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 He believed that he was a prophet, a leader raised up by God to burst the bolts of the prison-house and set

the oppressed  free. The thunder, the hail, the storm-cloud, the air, the earth, the stars, at which he would sit and

 gaze half the night a ll spake the language of the God of the oppressed. He was seldom seen in a large

company, and never drank a drop of ardent spirits.



Books by & about W.E.B. Du Bois


The Suppression of the African Slave Trade  (1896)  / The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study (1899) 


The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches (1903)  /  John Brown.(1909)  / The Quest of the Silver Fleece (1911) 


Darkwater: Voices Within the Veil (1920)  Gift of Black Folk: The Negroes in the Making of America (1924)  / Dark Princess: A Romance (1928)


Black Reconstruction in America (1935) / Black Folk, Then and Now (1939)


Color and Democracy: Colonies and Peace (1945)  / The World and Africa: An Inquiry (1947)  / In Battle for Peace (1952)


A Trilogy: The Ordeal of Monsart (1957) Monsart Builds a School (1959) nd Worlds of Color (1961) / An ABC of Color: Selections (1963)


The Autobiography of W.E.B. Du Bois: A Soliloquy on Viewing My Life from the Last Decade of Its First Century (1968)

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Shirley Graham Du Bois, His Day Is Marching On: A Memoir of W.E. B. Du Bois (1971)


Leslie Alexander Lacy. The Life of W.E.B. Du Bois: Cheer the Lonesome Traveler (1970)


Brian Johnson, ed. Du Bois on Reform: Periodical-based Leadership for African Americans. / A Du Bois Bibliography


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 Toussaint L'Ouverture, Gabriel Prosser

Denmark Vesey & Nat Turner

By W. E. B. Du Bois


"The role which the great Negro Toussaint, called L'Ouverture, played in the history of the United States has seldom been fully appreciated. Representing the age of revolution in America, he rose to leadership through a bloody terror, which contrived a Negro "problem" for the Western hemisphere, intensified and defined the anti-slavery movement, became one of the causes, and probably the prime one, which led Napoleon to sell Louisiana for a song; and, finally, through the interworking of all these effects, rendered more certain the final prohibition of the slave-trade by the United States in 1807" ( The Suppression of the African Slave Trade, p. 70).

The effect of the revolution on the religious life of the Negro was quickly felt. In 1800, South Carolina declared:

"It shall not be lawful for any number of slaves, free Negroes, mulattoes, or mestizoes, even in company with white persons, to meet together and assemble for the purpose of mental instruction or religious worship, either before the rising of the sun or after the going down of the same. And all magistrates, sheriffs, militia officers, etc., etc., are hereby vested with power, etc., for dispersing such assemblies" (Goodell, 329).

On petition of the white churches the rigor of this law was slightly abated in 1803 by a modification which forbade any person, before 9 o'clock in the evening, "to break into a place of meeting wherein shall be assembled the members of any religious society in this State, provided a majority of them shall be white persons, or otherwise to disturb their devotions unless such persons, etc., so entering said place [of worship] shall first have obtained from some magistrate, etc., a warrant, etc., in case a magistrate shall be then actually within a distance of three miles from such place of meeting; otherwise the provisions, etc., [of the Act of 1800] to remain in full force." (Stroud, 93-4; Goodell, 329).

So, too, in Virginia the Haytian revolt and the attempted insurrection under Gabriel in 1800 led to the Act of 1804, which forbade all evening meetings of slaves. This was modified in 1805 so as to allow a slave, in company with a white person, to listen to a white minister in the evening. A master was "allowed" to employ a religious teacher for his slaves (Stroud, 94; Ballagh, 95). Mississippi passed similar restrictions.

Denmark Vesey

By 1822 the rigor of the South Carolina laws in regard to Negro meetings had abated, especially in a city like Charleston, and one of the results was the Vesey plot.

"The sundry religious classes or congregations, with Negro leaders or local preachers, into which were formed the Negro members of the various churches of Charleston, furnished Vesey with the first rudiments of an organization, and at the same time with a singularly safe medium for conducting his underground agitation. It was customary, at that time, for these Negro congregations to meet for purposes of worship entirely free from the presence of whites. Such meetings were afterwards forbidden to be held except in the presence of at least one representative of the dominant race. But during the three or four years prior to the year 1822 they certainly offered Denmark Vesey regular, easy and safe opportunities for preaching his gospel of liberty and hate. And we are left in no doubt whatever in regard to the uses to which he put those gatherings of blacks.

"Like many of his race, he possessed the gift of gab, as the silver in the tongue and the gold in the full or thick-lipped mouth are oftentimes contemptuously characterized. And, like many of his race, he was a devoted student of the Bible, to whose interpretation he brought, like many other Bible students not confined to the Negro race, a good deal of imagination and not a little of superstition, which, with some natures, is perhaps but another name for the desires of the heart. Thus equipped, it is no wonder that Vesey, as he poured over the Old Testament scriptures, found many points of similitude in the history of the Jews and that of the slaves in the United States. They were both peculiar peoples. They were both Jehovah's peculiar peoples, one in the past, the other in the present. And it seemed to him that as Jehovah bent his ear, and bared his arm once in behalf of the one, so would he do the same for the other. It was all vividly real to his thought, I believe, for to his mind thus had said the Lord.

"He ransacked the Bible for apposite and terrible texts whose commands in the olden times, to the olden people, were no less imperative upon the new times and the new people. This new people was also commanded to arise and destroy their enemies and the city in which they dwelt, 'both man and woman, young and old, with the edge of the sword.' Believing superstitiously as he did in the stern and Nemesis-like God of the Old Testament he looked confidently for a day of vengeance and retribution for the blacks.

"He felt, I doubt not, something peculiarly applicable to his enterprise and intensely personal to himself in the stern and exultant prophecy of Zachariah, fierce and sanguinary words, which were constantly in his mouth: 'Then shall the Lord go forth and fight against those nations as when he fought in the day of battle.' According to Vesey's lurid exegesis 'those nations' in the text meant beyond peradventure the cruel masters and Jehovah was to go forth to fight against them for the poor slaves and on whichever side fought that day the Almighty God on that side would assuredly rest victory and deliverance.

"It will not be denied that Vesey's plan contemplated the total annihilation of the white population of Charleston. Nursing for many dark years the bitter wrongs of himself and race had filled him without doubt with a mad spirit of revenge and had given to him a decided predilection for shedding the blood of his oppressors. But if he intended to kill them to satisfy a desire for vengeance he intended to do so also on broader ground.

"The conspirators, he argued, had no choice in the matter, but were compelled to adopt a policy of extermination by the necessity of their position. The liberty of the blacks was in the balance of fate against the lives of the whites. He could strike that balance in favor of the blacks only by the total destruction of the whites. Therefore the whites, men, women, and children, were doomed to death" (Grimke: Right on the Scaffold [Pub. American Negro Academy], pp. 11-12).

The plot was well-laid, but the conspirators were betrayed.

Turner & Southampton

Less than ten years after this plot was discovered and Vesey and his associates hanged, there broke out the Nat Turner insurrection in Virginia. Turner was himself a preacher.

He was a Christian and a man. He was conscious that he was a Man and not a "thing;" therefore, driven by religious fanaticism, he undertook a difficult and bloody task. Nathaniel Turner was born in Southampton county, Virginia, October 2, 1800. His master was one Benjamin Turner, a very wealthy and aristocratic man. He owned many slaves, and was a cruel and exacting master.

Young "Nat" was born of slave parents, and carried to his grave many of the superstitions and traits of his father and mother. The former was a preacher, the latter a "mother in Israel." Both were unlettered but, nevertheless, very pious people. The mother began when Nat was quite young to teach him that he was born, like Moses, to be the deliverer of his race. She would sing to him snatches of wild, rapturous songs and repeat portions of prophecy she had learned from the preachers of those times.

Nat listened with reverence and awe, and believed everything his mother said. He imbibed the deep religious character of his parents, and soon manifested a desire to preach. He was solemnly set apart to "the gospel ministry" by his father, the church, and visiting preachers. He was quite low in stature, dark, and had the genuine African features. His eyes were small, but sharp, and gleamed like fire when he was talking about his 'mission' or preaching from some prophetic passage of scripture. It is said that he never laughed. He was a dreamy sort of a man, and avoided the crowd.

Like Moses he lived in the solitudes of the mountains and brooded over the condition of his people. There was something grand to him in the rugged scenery that nature had surrounded him with. He believed that he was a prophet, a leader raised up by God to burst the bolts of the prison-house and set the oppressed free. The thunder, the hail, the storm-cloud, the air, the earth, the stars, at which he would sit and gaze half the night all spake the language of the God of the oppressed. He was seldom seen in a large company, and never drank a drop of ardent spirits. Like John the Baptist, when he had delivered his message, he would retire to the fastness of the mountain or seek the desert, where he could meditate upon his great work (Williams II, pp. 85-86).

In the impression of the Richmond Enquirer of the 30th of August, 1831, the first editorial or leader is under the caption of "The Banditte." The editor says:

They remind one of a parcel of blood-thirsty wolves rushing down from the Alps; or, rather like a former incursion of the Indians upon the white settlements. Nothing is spared; neither age nor sex respected--the helplessness of women and children pleads in vain for mercy. . . . The case of Nat Turner warns us. No black man ought to be permitted to turn preacher through the country. The law must be enforced--or the tragedy of Southampton appeals to us in vain.[* Quoted in Ibid, p. 90.]

Mr. Gray, the man to whom Turner made his confession before dying, said:

It has been said that he was ignorant and cowardly and that his object was to murder and rob for the purpose of obtaining money to make his escape. It is notorious that he was never known to have had a dollar in his life, to swear an oath or drink a drop of spirits. As to his ignorance, he certainly never had the advantages of education, but he can read and write, and for natural intelligence and quickness of apprehension is surpassed by few men I have ever seen. 

As to his being a coward, his reason as given for not resisting Mr. Phipps, shows the decision of his character. When he saw Mr. Phipps present his gun, he said he knew it was impossible for him to escape as the woods were full of men. He, therefore, thought it was better for him to surrender and trust to fortune for his escape.

He is a complete fanatic or plays his part most admirably. On other subjects he possesses an uncommon share of intelligence, with a mind capable of attaining anything, but warped and perverted by the influence of early impressions. He is below the ordinary stature, though strong and active, having the true Negro face, every feature of which is strongly marked.

I shall not attempt to describe the effect of his narrative, as told and commented on by himself, in the condemned hole of the prison; the calm, deliberate composure with which he spoke of his late deeds and intentions; the expression of his fiend-like face when excited by enthusiasm, still bearing the stains of the blood of the helpless innocence about him, clothed with rags and covered with chains, yet daring to raise his manacled hand to heaven, with a spirit soaring above the attributes of man. I looked on him and the blood curdled in my veins." (George W. Williams. History of the Negro Race in America. Vol. II, New York, 1883, pp. 91-92).

The Turner insurrection is so connected with the economic revolution which enthroned cotton that it marks an epoch in the history of the slave. A wave of legislation passed over the South prohibiting the slaves from learning to read and write, forbidding Negroes to preach, and interfering with Negro religious meetings. Virginia declared, in 1831, that neither slaves or free Negroes might preach, nor could they attend religious service at night without permission.

In North Carolina slaves and free Negroes were forbidden to preach, exhort or teach "in any prayer-meeting or other association for worship where slaves of different families are collected together" on penalty of not more than thirty-nine lashes. Maryland and Georgia had similar laws. The Mississippi law of 1831 said: It is "unlawful for any slave, free Negro, or mulatto to preach the gospel" upon pain of receiving thirty-nine lashes upon the naked back of the presumptuous preacher. If a Negro received written permission from his master he might preach to the Negroes in his immediate neighborhood, providing six respectable white men, owners of slaves, were present (Williams II, 163).

In Alabama the law of 1832 prohibited the assembling of more than five male slaves at any place off the plantation to which they belonged, but nothing in the act was to be considered as forbidding attendance at places of public worship held by white persons. No slave or free person of color was permitted to "preach, exhort, or harangue any slave or slaves, or free persons of color, except in the presence of five respectable slaveholders or unless the person preaching was licensed by some regular body of professing Christians in the neighborhood, to whose society or church the Negroes addressed properly belonged."

In the District of Columbia the free Negroes began to leave white churches in 1831 and to assemble in their own.

Select Bibliography of Negro Churches

A brief statement of the rise and progress of the testimony of the religious society of Friends against slavery and the slave-trade. Philadelphia: Joseph and William Kite. 1843.

Ernest H. Abbott. Religious life in America. A record of personal observation. New York: The Outlook, 1902 XII, 730 pp. 80.

Nehemiah Adams. A South side view of slavery. 80. Boston, 1854.

Richard Allen, first bishop of the A. M. E. Church. The life, experience and gospel labors of the Rt. Rev. Richard Allen. Written by himself. Philadelphia, 1833.

Richard Allen and Jacob Tapisco. The doctrine and discipline of the A. M. E. Church. Philadelphia, 1819.

Matthew Anderson. Presbyterianism and its relation to the Negro. Philadelphia, 1897.

A statistical inquiry into the condition of the people of color of the city and districts of Philadelphia. Philadelphia, 1849, 1856 and 1859.

Samuel J. Baird. A collection of the acts, deliverances and testimonies of the Supreme Judiciary of the Presbyterian Church, from its origin in America to the present time, with notes and documents explanatory and historical, constituting a complete illustration of her polity, faith and history. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publications.

J. C. Ballagh. A history of slavery in Virginia. John Hopkins University Studies. Extra vol., No. 24. Baltimore, 1902.

Albert Barnes. Inquiry into the scriptural views of slavery. Philadelphia, 1857.

John S. Bassett. History of slavery in North Carolina. Johns Hopkins University studies. Baltimore, 1899.

Slavery and servitude in the colony of North Carolina. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, April and May, 1896.

David Benedict. A general history of the Baptist denomination in America and other parts of the world. Boston, 1813.

Edward W. Blyden. Christianity, Islam and the Negro race. With an introduction by the Hon.

Samuel Lewis. 2d edition. London: W. B. Whittingham & Co. 432 pp. 80.

George Bourne. Man-stealing and Slavery denounced by the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches. Boston: Garrison and Knapp.

Jeffrey R. Brackett. Notes on the progress of the colored people of Maryland since the war. A supplement to the Negro in Maryland, a study of the institution of slavery. Baltimore: J. Hopkins Univ., 1890. 96 pp. 80.

The Negro in Maryland. A study of the institution of slavery. Baltimore: N. Murray. (6) 268 pp. 80. (Johns Hopkins University studies in historical and political science.) Extra vol. 6.

William Burling. An address to the elders of the church upon the occasion of some Friends compelling certain persons and their posterity to serve them continually and arbitrarily, without regard to equity or right, not heeding whether they give them anything near so much as their labor deserveth. 1718. In Lay, All Slave Keepers Apostates. pp. 6-10.

Rev. Dr. R. F. Campbell. The race problem in the South. Pamphlet, 1899.

W. E. Burghardt DuBois. 1900. The religion of the American Negro. New World, vol. 9 (Dec. 1900) 614-625.

The Philadelphia Negro. A Social Study. Philadelphia, 1899: Ginn & Co.

The Negroes of Farmville, Va. 38 pp. Bulletin U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 1898.

Some efforts of American Negroes for their own social betterment. Report of an investigation under the direction of Atlanta University, together with the proceedings of the third Conference for the study of the Negro problems, held at Atlanta University, May 25-26, 1898. Atlanta, Ga. (Atlanta University, 1898. 66 pp.)

The Souls of Black Folk. Chicago, 1903.

William Douglass. Sermons preached in the African Protestant Episcopal Church of St. Thomas. Philadelphia, 1854.

Annals of St. Thomas's Church. Philadelphia, 1862.

Bryan Edwards. History, civil and commercial, of the British Colonies in the West Indies. London, 1807.

Friends. A brief testimony of the progress of the Friends against slavery and the slave-trade. 1671-1787. Philadelphia, 1843.

William Goodell. The American slave code in theory and practice. Judiciary decisions and illustrative facts. New York, 1452.

H. Gregoire. Enquiry concerning the intellectual and moral faculties, etc., of Negroes. Brooklyn, 1810.

L. M. Hagood. The Colored Man in the Methodist Episcopal Church. Cincinnati.

Bishop J. W. Hood. One Hundred Years of the A. M. E. Zion Church.

Edward Ingle. The Negro in the District of Columbia. Johns Hopkins University studies. Vol. XI. Baltimore, 1893.

Samuel M. Janney. History of the religious society of Friends. Philadelphia, 1859-1867.

Chas. C. Jones. The religious instruction of the Negroes in the United States. Savannah, 1842.

Absalom Jones. A Thanksgiving sermon on account of the abolition of the African slave-trade. Philadelphia, 1808.

Page viii

Robert Jones. Fifty years in the Lombard Street Central Presbyterian Church. Philadelphia, 1894. 170 pp.

Fanny Kemble. A journal of a residence on a Georgia plantation. New York, 1863.

Walter Laidlow, editor. The Federation of Churches and Christian Workers in New York City. New York, 1896-1897.

Lucius C. Matlack. The history of American slavery and Methodism from 1789-1849. New York, 1849.

Holland McTyeire. A history of Methodism, comprising a view of the rise of this revival of spiritual religion in the first half of the eighteenth century. Nashville, Tenn.: Southern Methodist Publishing House, 1887.

Minutes, Annual Conferences, A. M. E. Church.

Minutes, Annual Conferences, C. M. E. Church.

Minutes, Annual Conferences, M. E. Church.

Minutes, Annual Conferences, A. M. E. Z. Church.

Minutes, General Conferences, A. M. E. Church.

Minutes, General Conferences, C. M. E. Church.

Minutes, General Conferences, M. E. Church.

Minutes, General Conferences, A. M. E. Z. Church.

Minutes, National Baptist Convention.

Edward Needles. Ten years' progress or a comparison of the state and condition of the colored people in the city and county of Philadelphia from 1837-1847. Philadelphia, 1849.

Daniel A. Payne. History of the A. M. E. Church. Nashville, 1891.

I. Garland Penn and J. W. E. Bowen. The United Negro; his problems and his progress. Containing the addresses and proceedings of the Negro Young People's Christian and Educational Congress, held August 6-11, 1902. Atlanta, Ga.: D. E. Luther Publishing Co., 1902, XXX, 600 pp. Plates, portraits. 12o.

Reports, Freedmen's Aid Society, Presbyterian Church.

Robert R. Semple. History of the rise and progress of Baptists in Virginia. Richmond, 1810.

William J. Simmons. Men of Mark, Eminent, Progressive and Rising. Cleveland, Ohio.

Slavery as it is; the testimony of a thousand witnesses. Publication of Anti-Slavery Society. New York, 1839.

George Smith. History of Wesleyan Methodism. London, 1862.

David Spencer. Early Baptists of Philadelphia. Philadelphia, 1877.

William B. Sprague. Annals of the American Pulpit. New York, 1858.

Benjamin T. Tanner. An outline of history and government for A. M. E. Churchman. Philadelphia, 1884.

An apology for African Methodism. Baltimore, 1867.

H. M. Turner. Methodist Polity. Philadelphia.

United States Census, 1890. Churches.

A. W. Wayman. My Recollections of A. M. E. Ministers. Philadelphia, 1883.

S. D. Weld. American Slavery as it is: testimony of thousands of witnesses. New York, 1839.

Stephen B. Weeks. Anti-slavery sentiment in the South. Washington, D. C., 1898. Southern Quakers and Slavery. Baltimore, 1896.

George W. Williams. History of the Negro Race in America. New York, 1883.

White. The African Preacher.

Source: Chapter 9 Of W. E. B. Du Bois Negro Church (1903)

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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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Home  WEB Du Bois Table   Toussaint Table  

Related files: Nathaniel Turner TimeLine  Nathaniel of Southampton or Balaam’s Ass   1831 Confessions  Nathaniel Turner, the Bible & Sword (conference paper) 

The Uncertain Identity of Nathaniel Turner (conference paper)   Christian Martyrdom in Southampton   Sonnets in Memory of Nathaniel Turner  Nat Turner in History's Multiple Mirrors     

Richard Hatcher's Plan Letter to Editor  Memory Slipping Away-- Donna Britt article  Insurrection Of The Blacks   Sept. 3 1831  Sept. 10, 1831  Sept 17, 1831