Book Review: The Education of Black People by W. E. B. Du Bois

Among all of the voices clamoring for attention in today’s buzzword-laden and technically-oriented world of education, Du Bois’s is, unfortunately, one that is rarely heard. Yet it is one that has the potential to contribute to modern debates over education in its unique character as a voice that fervently advocated in favor of liberal education of African Americans.

Though there are great differences, both in philosophical content and in tone, between these various speeches and essays, written over a period of 54 years, there remains Du Bois’s constant belief that the best sort of education for any student is a liberal education that begins with his own culture and heritage. With this basis firmly established, the student may then move on to discovering universal truths through the exploration of other cultures and heritages. With this wisdom, he is able to return to his own culture and heritage with a keen eye for what is universal and what merely parochial, as well as what is best and what needs improvement within his own culture.

While Du Bois argued specifically for access for African Americans to such an education, his arguments apply to any group of people anywhere. And his ideas certainly deserve their fair hearing today in a world where the technical has crowded out the liberal in education from kindergartens through graduate schools and where a misapplied multiculturalism has reduced rather than increased the cultural knowledge of the average student.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in education, especially as that subject relates to American and African American history.

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