War, by itself, does not discriminate. It touches the lives of people from all backgrounds, social classes, and races, and during the twentieth century in particular, it would have been difficult to find anyone who was not affected in some way by its violence and destruction. Throughout his life, war was a major issue for W. E. B. Du Bois, who frequently wrote about the connections between racial injustice and state violence.
During and after the First World War, Du Bois developed a critique of the war in Europe in which he argued that it was not, as many white Americans imagined, simply a fight among Europeans over European issues. Instead, the war was a product of European imperialism and racial injustice. Du Bois also wrote extensively on the contributions of African Americans to the war effort and on the irony of seeing Black soldiers fight and die to restore democracy in Europe, while returning home to a land of intolerance and legal inequality. Returning black soldiers, he argued, should bring their struggle for equality back with them to their fatherland.
Du Bois’ insights into the underlying causes and experiences of war demonstrate his idea that race is the root of conflict and worldwide racial justice is the only way to bring about lasting peace.
- “The President and the Soldiers” (1906)
- On the surface, this article discusses the unfair treatment of black soldiers in the South and a distrust by many black Americans of President Theodore Roosevelt. On a deeper level, though, it reveals Du Bois’ true feelings on race equity and the power of the black vote.
- Du Bois, W.E.B. “The President and the Soldiers,” Voices of the Negro, vol. 3 (Dec 1906), 552-553.
- “The African Roots of War” (1915)
- Often times it is difficult to draw parallels between two seemingly separate events. However, in this article, Du Bois makes a clear argument not only connecting the root causes of World War I, but future wars as well, to the African continent and the exploitation of its people.
- Du Bois, W.E.B. “African Roots of War.” Atlantic Monthly, vol. 115, no. 5 (May 1915), 707-714.
- “World War and the Color Line” (1914)
- In “World War and the Color Line,” Du Bois makes known his support for the American government in fighting with the Allies against the Germans. He bases his support of war, however, on the need to defeat Germany in order to promote racial equality worldwide.
- Du Bois, W.E.B. “World War and the Color Line,” Crisis, vol. 9 (Nov. 1914), 29.
- “Returning Soldiers” (1919)
- This article describes the social conditions in America to which African American soldiers returned at the end of World War I. Du Bois wants his returning “Soldiers of Democracy” to continue their struggle and free America from the evil and hatred that permeates their fatherland.
- Du Bois, W.E.B. “Returning Soldiers,” Crisis, vol. 18 (May, 1919), 13.
- “The Black Man in the Revolution of 1914-1918″ (1919)
- This article showcases the discrimination against black soldiers and officers in the United States military during World War I. However it also emphasizes the will of the black soldier to carry out his wartime mission, despite this treatment by Europeans and the United States Army.
- Du Bois, W.E.B. “The Black Man in the Revolution of 1914-1918,” Crisis, vol. 17 (Mar. 1919), 218-223.