Against the claim that the Radical Republicans had done a poor job at the constitutional conventions and during the first decade of Reconstruction, Du Bois observes that after the Democrats regained power in 1876, they did not change the Reconstruction constitutions for nearly a quarter century.When the Democrats did pass laws to impose racial segregation and Jim Crow, they maintained some support of public education, public health and welfare laws, along with the constitutional principles that benefited the citizens as a whole.James Wilford Garner's Reconstruction in Mississippi (1901), Walter Lynwood Fleming's Civil War and Reconstruction in Alabama (1905), Thomas Staples' Reconstruction in Arkansas, 1862–1874 (1923), and Charles William Ramsdell's Reconstruction in Texas (1910) were works by Dunning followers, most of whom had positions in history at Southern universities.
These groups often used terror to repress black organization and suffrage, frightened by the immense power that 4 million voters would have on the shape of the future.
He documents the creation of public health departments to promote public health and sanitation, and to combat the spread of epidemics during the Reconstruction period.
Black Reconstruction in America: An Essay Toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860–1880 is a history of the Reconstruction era by W. Du Bois' first published writing on Reconstruction was a 1901 Atlantic Monthly essay entitled "The Freedmen's Bureau," which was reprinted as the essay "Of the Dawn of Freedom" in his 1903 book The Souls of Black Folk.
Du Bois argued directly against these accounts, emphasizing the role and agency of blacks during the Civil War and Reconstruction and framing it as a period that held promise for a worker-ruled democracy to replace a slavery-based plantation economy.
Du Bois thought that certain historians were maintaining the "southern white fairytale" instead of accurately chronicling the events and key figures of Reconstruction.
In the 1960s and through the next decades, a new generation of historians began to re-evaluate Du Bois' work, as well as works of the early 20th century by African-American historians Alrutheus A. They developed new research and came to conclusions that revised the historiography of Reconstruction. It marked a significant break with the standard academic view of Reconstruction at the time, the Dunning School, which contended that the period was a failure and downplayed the contributions of African Americans.He wrote a more extensive essay on the topic entitled "Reconstruction and Its Benefits", which was first delivered to the American Historical Association in December 1909 in New York City.Du Bois noted that the southern working class, i.e.black freedmen and poor whites, were divided after the Civil War along the lines of race, and did not unite against the white propertied class, i.e. He believed this failure enabled the white Democrats to regain control of state legislatures, pass Jim Crow laws, and disfranchise most blacks and many poor whites in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.Du Bois' extensive use of data and primary source material on the postwar political economy of the former Confederate States is notable, as is the literary style of this 750-page essay.He notes major achievements, such as establishing public education in the South for the first time, the founding of charitable institutions to care for all citizens, the extension of the vote to the landless whites, and investment in public infrastructure.The academic consensus at this time portrayed black enfranchisement and Reconstruction governments in the south as a failure.A view had collected around James Pike's work, The Prostrate State (1878), written shortly after Reconstruction ended.In the section on the post-Civil War south, Du Bois argues that white workers gained a "psychological wage" from racism, which prevented a coalition between white and black workers.He used this term to distinguish it from a material wage."It must be remembered that the white group of laborers, while they received a low wage, were compensated in part by a sort of public and psychological wage.