contemptuously the one man who has been our foremost spokesman, our most immanent statesman for half a century.”72 Du Bois’s unceremonious dismissal, as she understood it, was not merely a personal insult; it was an attack on the Black left and an egregious disservice to Black folk generally.

In 1951, Graham Du Bois was again at the forefront of her new husband’s defense.73 She set aside her extensive travel to mobilize for the exoneration of the PIC leadership. Such activism was not only for her comrades’ freedom, but also for that of all Americans, and for the common political horizon of the peace movement. As one announcement reasoned, “The Government asked the Peace Information Center to register as an agent of a foreign principal... Of course, they refused. They were agents only of the American people… The trial is immanent. The peace movement will not be strengthened if a conviction is obtained by the Government. This issue is not for ‘tomorrow’s’ agenda. It’s for NOW these people are US.”74 She helped to organize the “Committee to Defend W.E.B. Du Bois and Associates in the Peace Information Center,” was an initiating member of STJ, and was active in CRC, all of which agitated extensively on his behalf.75 In their Pamphlet, “A Call to Negro Women,” for example, STJ demanded that the government prove its loyalty to Black citizens by “dropping all persecution and prosecution of our great leaders, that they may be free to carry on the fight for the full freedom of our people unhampered.” Du Bois was clearly considered to be among the “great leaders,” because during their march on Washington from September 29-October 1, 1951, these radical paragons explicitly called for his release.76 In the final analysis, Graham Du Bois’s vehement objections to her husband’s posthumous representation in the memorial issue of Freedomways was bound up in political concern and an ethics of care. The couple’s mutual comradeship provided a durable scaffolding for their radicalism and resistance to repression.


Throughout the 1930s, Du Bois underwent a steady process of radicalization, becoming ever more dedicated to the liberation of all persons subjected to racism, class exploitation, colonialism, imperialism, gendered domination, and the threat of nuclear war. In response, Cold War counterrevolutionary forces attempted to defame, undercut, erase and criminalize these efforts. This dialectic between radicalism and repression fundamentally shaped his public and personal life as he continued to expand the tradition of radical Blackness through his writing, research, politics, and especially his peace activism. Mutual comradeship with a multitude of leftwing individuals and institutions facilitated, enhanced, and defended his struggles for a better world. His second wife, Shirley Graham Du Bois, was the quintessence of this personal, political, and ethical relationship, holding Du Bois, herself, and their compatriots accountable to each other and to the broader struggle. With this network of leftists, radicals and progressives, the radicalized Du Bois weathered repression and reaction, and remained a committed freedom fighter until his death on August 27, 1963.

1 See e.g., W.E.B Du Bois, The Autobiography of W.E.B. Du Bois: A Soliloquy on Viewing My Life from the Last Decade of Its First Century (International Publishers, 1968); Gerald Horne, Black and Red: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Afro-American Response to the Cold War, 1944-1963 (New York: State University of New Your Press, 1986); and Bill V. Mullen, W.E.B. Du Bois: Revolutionary Across the Color Line (London: Pluto Press, 2016).

2 W.E.B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880 (New York: Antheneum, 1962 [1935]).

3 John Munro, The Anticolonial Front: The African American Freedom Struggle and Global Decolonisation, 1945-1960 (London: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 18-19; Du Bois, Black Reconstruction, 16.

4 For an analysis and contextualization of Du Bois’s move to Ghana, see Herbert Aptheker, “On Du Bois’s Move to Africa,” Monthly Review 45 (1993): 36-40.

5 Eric Foner, “Black Reconstruction: An Introduction,” The South Atlantic Quarterly 112 (2013): 412.

6 On the American Negro Academy, see e.g., “The American Negro Academy organization constitution,” ca. 1900 and “American Negro Academy Membership List,” 1917, W. E. B. Du Bois Papers (MS 312), Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries (subsequently, Du Bois Papers). Also see Alfred A. Moss, Jr., The American Negro Academy: Voices from the Talented Tenth (Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press, 1981) and Nahum Dimitri Chandler, ed. The Problem of the Color Line at the Turn of the Twentieth Century: The Essential Early Essays (New York: Fordham University Press, 2015), 1-32, 99-110. For challenge to Booker T. Washington, see Kelly Miller to W.E.B. Du Bois, February 17, 1903; W.E.B. Du Bois to Kelly Miller, February 25, 1903; W.E.B. Du Bois to Kelly Miller, November 2, 1903; Kelly Miller to W.E.B. Du Bois, November 4, 1903; and Kelly Miller to W.E.B. Du Bois, April 23, 1904, Du Bois papers.

7 Kelly Miller, “The Renunciation of Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, Part II,” January 4, 1938, Du Bois Papers.

8 W.E.B. Du Bois, “As the Crow Flies,” January 1940, Du Bois Papers.

9 Alfred Harcourt to W.E.B. Du Bois, December 2, 1933; W.E.B. Du Bois to Abram Harris, January 6, 1933; “Courses in Atlanta University, Second Semester, 1933”; “Summer School at Atlanta University,” 1933; W.E.B. Du Bois to Joel Spingarn, February 22, 1933; “Memorandum to Dr. Whittaker,” n.d. [1933]; W.E.B. Du Bois to James Whittaker, September 14, 1933; “Library List,” n.d.; Abram Harris to W.E.B. Du Bois, January 7, 1933; “Memorandum to President Hope from W.E.B. Du Bois,” March 9, 1933, Du Bois Papers; Du Bois, Autobiography, 308. Also see Shawn Leigh Alexander, W.E.B. Du Bois: An American Intellectual and Activist (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015), 92-95.

10 Du Bois, Autobiography, 308, 301.

11 W.E.B. Du Bois to E. Franklin Frazier, October 16, 1933; W.E.B. Du Bois to E. Franklin Frazier, October 19, 1933; W.E.B. Du Bois to Abram Harris, December 4, 1933; Emmett E. Dorsey to W.E.B. Du Bois, December 6, 1933; W.E.B. Du Bois to Harold O. Lewis, December 7, 1933; Emmett Dorsey, “Reconstruction Bibliography,” 1933, Du Bois Papers.

12 David Levering Lewis, “Interview with Doxey Wilkerson, Tape #7; “Interview with Esther and James Jackson, Tape #14 and #15,” David Levering Lewis Papers (MS 827), Interview Transcripts, University of Massachusetts Amherst (Subsequently, DLL Papers). Also see Jonathan Scott Holloway, Confronting the Veil: Abram Harris, Jr., E. Franklin Frazier, and Ralph Bunche, 1919-1941 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002).

13 “Members of the Amenia Conference,” 1933; “Second Amenia Conference On a New Programme for the Negro,” January 9, 1933; “Notes on Amenia Conference,” 1933; “Proposed Program of the Amenia Conference,” 1933, Du Bois Papers. Also see Beth Tompkin Bates, “A New Crowd Challenges the Agenda of the Old Guard in the NAACP, 1933-1941,” The American Historical Review 102 (1997): 340-377; Eben Miller, Born Along the Color Line: The 1933 Amenia Conference and the Rise of a National Civil Rights Movement (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012); and Holloway, Confronting the Veil, 1-34.

14 “Second Amenia Conference Press Release,” September 1, 1933, Du Bois Papers.

15 W.E.B. Du Bois to Clarence Senior, September 15, 1932; W.E.B. Du Bois, “The American Federation of Labor and the Negro,” Crisis, July 1929; W.E.B. Du Bois, “Color Caste in the United States,” Crisis, March 1933; Will W. Alexander to W.E.B. Du Bois, December 12, 1933; W.E.B. Du Bois to George Streator, April 17, 1935; “A Tentative Plan Looking Toward Consumers’ and Producers’ Co-Operation Among American Negroes and Negroes the World Over,” February 27, 1936; W.E.B. Du Bois to Edwin R. Embree, February 27, 1936, Du Bois Papers; Gerald Horne, W.E.B. Du Bois: A Biography (Santa Barbara: Greenwood Press, 2010), 132-134.

16 “Second Amenia Conference Press Release,” Du Bois Papers.

17 W.E.B. Du Bois, “Statement of the Negro Problem,” 1933, Du Bois Papers.

18 Du Bois, Autobiography, 290-291; Du Bois to Streator, April 17, 1935, Du Bois Papers.

19 Ibid., 294-296.

20 W.E.B. Du Bois, “The Right to Work,” Crisis, April 1933; “A Negro Nation Within a Nation,” Current History 42 (1935): 265-270; “Does the Negro Need Separate Schools?” Journal of Negro Education 4 (1935): 328-335; “Social Planning for the Negro, Past and Present,” Journal of Negro Education 5 (1936): 110-125.

21 W.E.B. Du Bois to Harry E. Davis, January 16, 1934, Du Bois Papers.

22 W.E.B. Du Bois to Rachel Davis Du Bois, March 27, 1933; W.E.B. Du Bois to Ruthanna Fisher, September 26, 1933; W.E.B. Du Bois to Harold O. Lewis, December 7, 1933; Harcourt Brace & Company to W.E.B. Du Bois, April 17, 1935; W.E.B. Du Bois to Walter White, April 23, 1935; Telegram from W.E.B Du Bois to Harcourt Press, May 28, 1935; W.E.B. Du Bois to Rachel Davis Du Bois, May 29, 1935, Du Bois Papers.

23 Foner, “Black Reconstruction,” 409-410. Also see Clare Parfait, “Rewriting History: The Publication of W.E.B. Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction in America (1935),” Book History 12 (2009): 266-294.

24 W.E.B. Du Bois, “Outline of Black Reconstruction,” October 21, 1931, Du Bois Papers.

25 Lewis, “Doxey Wilkerson, Tape #7”; Ibid., “Interview with Doxey Wilkerson, Tape #A/4,” DLL Papers.

26 Alexander, W.E.B. Du Bois, 95-97; Horne, W.E.B. Du Bois, 133-134

27 Charisse Burden-Stelly, “Cold War Culturalism and African Diaspora Theory: Some Theoretical Sketches,” Souls 19 (2017): 213-237; and Cedric Robinson, Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000), xxx-xxxii.

28 James Ford, “The Negro Question: Report to the IInd World Congress of the League Against Imperialism,” The Negro Worker, August 1929, 1-8.

29 Claudia Jones, “On the Right to Self-Determination for the Negro People in the Black Belt,” Political Affairs, January 1946, 62.

30 Harry Haywood, Negro Liberation, (Chicago: Liberator Press, 1976 [1948]), 46-48.

31 Louise Thompson Patterson, “Toward a Brighter Dawn,” Woman Today, April 1936; Ella Baker and Marvel Cooke, “The Bronx Slave Market,” The Crisis 42, (November 1935). Also see Mary Anderson, “The Plight of Negro Domestic Labor,” The Journal of Negro Education 5 (1936): 66-72.

32 Erik McDuffie, “Esther V. Cooper’s ‘The Negro Woman Domestic Worker in Relation to Trade Unionism’: Black Left Feminism and the Popular Front,” American Communist History 7 (2008): 205.

33 Claudia Jones, “For New Approaches to Our Work Among Women,” Political Affairs 27 (1948): 738-739.

34 W.E.B. Du Bois, “Keeping Blacks and Whites Apart,” February 9, 1935, Du Bois Papers. The published version of this draft appeared in June 1935 as “A Negro Nation within a Nation” in Current History.

35 W.E.B. Du Bois, “The American Negro Woman” (unpublished), ca. 1949, Du Bois Papers.

36 “Statement by Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois,” July 12, 1950, Du Bois Papers.

37 W.E.B. Du Bois, “The American Labor Party,” October 8, 1953, Du Bois Papers.

38 W.E.B. Du Bois, “My Platform,” ca. 1950, Du Bois Papers.

39 Horne, Black and Red, 136-146.

40 “Minutes of Peace Information Center Executive Committee Meeting,” April 18, 1950, Du Bois Papers.

41 Horne, Black and Red, 126.

42 Doxey Wilkerson, “They Are Trying to Sentence Dr. Du Bois to Death,” New York Times, October 19, 1951.

43 New York Daily Mirror, February 10, 1951; Amsterdam News, April 21, 1951. Also see, National Committee to Defend Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois and Associates in the Peace Information Center, “Is peace a crime?,” 1951, Du Bois Papers.

44 Marcus Anthony Hunter and Zandria F Robinson, Chocolate Cities: The Black Map of American Life, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2018), 161.

45 Elizabeth Moos, “Report on W.E.B. Du Bois’s indictment and trial,” Du Bois Papers.

46 David Levering Lewis, “Interview with Bernard Jaffe, Tape #17,” DLL Papers.

47 Moos, “Report on W.E.B. Du Bois’s indictment and trial.”

48 “The Marcantonio-Du Bois television program,” April 3, 1953, Du Bois Papers.

49 Shirley Graham Du Bois to Esther V. Cooper, May 31, 1964; Shirley Graham Du Bois to Bernard Jaffe, December 13, 1964, Bernard Jaffe Papers (MS 906) Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries (subsequently Jaffe Papers); The Editors, “W.E.B. Du Bois—Trailblazer of the Freedomway,” Freedomways 5 (Winter 1965): 5-6. Also see John Henrik Clarke et al., eds., Black Titan W.E.B. Du Bois: An Anthology by the Editors of Freedomways (Boston: Beacon Press, 1970). For responses to this letter, very deferential in tone, see John Henrik Clarke to Shirley Graham Du Bois, June 5, 1964, Box 18 Folder 10 and Esther Cooper Jackson to Shirley Graham Du Bois, June 20, 1964, Box 18 Folder 12, Papers of Shirley Graham Du Bois (MC 476), Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study.

50 Jodi Dean, “Four Theses on the Comrade,” E-flux Journal 86 (2017): 2.

51 Ibid., 11.

52 Ibid., 5-13.

53 See e.g., Kenneth R. Janken, “From Colonial Liberation to Cold War Liberalism: Walter White, the NAACP, and Foreign Affairs,” 1941-1955,” Ethnic and Racial Studies 21 (1998): 1076-1095; Manfred Berg, “Black Civil Rights and Liberal Anticommunism: The NAACP in the Early Cold War Years,” The Journal of American History 94 (2007): 75-96; William A.J. Cobb, Antidote to Revolution: African American Anticommunism and the Struggle for Civil Rights, 1931-1945, (PhD Dissertation, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 2008); and Eric Arnesen, “The Traditions of African American Anticommunism,” Twentieth Century Communism 6 (2014): 124-148.

54 Dean, “Four Theses,” 11.

55 Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, (New York: Grove Press, 2004 [1963]), 5.

56 Charlotta Bass, Forty Years: A Memoirs from the Pages of a Newspaper (Los Angeles: C. A. Bass, 1960), 134.

57 James W. Ford to W.E.B. Du Bois, July 11, 1952, Du Bois Papers.

58 National Committee to Defend Negro Leadership, “Press Release,” December 9, 1952, Du Bois Papers.

59 “Statement for Amnesty for Benjamin J. Davis,” 1952, Du Bois Papers.

60 National Committee to Defend Negro Leadership, “An Appeal in Defense of Negro Leadership,” 1952, Du Bois Papers.

61 David Theo Goldberg, Ethical Theory and Social Issues: Historical Texts and Contemporary Readings, Second Edition (Belmont: Wadsworth Group, 1995), 1-4, 188-189. Also see Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, Second Edition (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984), 204-225.

62 Doxey Wilkerson to W.E.B. Du Bois, March 12, 1947, Du Bois Papers.

63 W.E.B. Du Bois to People’s Voice, April 30, 1947; People’s Voice to W.E.B. Du Bois, May 5, 1947, Du Bois Papers.

64 Memorandum from W.E.B. Du Bois to Walter White, October 20, 1947; Jefferson School of Social Science to W.E.B. Du Bois, December 12, 1947, Du Bois Papers.

65 Gerald Horne and Margaret Stevens, “Shirley Graham Du Bois: Portrait of the Black Woman Artist as Revolutionary,” in Want to Start a Revolution? Radical Women in the Black Freedom Struggle edited by Dayo F. Gore et al., (New York: New York University Press, 2009), 104; Shirley Graham Du Bois, His Day is Marching On (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1971), 104-105.

66 Kathy A. Perkins, “The Unknown Career of Shirley Graham,” Freedomways 25 (1985): 12; Gerald Horne, Race Woman: The Lives of Shirley Graham Du Bois (New York: New York University Press, 2000), 123; Andrew Paschal, “The Spirit of W.E.B. Du Bois,” Black Scholar 2 (1970): 27; Shirley Graham to W.E.B. Du Bois, May 16, 1935; Shirley Graham to W.E.B Du Bois, September 9, 1935, Du Bois Papers.

67 Paschal, “The Spirit of Du Bois,” 28; W.E.B. Du Bois to Shirley Graham, November 17, 1943; Du Bois to Julius Rosenwald fund, December 10, 1937; Shirley Graham to W.E.B. Du Bois, September 20, 1939; Shirley Graham to W.E.B. Du Bois, November 30, 1942; W.E.B. Du Bois to Rayford Logan, January 4, 1945; W.E.B. Du Bois to Shirley Graham, October 20, 1947; Memorandum from W.E.B. Du Bois to Walter White, October 20, 1937; Shirley Graham to W.E.B. Du Bois, January 20, 1943, Du Bois Papers; Horne, Race Woman, 124-33.

68 David Levering Lewis, “Interview with John Henrik Clarke, Tape #H-7,” DLL Papers; Ibid., “Interview with Ethel Ray Nance, Tape #1,” DLL Papers.

69 Ibid., “Interview with Alice Childress, Tape #D-1”; “Interview with Ana Livia Cordero, Tape #H-4,”; “Interview with Esther and James Jackson, Tapes #14 and #15,” DLL Papers.

70 “Committee is Set up to Defend Dr. Du Bois,” New York Times, September 29, 1948; John Hudson Jones, “Du Bois Ousted by NAACP Board as Research Head,” Daily Worker, September 15, 1948; Horne, Race Woman, 111-112; Horne and Stevens, “Shirley Graham Du Bois,” 103-104; File NY 100-20789, April 12, 1955, April 30, 1955, Central Intelligence Agency; Horne, Black & Red, 93-97.

71 W.E.B. Du Bois, “Colonies in the post-war world,” November 1, 1944, Du Bois Papers.

72 Shirley Graham Du Bois, “Why was Du Bois fired?” Masses & Mainstream, November 1948, 15-26. James W. Ford echoed Graham’s sentiments. For him, the dismissal elicited both shock and chagrin, as Du Bois’s critique of the “corrupt” elements of the Association buttressed “the ever-growing movement of progress and of the Negro people here and abroad in particular.” James W. Ford to W.E.B. Du Bois, September 15, 1948, Du Bois Papers.

73 Graham and Du Bois married on February 27, 1951.

74 “National Committee to Defend Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois and Associates in the Peace Information Center announcement,” 1951, Du Bois Papers.

75 Horne, Race Woman, 136; “A Call to Negro Women,” File 66-35 Sub 264-SA, May 14, 1952, Cleveland Federal Bureau of Investigation.

76 “A Call to Negro Women.” Also see Erik Mc Duffie, “A ‘New Freedom Movement of Negro Women’: Sojourning for Truth, Justice, and Human Rights during the Early Cold War,” Radical History Review 101 (2008): 81-106.