When W. E. B. Du Bois devised the idea of “double-consciousness” in his 1897 Atlantic article “Strivings of the Negro People,” which he later included in his book The Souls of Black Folk, he set a new language for meditating on black progress in the United States. He’s one of many thinkers who devoted his life to analyzing and ruminating on the overwhelming effects of slavery, which still reverberate throughout American culture.
The black suffragist Anna Julia Cooper outlined the need for better domestic spaces and opportunities for black citizens in her book A Voice From the South, which emphasized the importance of education in achieving those advancements. Decades after the debut of The Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois published Black Reconstruction in America, predicting that African Americans would remain a lower class until a radical series of reforms restored their resources and civil rights.
In his book about Thomas Jefferson, Alan Taylor details the Founding Father’s belief that a new university in the South could help bring about the cultural change needed to end slavery, while also acknowledging the contradiction of Jefferson’s status as a slaveholder. Nicholas Buccola devotes the entirety of his book The Fire Is Upon Us to a famous 1965 debate on racial politics between James Baldwin and William F. Buckley Jr.—looking to their backgrounds to further understand the men’s opposing views on racial injustice.
Every Friday in the Books Briefing, we thread together Atlantic stories on books that share similar ideas.
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The famous Baldwin-Buckley debate still matters today
“Though he makes it clear by the end that his own ideological sympathies lie with [James] Baldwin’s calls for racial justice, [Nicholas] Buccola gives ample room to examining both men’s ideologies, without—and this is crucial—suggesting that [William F. Buckley Jr.’s] racist views were somehow acceptable.”