Thomas Aiello

The Battle for the Souls of Black Folk

W.E.B. Dubois, Booker T. Washington, and the Debate that Shaped the Course of Civil Rights

ABC-CLIO 2016

New Books in African American StudiesNew Books in American StudiesNew Books in BiographyNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Intellectual HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network October 14, 2016 James P. Stancil II

Thomas Aiello is associate professor of history and African American studies at Valdosta State University. In The Battle for the Souls of Black Folk:...

Thomas Aiello is associate professor of history and African American studies at Valdosta State University. In 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 (ABC-CLIO, 2016) Aiello focuses on the conversation between Washington and Du Bois in order to fully examine its contours. The book 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.

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 and impassioned contest at the turn of the century to capture the souls of black folk. In addition to this work, Aiello is also 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.


James Stancil is an independent scholar, freelance journalist, and the President and CEO of Intellect U Well, Inc. a Houston-area non-profit dedicated to increasing the joy of reading and media literacy in young people.

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