As the nation’s preeminent scholar on race, W.E.B. Du Bois knew about criticism of the importance of Black history in America.

Despite those challenges, from his first book, “The Suppression of the African Slave-Trade,” published in 1896, through his 1935 magnum opus “Black Reconstruction in America,” Du Bois detailed the experiences of Black people with an an uncanny prescience of today’s debate over African American studies.

In fact, as Brandeis University historian Chad Williams writes, Du Bois spent a significant part of his career trying “to correct the distortion of history in regard to Negro enfranchisement.”

In an article published by a New York newspaper on Feb. 11, 1951, Du Bois explained the importance of why he did so. Hopefully, Du Bois wrote, the nation would become “conscious that this part of our citizenry were normal human beings who had served the nation credibly and were still being deprived of their credit by ignorant and prejudiced historians.”

Also today:

Howard Manly

Race + Equity Editor

Scholar-activist W.E.B. DuBois in 1946. Underwood Archives/Getty Images

W.E.B. Du Bois, Black History Month and the importance of African American studies

Chad Williams, Brandeis University

As the 20th century’s preeminent scholar-activist on race, W.E.B. Du Bois would not be surprised by modern-day attempts at whitewashing American history. He saw them in 1930s and 1940s.

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