The Blue Heron Press Jubilee edition of The Souls of Black Folk appeared in 1953. In 1949 Du Bois had purchased the plates to the book, which was then out of print. At that time, during the anticommunist hysteria, it was extremely difficult to keep in print or to publish works that raised fundamental questions about U.S. society. In 1952, best-selling novelist Howard Fast had his latest novel Spartacus turned down by his usual publisher and by every other he turned to-presumably, because of his association with the Communist Party as well as the incendiary nature of his novel, which was about a revolt against slavery, albeit in antiquity. Fast’s only choice was to publish the book himself. Devising his own imprint, Blue Heron Press, he solicited orders by direct mail and finally had enough so that he could print 50,000 copies. This self-published book became a best-seller, and with the proceeds Fast reissued a number of his earlier historical novels
How “free” was the black freedman in 1863? He had no clothes, no home, tools, or land. Thaddeus Stevens begged the government to give him a bit of the land which his blood had fertilized for 244 years. The nation refused. Frederick Douglass and Charles Sumner asked for the Negro the right to vote. The nation yielded because only Negro votes could force the white South to conform to the demands of Big Business in tariff legislation and debt control. This accomplished, the nation took away the Negro’s vote, and the vote of most poor whites went with it
Undoubtedly the most influential black intellectual of the twentieth century and one of America’s finest historians, W.E.B. Du Bois knew that the liberation of African Americans required liberal education and not vocational training. He saw education as a process of teaching certain timeless values: moderation, an avoidance of luxury, a concern for courtesy, a capacity to endure, a nurturing love for beauty. At the same time, Du Bois saw education as fundamentally subversive. This was as much a function of the well-established role of education—from Plato forward—as the realities of the social order under which he lived. He insistently calls for great energy and initiative; for African Americans controlling their own lives and for continued experimentation and innovation, while keeping education’s fundamentally radical nature in view.