“The Negro”



W. E. B. Du Bois
Afterword by Robert Gregg
272 pages, $14.95 paper

“The Negro” was the first overall examination of the history of African and African-derived people, from their early cultures through the period of the slave trade and into the 20th century. The book allowed William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, an American sociologist, author and cofounder of the NAACP, to carefully delineate and debunk fallacious concepts about race, culture and history .

“The Negro,” originally published in 1915 and widely read in its time, is among the most important books on Africa ever published. Yet this beautifully written history is virtually unknown today. The University of Pennsylvania, the original publisher of Du Bois’ pioneering work “The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study,” is pleased to reintroduce this classic to a new audience.

“The Negro” was well ahead of its time, argues Robert Gregg, associate professor of history at Robert Stockton College, in his afterword. Its critical studies of Africa and African Americans directly and indirectly influenced and inspired the works of other writers and scholars. For instance, Du Bois’ identification of segregation as an issue of class rather than race is almost 40 years ahead of C. Vann Woodward’s similar thesis. As to the matter of race, Du Bois is clear that the concept is a social construct having no foundation in biology.

Intellectually and historically prescient, Du Bois assumed globalization as a matter of course, so that his definition of the color line in “The Negro” links all colonized peoples, not just people of African descent. Du Bois’ sweeping vision of Africans and the diaspora seems more relevant now than at any time in the past 100 years, which is why the book remains fresh, dynamic and insightful to this day.

— University of Pennsylvania Press


Originally published on May 3, 2001