Here are two excerpts from Wikipedia. Wikipedia?! Yes, these entries are actually fairly good, and since I'm lazy I'll use them. But, if you haven't read Black Reconstruction, you should. Any decent, humane policies regarding hospitals and public health, social welfare, labor laws, and similar issues that originated in the southern states came from the Reconstructionist, democratic & multi-racial governments of 1865-1877 (a crooked deal over the 1876 presidential election led to the removal of Union troops in 1877, and the beginning of whites-only terrorism in the American south).
William Edward Burghardt "W. E. B." Du Bois (pronounced /duːˈbɔɪz/ doo-BOYZ; February 23, 1868 – August 27, 1963) was an American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author and editor. Born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, Du Bois grew up in a relatively tolerant and integrated community. After graduating from Harvard, where he was the first African American to earn a doctorate, he became a professor of history, sociology and economics at Atlanta University. Du Bois was one of the co-founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.
Du Bois rose to national prominence as the leader of the Niagara Movement, a group of African-American activists who wanted equal rights for blacks. Du Bois and his supporters opposed the Atlanta Compromise, an agreement crafted by Booker T. Washington which provided that Southern blacks would work and submit to white political rule, while Southern whites guaranteed that blacks would receive basic educational and economic opportunities. Instead, Du Bois insisted on full civil rights and increased political representation, which he believed would be brought about by the African-American intellectual elite. He referred to this group as the talented tenth and believed that African Americans needed the chances for advanced education to develop its leadership.
Racism was the main target of Du Bois's polemics, and he strongly protested against lynching, Jim Crow laws, and discrimination in education and employment. His cause included people of color everywhere, particularly Africans and Asians in their struggles against colonialism and imperialism. He was a proponent of Pan-Africanism and helped organize several Pan-African Congresses to free African colonies from European powers. Du Bois made several trips to Europe, Africa and Asia. After World War I, he surveyed the experiences of American black soldiers in France and documented widespread bigotry in the United States military.
Du Bois was a prolific author. His collection of essays, The Souls of Black Folk, was a seminal work in African-American literature; and his 1935 magnum opus Black Reconstruction in America challenged the prevailing orthodoxy that blacks were responsible for the failures of the Reconstruction era. He wrote the first scientific treatise in the field of sociology; and he published three autobiographies, each of which contains insightful essays on sociology, politics and history. In his role as editor of the NAACP's journal The Crisis, he published many influential pieces. Du Bois believed that capitalism was a primary cause of racism, and he was generally sympathetic to socialist causes throughout his life. He was an ardent peace activist and advocated nuclear disarmament. The United States' Civil Rights Act, embodying many of the reforms for which Du Bois had campaigned his entire life, was enacted a year after his death.
About the book:
Black Reconstruction in America is a book by W. E. B. Du Bois, first published in 1935. It is revisionist approach to looking at the Reconstruction of the south after its defeat in the American Civil War. On the whole, the book takes an economic approach to looking at reconstruction. The essential argument of the text is that the Black and White laborers were divided after the civil war on the lines of race, and as such were unable to stand together against the white propertied class. This to Du Bois was the failure of reconstruction and the reason for the rise of the Jim Crow laws, and other such injustices.
In addition to creating a landmark work in early U.S. sociology, at the time Dubois’ historical scholarship and use of the techniques of primary source data research on the post war political economy of the former Confederate States’ were equally ground-breaking. He performed the first systematic and rigorous analysis of the political economy of the reconstruction period of the southern states; based upon actual data collected during the period. In chapter five, Du Bois argues that the decision by slaves on the southern plantations to stop working was an example of a General Strike. This type of rhetoric is in concert with his arguments throughout the book that the Civil War was largely a war fought over labor issues.
This research completely disestablished the anecdotal, racist bromides which had come to form the basis of the so-called “scholarship” of the reconstruction period. Dubois’ research discredited forever the notion that the post-emancipation and post-Appomattox south had degenerated into either economic or political chaos, and had been kept in a state of chaos by the armed forces of the Union, through their military occupation.
On the contrary, the reconstruction state governments had for example, established their states’ first, universal primary education systems. They did this because the reconstruction state constitutions (which they had written) had, for the first time, established as a right, the free public primary schooling of their states’ children. These governments had also been the first to establish public health departments to promote public health and sanitation, and to combat the spread of epidemic disease that is inherent in the semi-tropical climate of the south.
And when the redeemer government’s seized power in later years and re-wrote these states’ constitutions to reestablish “race law” and the Jim-Crow system, they did not touch the education and public health and welfare laws and constitutional principles that the reconstruction governments had established.
[PS: the racist state government that took over after the Northern troops pulled out in 1877 took away all human rights of the freed slaves, but kept a lot of the reconstructionist reforms (modified to suit whites, of course). Today, however, the Southern Republicans who have become the new Dixiecrats are demolishing any decent humanitarian polices even for white people.]