The Battle for the Souls of Black Folk
W.E.B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, and the Debate That Shaped the Course of Civil Rights
by Thomas Aiello
May 2016, 576pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-4357-0
$95, £74, 83€, A131
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-4358-7
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The debate between W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington on how to further social and economic progress for African Americans went on for two decades.

In the 20 years between 1895 and 1915, two key leaders—Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois—shaped the struggle for African American rights. This book examines the impact of their fierce debate on America's response to Jim Crow and positions on civil rights throughout the 20th century—and evaluates the legacies of these two individuals even today.

The debate between W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington on how to further social and economic progress for African Americans lasted 20 years, from 1895 to Washington’s death in 1915. Their ongoing conversation evolved over time, becoming fiercer and more personal as the years progressed. But despite its complexities and steadily accumulating bitterness, it was still, at its heart, a conversation—an impassioned contest at the turn of the century to capture the souls of black folk.

This book focuses on the conversation between Washington and Du Bois in order to fully examine its contours. It serves as both a document reader and an authored text that enables readers to perceive how the back and forth between these two individuals produced a cacophony of ideas that made it anything but a bipolar debate, even though their expressed differences would ultimately shape the two dominant strains of activist strategy. The numerous chapters on specific topics and historical events follow a preface that presents an overview of both the conflict and its historiographical treatment; evaluates the legacies of both Washington and Du Bois, emphasizing the trajectories of their theories beyond 1915; and provides an explanation of the unique structure of the work.


  • Offers a fresh exploration of the fascinating conversations and controversies between two of the most important African American leaders in history
  • Provides an in-depth exploration of these two important leaders' perspectives and views on America's response to Jim Crow and civil rights that leads to significant new conclusions about historical information
  • Presents the words of DuBois, Washington, and their allies as a conversation that enables readers to better understand the big-picture story of these two scholars
Thomas Aiello is associate professor of history and African American studies at Valdosta State University. He is the author of Jim Crow's Last Stand: Nonunanimous Criminal Jury Verdicts In Louisiana; Model Airplanes Are Decadent and Depraved: The Glue-Sniffing Epidemic of the 1960s; and The Kings of Casino Park: Black Baseball in the Lost Season of 1932, among several others.


"The author is to be credited for bringing the documents together in a single place; the book is an important contribution for that reason. . . . Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries."—Choice, January 4, 2017
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