W. E. B. Du Bois, Separatism and Self-Respect
Desmond Jagmohan, Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics, Princeton University
In 1903 W. E. B. Du Bois firmly criticized self-help and separatist responses to white supremacy. He argued that African Americans should instead strive for political and civil rights over economic development and he promoted protest as the only way for African Americans to struggle effectively while maintaining their self-respect. But in the 1930s Du Bois began promoting self-help and separatist solutions to exploitation and oppression. This essay argues that Du Bois did so for compelling philosophical reasons, specifically, his intellectual encounters with Freud and Marx. Du Bois’s late work shows that racial self-help was not a politics of conciliation toward white supremacy but rather a much more subversive politics intended to strengthen black social and economic independence.
Desmond is an assistant professor of politics at Princeton University. His research interests include African-American political thought, American political thought, history of political theory, democratic theory, slavery and modern political theory, theories of domination and liberty, and the politics of race and ethnicity in the U.S.