W.E.B. Du Bois on Woodrow Wilson

It is worth reading what one of the African-American civil rights leaders, and a brilliant man, thought of Woodrow Wilson at the time of his candidacy:

As to Mr. Wilson, there are, one must confess, disquieting facts; he was born in Virginia, and he was long president of a college which did not admit Negro students…On the whole, we do not believe that Woodrow Wilson admires Negroes…Notwithstanding such possible preferences, Woodrow Wilson is a cultivated scholar and he has brains…We have, therefore, a conviction that Mr. Wilson will treat black men and their interests with farsighted fairness.  He will not be our friend, but he will not belong to the gang of which Tillman, Vardaman, Hoke Smith and Blease are the brilliant expositors.  He will not advance the cause of an oligarchy in the South, he will not seek further means of “jim crow” insult, he will not dismiss black men wholesale from office, and he will remember that the Negro…has a right to be heard and considered, and if he becomes President by the grace of the black man’s vote, his Democratic successors may be more willing to pay the black man’s price of decent travel, free labor, votes and education.

That is from pp.187-188 of August Meier, Negro Thought in America 1880-1915: Racial Ideologies in the Age of Booker T. Washington.  You can see that Du Bois did not “have it in” for Wilson.

And here is a letter from September 1913, from Dubois to Wilson, after Wilson had been in office for but half a year:

Sir, you have now been President of the United States for six months and what is the result? It is no exaggeration to say that every enemy of the Negro race is greatly encouraged; that every man who dreams of making the Negro race a group of menials and pariahs is alert and hopeful. Vardaman, Tillman, Hoke Smith, Cole Blease, and Burleson are evidently assuming that their theory of the place and destiny of the Negro race is the theory of your administration, They and others are assuming this because not a single act and not a single word of yours since election has given anyone reason to infer that you have the slightest interest in the colored people or desire to alleviate their intolerable position, A dozen worthy Negro officials have been removed from office, and you have nominated but one black man for office, and he such a contemptible cur, that his very nomination was an insult to every Negro in the land.

To this negative appearance of indifference has been added positive action on the part of your advisers, with or without your knowledge, which constitutes the gravest attack on the liberties of our people since emancipation, Public segregation of civil servants in government employ, necessarily involving personal insult and humiliation, has for the first time in history been made the policy of the United States government.

By the way, I’ve also learned that Du Bois, despite his Marxist sympathies, studied economics with Taussig at Harvard, had well-worked out views on Mill and Ricardo, and once wrote a paper defending the economics of the gold standard.  He also studied with Gustav Schmoller at what was then the University of Berlin, now Humboldt University.


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