In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section W.E.B. Du Bois

  • Introduction

Literary and Critical Theory W.E.B. Du Bois
James Ford
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 January 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 July 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780190221911-0022


William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (b. 1868–d. 1963) made field-altering contributions, stretching from the 1890s until the 1960s, to intellectual history, social science, modernist aesthetics, and politics in the United States and around the world. From the 1960s until the present, two Du Bois’s have emerged, so to speak: Du Bois the historical personage, who was born in 1868 and who died in 1963, writer of dozens of books, thousands of lectures and articles, founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and founding editor of its news organ, The Crisis; and Du Bois the symbol, which people and organizations wield to legitimate their own agendas, whether or not they fit Du Bois the person’s political efforts. Although no perfect balance can be struck, much is lost in emphasizing the symbol over the historical personage. Symbolism allows one to celebrate the image of Du Bois the thinker. Returning to the texts enables one to study his way of thinking. Like other great intellectuals in the black diaspora, Du Bois’s greatest gift, more than any single insight, is his way of thinking, which only the text can convey. This article takes this claim as its organizing principle.

Primary Sources

The sheer volume of Du Bois’s writing makes any bibliography provisional. Chandler 2006 (cited under the Role of the Intellectual) estimates that Du Bois’s writings, without including correspondence, amounts to six publishable pages a day for eighty years. Du Bois’s primary sources are organized based on two factors. First and foremost, this article includes the works of Du Bois that have had the most enduring intellectual and political influence. Second, this article includes lesser-known works of Du Bois that have received attention in recent studies examining the complexities of Du Bois’s methods, terms, theses, and writing forms, not just his cultural-political symbolism. Primary sources are listed chronologically, under Early Primary Sources (Du Bois 1989a, Du Bois 1989b, Du Bois 1989c, Du Bois 2000, Du Bois 2001, Du Bois 2006, Du Bois 2007, Du Bois 2014, Du Bois 2015a, and Du Bois 2015b; published originally from 1895 to 1909), Middle Career (Du Bois 1925, Du Bois 1944, Du Bois 1989a, Du Bois 1989b, Du Bois 2014a, Du Bois 2014b, Du Bois 2014c, Du Bois 2014d, and Du Bois 2014e; published originally from 1911 to 1944), and Late Sources (Du Bois 1990, Du Bois 2014a, Du Bois 2014b, Du Bois 2014c, Du Bois 2014d, and Du Bois 2014e; published originally from 1945 to 1963). This bibliography entry selected citations based partly on the frequency with which Du Bois’s writings get published, republished, and go out of print, along with the varying availability of these writings for a general reading public. Over the years, several publishers have reissued various Du Boisian texts with an array of prefatory materials and appendixes written and compiled by different scholars. Therefore, this section cites the editions whose prefatory materials complement this article’s organizing principle and debates in the secondary literature.

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