The most recommended W. E. B. Du Bois books

Who picked these books? Meet our 9 experts.

9 authors created a book list connected to W. E. B. Du Bois, and here are their favorite W. E. B. Du Bois books.
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The Wounded World

By Chad L Williams,

Book cover of The Wounded World: W. E. B. Du Bois and the First World War

Marybeth Gasman Author Of Doing the Right Thing: How Colleges and Universities Can Undo Systemic Racism in Faculty Hiring

From Marybeth's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Historian Public Scholar World Traveler Mother Lover of life

Marybeth's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Marybeth love this book?

I have been reading about W.E.B. Du Bois since graduate school. He’s a fascinating character in American history who is always surprising me.

In this book, Chad Williams finds an unpublished 800-page manuscript in the archives at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and gives the reader a peak into the complexities of Du Bois’s brain. Having read nearly everything Du Bois wrote as I use his work in my own historical writings, I had never seen this side of Du Bois.

For the first time, followers of Du Bois’s work can see how World War I shaped him, his political evolution, and his later work. Williams’ book tackles Du Bois’s notion of double consciousness (being Black and American) within the context of fighting for one’s country and demonstrates how Du Bois originally thought he could reconcile being Black and American during the war but eventually became disillusioned.

As a historian,…

By Chad L Williams,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Wounded World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The dramatic story of W. E. B. Du Bois's reckoning with the betrayal of Black soldiers during World War I―and a new understanding of one of the great twentieth-century writers.

When W. E. B. Du Bois, believing in the possibility of full citizenship and democratic change, encouraged African Americans to “close ranks” and support the Allied cause in World War I, he made a decision that would haunt him for the rest of his life. Seeking both intellectual clarity and personal atonement, for more than two decades Du Bois attempted to write the definitive history of Black participation in World…

W. E. B. Du Bois's Data Portraits

By The W E B Du Bois Center at the Universi,

Book cover of W. E. B. Du Bois's Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America

Colin Koopman Author Of How We Became Our Data: A Genealogy of the Informational Person

From the list on data ethics (and data politics).

Who am I?

Colin Koopman researches and teaches about technology ethics at the University of Oregon, where he is a Professor of Philosophy and Director of the interdisciplinary certificate program in New Media & Culture.  His research pursuits have spanned from the history of efforts in the early twentieth century to standardize birth certificates to our understanding of ourselves as effects of the code inscribed into our genes.  Koopman is currently at work on a book that will develop our understanding of what it takes to achieve equality and fairness in data systems, tentatively titled Data Equals.

Colin's book list on data ethics (and data politics)

Why did Colin love this book?

W.E.B. Du Bois is widely acknowledged as the leading activist for racial equality of his generation. But until very recently little had been known of his deep commitment to the pursuit of equality within and through data technology. As Du Bois was preparing notes for his famous 1903 book The Souls of Black Folk, he was also preparing an exposition of what we would today call “infographics” (or what the editors of this volume aptly call “data portraits”) for exhibition at the 1900 Paris Exposition world’s fair. This volume handsomely reproduces for the first time a full-color complete set of Du Bois’s charts, graphs, maps, and ingenious spirals. A beautiful book to live with, it also subtly transforms one’s understanding of the history of racial progress and inequality in America.

By The W E B Du Bois Center at the Universi,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked W. E. B. Du Bois's Data Portraits as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"As visually arresting as it is informative."-The Boston Globe

"Du Bois's bold colors and geometric shapes were decades ahead of modernist graphic design in America."-Fast Company's Co.Design

W.E.B. Du Bois's Data Portraits is the first complete publication of W.E.B. Du Bois's groundbreaking charts, graphs, and maps presented at the 1900 Paris Exposition.

Famed sociologist, writer, and Black rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois fundamentally changed the representation of Black Americans with his exhibition of data visualizations at the 1900 Paris Exposition. Beautiful in design and powerful in content, these data portraits make visible a wide spectrum of African American culture, from…

The Souls of Black Folk

By W.E. Burghardt Du Bois,

Book cover of The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches

Lawrence Goldstone Author Of On Account of Race: The Supreme Court, White Supremacy, and the Ravaging of African American Voting Rights

From the list on for white people to learn about Black people.

Who am I?

When I was eight, my mother was called in to see the principal…yet again. He pulled me out of class, stood me in the hall for maximum intimidation value, then said to my mom, “Your son has no respect for authority.” Mom asked, “What about that, Larry?” My reply—and this is totally true—was, “He doesn’t mean respect. He means courtesy. You can demand courtesy, but you have to earn respect.” Those sentiments have not changed, which is why, I suppose, I have an extremely critical eye for history, especially American history, that deifies the winners. I don’t think we make ourselves stronger as a nation by pretending our leaders were somehow not as human in their flaws as the rest of us.  I prefer to look under what is called “conventional wisdom,” because that’s where the real story often lies.

Lawrence's book list on for white people to learn about Black people

Why did Lawrence love this book?

It is rare for a book published more than a century ago to seem as if it had just come off the presses, but W. E. B. Du Bois succeeded in producing a work so profound that it might well be equally relevant one hundred years from now. Du Bois was a luminescent scholar, a passionate advocate, and a graceful and accessible writer. His essays range from observations on the arduous lives of Black people living under Jim Crow to a celebration of their indomitable spirit in the face of institutional racism to a ferocious condemnation of the “accommodationist” philosophy of Booker T. Washington. Du Bois was never afraid to advance what was then—and still are now—points of view that would upset not only whites, but many of his own people as well. Whether to work within existing political institutions to effect change or to try to overturn those institutions…

By W.E. Burghardt Du Bois,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Souls of Black Folk as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches is a 1903 work of American literature by W. E. B. Du Bois. It is a seminal work in the history of sociology and a cornerstone of African-American literature.

The book contains several essays on race, some of which had been published earlier in The Atlantic Monthly. To develop this work, Du Bois drew from his own experiences as an African American in American society. Outside of its notable relevance in African-American history, The Souls of Black Folk also holds an important place in social science as one of the early works…

Alexander Crummell

By Wilson Jeremiah Moses,

Book cover of Alexander Crummell: A Study of Civilization and Discontent

Richard J.M. Blackett Author Of Samuel Ringgold Ward: A Life of Struggle

From the list on abolitionist biographies about African American history.

Who am I?

I was not trained in African American history, but first developed a passion for it during my first teaching job in Pittsburgh, where a number of my colleagues were interested in locating the origins of Black Nationalism and began researching the life of a local black physician, Martin R. Delany. That led me to a wider exploration of nineteenth-century African American history.

Richard's book list on abolitionist biographies about African American history

Why did Richard love this book?

A penetrating story of the person many considered the intellectual leader of nineteenth-century African American.

A man who rose from poverty in New York City to gain a degree from Cambridge University, spent almost thirty years in Liberia, wrote some of the most incisive analyses of African civilization before returning to America where he mentored W.E. B. DuBois and other leaders of the new Civil Rights Movement.

By Wilson Jeremiah Moses,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Alexander Crummell as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Alexander Crummell (1819-1898) was one the most prominent Afro-American intellectuals of the nineteenth-century. This biography places Crummell's ideas within the context of his life and times.

The Sonic Color Line

By Jennifer Lynn Stoever,

Book cover of The Sonic Color Line: Race and the Cultural Politics of Listening

Alejandra Bronfman Author Of Isles of Noise: Sonic Media in the Caribbean

From the list on sound and why you should care about it.

Who am I?

I have been doing research in the Caribbean for twenty-five years. The region is diverse and magnificent. Caribbean people have sought creative solutions for racial inequality, climate and sustainability, media literacy and information, women’s and family issues. The transnational connections with the US are complex and wide-ranging, and knowing more about this region is an urgent matter. I work to understand how sound and media work because they structure our reality in important ways. Listening as a way of approaching relationships in work and play is key to our survival. So is understanding how media works, where we get our information from, and how to tell what’s relevant, significant, and true, and what is not. 

Alejandra's book list on sound and why you should care about it

Why did Alejandra love this book?

The author points to the ways American media designated sound as “black” or “white” even as “colorblindness” became the dominant paradigm for liberal attitudes towards race. While Americans claimed that they didn’t “see race”, they were exposed to an increasingly segregated soundscape and media environment. Stoever opens up new ways for us to listen to familiar voices, such as those of WEB du Bois, Lena Horne, Lead Belly, Richard Wright, and many more.

By Jennifer Lynn Stoever,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Sonic Color Line as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The unheard history of how race and racism are constructed from sound and maintained through the listening ear.
Race is a visual phenomenon, the ability to see "difference." At least that is what conventional wisdom has lead us to believe. Yet, The Sonic Color Line argues that American ideologies of white supremacy are just as dependent on what we hear-voices, musical taste, volume-as they are on skin color or hair texture. Reinforcing compelling new ideas about the relationship between race and sound with meticulous historical research, Jennifer Lynn Stoever helps us to better understand how sound and listening not only…

On Her Own Ground

By A’Lelia Bundles,

Book cover of On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker

Katie McCabe Author Of Mighty Justice: My Life in Civil Rights

From the list on Black women disruptors.

Who am I?

Improbable trailblazers have fascinated me ever since I told the story of Black cardiac surgery pioneer Vivien Thomas in a 1989 Washingtonian Magazine article that won the National Magazine Award and inspired the Emmy-winning HBO film Something the Lord Made. My passion for chronicling unheralded genius has led me from one of the most remote corners of the American west to Baltimore operating rooms to the classrooms and courtrooms of Washington, DC. My decade-long collaboration with civil rights pioneer Dovey Johnson Roundtree in co-writing her autobiography Mighty Justice whetted my interest in a host of fierce African American women pathbreakers.

Katie's book list on Black women disruptors

Why did Katie love this book?

Cemented in popular consciousness by the 2020 Netflix series starring Octavia Spencer, African American millionaire and philanthropist Madam C.J. Walker stands as one of the foremost emblems of Black economic achievement. The woman born Sarah Breedlove to former slaves in 1867 transformed herself from cotton picker to washerwoman to direct sales pioneer to iconic beauty empire head and social activist at a time when even educated Black women of privilege were constrained by the white male hierarchy. The bare bones of this narrative would be sufficient for a book. But in the hands of Walker’s great-great-granddaughter, journalist A’Lelia Bundles, the rags-to-riches story becomes a window into the social, economic, and racial realities of the times and a riveting portrait of the shrewd, unflinching and ambitious woman who triumphed despite them.

By A’Lelia Bundles,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked On Her Own Ground as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The book behind the Netflix series, starring Octavia Spencer

'One of the most fabulous African-American figures of the twentieth century' Ishmael Reed

Madam Walker was the first free-born child in her family, growing up in abject poverty in post-Civil War America. From humble beginnings, she overcame societal prejudice, family betrayals and epic business rivalries to pioneer cosmetics that revolutionised black hair care, build a beauty empire, and become one of the wealthiest self-made women in America.

Not only an astute businesswoman, but a passionate activist and philanthropist, Madam Walker provided jobs and training for thousands of African American women across…

Imperium in Imperio

By Sutton E. Griggs,

Book cover of Imperium in Imperio

Chuck Redman Author Of A Cottonwood Stand: A Novel of Nebraska

From the list on fiction that is more hysterical than historical.

Who am I?

I’m an old lawyer, a writer, and now I’ve stumbled into acting, but reading, just plain old sitting on the couch and reading, has always been my personal slice of heaven. I was a history major but not a history buff like those folks that can rattle off dates or win $287,000 on Jeopardy. These stories from history can be told realistically, romantically, impressionistically, philosophically, and lots of other ways. But satirically is how stories capture and move me the most. Nothing stirs me or grows goosebumps on me as effectively as a story of hard times and hard-hearted people who deserve a bit of exposure from some well-aimed wit.

Chuck's book list on fiction that is more hysterical than historical

Why did Chuck love this book?

I read Imperium in an Afro-American Literature course in college. The instructor was excellent. I was the only non-Afro-American male in the class. I sat in the back. As soon as I finished reading Imperium I said to myself “This would make a great movie.” About ten years later I adapted the book into a screenplay. I typed it myself on my old typewriter. There was gunk on some of the keys and they needed cleaning. I realized that around Scene Five. If you ever read my old manuscript, I apologize for the first twenty pages. You can tell Sutton Griggs I’m sorry, also.

By Sutton E. Griggs,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Imperium in Imperio as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Imperium in Imperio (1899) is a novel by Sutton E. Griggs. Written while Sutton was at the beginning of his career as a Baptist minister, Imperium in Imperio was sold door to door and earned modest praise upon publication. Although Griggs' novels were largely forgotten by the mid-twentieth century, scholars have recently sought to emphasize his role as an activist and author involved with the movement for Black nationalism in the United States. Critics since have recognized Griggs as a pioneering political figure and author whose utopian themes and engagement with contemporary crises constitute some of the era's most radical…

E. H. Carr

By Haro L. Karkour,

Book cover of E. H. Carr: Imperialism, War and Lessons for Post-Colonial IR

Andrei P. Tsygankov Author Of The "Russian Idea" in International Relations: Civilization and National Distinctiveness

From Andrei's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Professor Theorist of international relations and foreign policy Scholar of Russia, Eurasia, and Europe

Andrei's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Andrei love this book?

Finally, if we are to understand the intellectual foundations of the post-Western world in terms of IR isms, then we ought to study the power/culture intersection well.

For these reasons, as this book does, it’s important to consider the potential dialogue between classical realism of scholars such as E.H. Carr and Hans Morgenthau, on the one hand, and post-colonial theorists including Frantz Fanon, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Aimé Césaire, on the other. Both sides have much to benefit from each other in understanding the phenomena of race, imperialism, and war. 

By Haro L. Karkour,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked E. H. Carr as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book highlights important parallels between Carr and three influential figures in the first wave of post-colonialism-DuBois, Cesaire and Fanon-on the analysis of imperialism and the causes of war. Specifically, Carr's analysis of imperialism and war parallels the first wave post-colonial thinkers in two respects. First, Carr's work historically situates imperialism in the context of the social question in Western democracies. Second, Carr's work provides an ideology critique to Enlightenment rationalism, which postulates that 'reason could determine what [are] the universally valid moral laws' and thus 'by the voice of reason men could be persuaded both to save their own…

The Portable Anna Julia Cooper

By Anna Julia Cooper, Shirley Moody-Turner (editor), Henry Louis Gates, Jr (editor)

Book cover of The Portable Anna Julia Cooper

Sandrine Bergès Author Of Liberty in Their Names: The Women Philosophers of the French Revolution

From the list on by or about women philosophers you should know.

Who am I?

At school I fell in love philosophy. But at university, as I grew older, I started to feel out of place: all the authors we read were men. I loved Plato, but there was something missing. It didn’t occur to me until I was in my thirties to look for women in the history of philosophy! I read Wollstonecraft first, then Olympe de Gouges, and the other women I wrote about in my book, and now I’m looking at women philosophers from the tenth to the nineteenth century. There is a wealth of work by women philosophers out there. Reading their works has made philosophy come alive for me, all over again. 

Sandrine's book list on by or about women philosophers you should know

Why did Sandrine love this book?

Anna Julia Cooper is one of the nineteen and twentieth American philosophers I find most exciting.

Her book, A Voice from the South, is the first feminist book to introduce the idea of intersectionality! She spent her very long lifetime writing about education, women’s rights, racism, and she has a fascinating correspondence with the intellectuals of her time, including W.E.B Dubois.

But until recently getting hold of her writings wasn’t terribly easy, unless you were willing to read online, or had access to a good academic library.

This beautiful and cheap edition is a godsend and everyone should buy it. 

By Anna Julia Cooper, Shirley Moody-Turner (editor), Henry Louis Gates, Jr (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Portable Anna Julia Cooper as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A collection of essential writings from the iconic foremother of Black intellectual history, feminism and activism

The Portable Anna Julia Cooper will introduce a new generation of readers to an educator, public intellectual and community activist whose prescient insights and eloquent prose underlie some of the most important developments in modern American intellectual thought and African-American social and political activism.

This volume brings together, for the first time, Anna Julia Cooper's major collection of essays, A Voice from the South, along with several previously unpublished poems, plays, journalism and selected correspondences, including over thirty previously unpublished letters between Anna Julia…