What does DuBois see as the role of government in promoting the rights of blacks?

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Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Du Bois fervently believed in the implicit promises of the Constitution, yet he had not seen the dream become a reality in his lifetime. A real democracy could not exclude a sizable portion of its citizenry and call itself just.

While the emancipation of the slaves was just, the government was unprepared in handling of the consequences of the thousands of freed men, women, and children released from bondage. In his 1901 Atlantic Monthly essay, Du Bois argues:

"Here, at a stroke of the pen, was erected a government of millions of men, -- and not ordinary men, either, but black men emasculated by a peculiarly complete system of slavery, centuries old; and now, suddenly, violently, they come into a new birthright, at a time of war and passion, in the midst of the stricken, embittered population of their former masters."

Nor was Du Bois encouraged by government actions that followed. Jim Crow laws, and later, the Supreme Court ruling, Plessy vs. Ferguson, helped embittered Southerners enforce "separate but equal" rules that held blacks back economically, politically, and socially.

A real democracy, and a government strong enough to protect the rights of all of its members, would be necessary to improve the status of African Americans.

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The Souls of Black Folk

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