Nothing special to offer the Negro: Revisiting the Debsian view of the Negro question

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Abstract

Since the early twentieth century Eugene V. Debs and his essay The Negro in the Class Struggle have been cited repeatedly as examples of an alleged indifference among white radicals to African Americans and the historical significance of racism in the United States. A close reading of the essay reveals just the opposite. Not only did Debs support African Americans' struggle for equality, he believed that it was critical to the realization of America's democratic promise. That position alienated him from other white Socialists, but it won the admiration of African American radicals including W.E.B. Du Bois and A. Philip Randolph. This essay examines how Debs's essay came to be interpreted as a capitulation to racism and, over time, alleged indifference to African Americans and the significance of racism in the history of the United States.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)212-224
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Labor and Working-Class History
Volume74
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 17 2008
Externally publishedYes

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