Du Bois for the Moment, Du Bois for the Millennium (on W. E. B. Du Bois: Black Reconstruction, edited by Eric Foner and Henry Louis Gates Jr., and Nahum Dimitri Chandler’s “Beyond This Narrow Now”: Or, Delimitations, of W. E. B. Du Bois)

At the end of his inimitable 1909 biography of John Brown, W. E. B. Du Bois poses some troubling questions about the enduring significance of the great abolitionist half a century after his execution and nearly as many years after Emancipation. Writing against the backdrop of ongoing European colonial depredations in Africa and Asia, as well as racial terrorism and segregation in the United States, Du Bois asks, “Was John Brown simply an episode, or was he an eternal truth? And if a truth, how speaks that truth today?” More than half a century after Du Bois’s own death, and as we confront a twenty-first century in which “the problem of the color line” that he prophesied would define the twentieth still “belts the world,” it might be time for us to turn the question that Du Bois once asked of Brown back on Du Bois himself: was W. E. B. Du Bois simply an episode, or was he an eternal truth? And if a truth, how speaks that truth today? For everywhere we look—whether to theorists of racial capitalism, or to abolitionists, or to historians and the so-called history wars—it seems that a return to Du Bois is underway. 

Nevertheless, as we turn our attention from the meteoric career of the guerrilla fighter whose body lies mouldering in the grave, but whose soul goes marching on, and adjust our gaze to the steady black flame of the Good Doctor, we might need to adjust our vocabulary too. If we cannot fairly describe a life that lasted nearly a century and straddled two of them as “simply an episode,” perhaps it is better to risk hyperbole and ask if the truth that W. E. B. Du Bois names for us in 2022 is a development on some much grander, almost geologic scale: an epoch, which was set in motion in 1441 on the western coast of Africa with the beginning of the transatlantic slave trade, and which is still unfolding some six centuries on. 

Du Bois, then, would not only be a thinker of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, or even the twenty-first—our contemporary—but also a seer of sorts, “gifted with second-sight,” a thinker of the long turn from the second to the third millennium. For if one thing has become abundantly clear, it is that whatever the longtime editor of the NAACP’s The Crisis names for us in our time of metastasizing crises, that development is not over. Indeed, it may have only just begun. In which case, the question is not only why Du Bois seems especially relevant just now, in this time of resurgent white nationalism and racial terrorism, but why it is so difficult to descry whether this figure whose life stretched from Reconstruction to the March on Washington hails us from the past or the future. 

In our fragmented and fractious present, it may be that he hails us from some hydra-headed hybrid of the two: a present future whose uncanny resemblance to a past present has swallowed us whole. And it is precisely in the resulting temporal vertigo, when we feel our sense of “now” waver and distend, and when we can no longer tell whither the winding path is taking us, or where it ends, that William Edward Burghardt sidles up for a spell to rhapsodize to us most forcefully, simultaneously our haint and guide. 

Fortunately, two recent publications solicit us to reconsider the troublingly persistent pertinence of Du Bois for our contemporary moment. Nahum Dimitri Chandler’s “Beyond This Narrow Now”: Or, Delimitations, of W. E. B. Du Bois explores such questions directly and at their fundaments, inviting readers to engage in a ground-up reopening of the significance of Du Bois as a thinker of modern historicity on an epochal scale, beginning with some of his earliest mature writings. The Du Bois that emerges from Chandler’s pages is not only a thinker of his own past and present—a historian and sociologist—but first and foremost a thinker of his future and of the futural as such. 

If Chandler’s Beyond tackles the significance of Du Bois head on, Library of America’s recent edition of Du Bois’s 1935 magnum opus, Black Reconstruction in America, 1860–1880, addresses Du Bois’s contemporary significance in a more indirect fashion by implicitly encouraging readers to return to what is arguably Du Bois’s most important and difficult work at a moment when it seems particularly apropos. The LOA edition of Du Bois’s tome includes a handful of Du Bois’s earlier nonfiction writings on Reconstruction. And it bears the impeccable imprimatur of co-editors Eric Foner and Henry Louis Gates Jr., both of whom have written extensively on Du Bois, Reconstruction, and Black Reconstruction in particular. But the text is only lightly annotated and appears without an editorial introduction. The heavy lifting of contextual and interpretative framing is thus, for the most part, left up to the reader. 

It is serendipitous, then, that the two volumes should appear at almost the same time, since Chandler’s attempt to clear away our sedimented premises about some of Du Bois’s earliest formulations might also inspire readers to reapproach a work from several decades later in his career, such as Black Reconstruction, with fresh eyes. Such a task is especially necessary where the latter text is concerned, insofar as the recent return to Du Bois has meant a return to his sprawling historical masterpiece perhaps more than to any other text in his enormous oeuvre, and a certain critical fatigue is beginning to set in. 

One of the clearest signs of that fatigue is that alongside the seemingly ubiquitous calls to read or reread Black Reconstruction it has become increasingly common to hear, virtually in the same breath, calls for us to move beyond it in some shape or form, either to recover lesser known and potentially more radical figures and texts from Du Bois’s era, or else to reveal a perspectival or conceptual gap in his framing. At their best, such calls encourage us not to abandon Black Reconstruction, but to supplement it with a fuller theoretical and/or archival engagement. Thus, historian Robin D. G. Kelley has recently noted that “as abolition recently became the new watchword . . . reading groups popped up everywhere to discuss W. E. B. Du Bois’s classic, Black Reconstruction in America (1935), since he was the one to coin the phrase ‘abolition democracy,’ which Angela Y. Davis revived for her indispensable book of the same title.” But, after noting that he was a “happy participant” in such groups, Kelley advises would-be abolitionists that they might be better served by looking to the work of Du Bois’s in some ways more abolition-friendly colleague and forerunner T. Thomas Fortune and his overlooked classic Black and White: Land, Labor and Politics in the South (1884). 

Similarly, in The Nation, radical historian and Du Bois biographer Gerald Horne has recently argued that among the perspectival flaws in Black Reconstruction is its failure to consider settler colonialism and the role that Black troops and settlers played in displacing North America’s Indigenous peoples. Horne writes, “[Du Bois] does not confront the Indigenous question: Like so many before him and since—including those who still invoke the hallowed ‘40 acres and a mule’—Du Bois ignores the unavoidable point that this land was illicitly seized in the first place; it was the fruit of a poisonous tree, and passing it on to the formerly enslaved would not sanitize that theft.” Such admonitions are a salutary reminder that although Du Bois provides an essential word on Reconstruction, his is not the final word, and his limitations from nearly a century ago need not remain ours. 

That said, it is worth asking if what Black Reconstruction offers us is more than just a once groundbreaking historical narrative and a set of political prescriptions, even if those contributions are no small part of its tremendous bequest. It may be that one of Du Bois’s most enduring and timely contributions in that text and elsewhere is his ability to frame problems for thought that remain live for us today, above and beyond any political prescription or usable past he makes available to us. Moreover, insofar as he remains a critical resource in the present, perhaps one of the things that is most useful about Du Bois today is his ability to interpret historical possibility as the other side of historical limit, and to convince us that the future can still be altogether otherwise than the past that has been given to us, even now. 

There is no better guide to these aspects of Du Bois’s thought than Nahum Chandler’s “Beyond This Narrow Now.” Chandler has been engaged in a career-long meditation on the significance of Du Bois and his work for the last three decades. Throughout the 2000s, attentive readers of the most broadly influential theoretical work emerging from Black studies would have encountered Chandler’s name in the acknowledgments and/or citations of such landmark texts as Hortense J. Spillers’s Black, White, and in Color (2003) and Fred Moten’s In the Break (2003), as well as in similarly touchstone works in Du Bois scholarship, such as Robert Gooding-Williams’s In the Shadow of Du Bois (2009). But until the publication of his first monograph, X: The Problem of the Negro as a Problem for Thought (2014), the public had only been able to glimpse his work directly through a handful of auspicious articles, such as “Originary Displacement” (2000) and “Of Exorbitance” (2008). 

Those pieces revealed a tantalizingly original thinker with a knack for turning our conventional ways of thinking about practices of racial distinction upside down. In “Originary Displacement,” for instance, he began by asking us to consider in what sense “a real thing called ‘America’ exists,” and then to consider whether “America” is “in its truth the anchorage point that supports the social-cultural practices of African Americans,” or, instead, if it is better understood as “a complex idea formed inside the (historical-transcendental) movement of the constitution of the African American as material idea.” From that initial provocation, he proceeded to show that it was not possible to give a coherent account of the former without providing an account of the latter. 

Chandler’s longstanding and peculiar status as a kind of powerful subterranean force in both contemporary theory and Du Bois studies—widely cited and respected, and yet seldom fully or directly reckoned with—was recently depicted by theorist Marquis Bey at the start of a book-length consideration of how Chandler’s work might be set in a generative dialogue with transgender studies, allusively titled The Problem of the Negro as a Problem for Gender (2020). There, Bey writes 

I have come across, on occasion after occasion, the illustrious name of Nahum Chandler . . . a citational nod that couldn’t not be made. But that was often what it was—a nod, a quick slip of the conceptual, philosophical brand name . . . and then back to originally scheduled academic programming. I wanted to know more. Who was this Chandler guy, this powerhouse who seemed to loom large yet whose words, whose deep cogitative archive, often went ungrappled with?

As the passage develops, and Bey documents his own erstwhile attempts to satisfy his curiosity by reading Chandler’s X, he quickly hits on what he believes to be the culprit:

Reading Chandler’s work made very clear why he was only referenced rather than deeply, sustainedly engaged. . . . The man is difficult to read. . . . One cannot leisurely read Chandler; one must strap in, come correct, bring one’s A+ game, and, in the immortal words of The Lion King’s Scar, be prepared. I was not prepared my first time reading it. 

It is hard to argue with Bey’s assessment. Chandler is a difficult writer. In “Beyond This Narrow Now,” for instance, he makes a number of idiosyncratic terminological decisions and distinctions—“historial” instead of “world-historical,” “devolution” instead of “evolution,” “atopia” instead of “utopia”—the full stakes of which become clear only gradually and upon multiple readings. Then too, he sometimes resorts to sentences constructed like Russian nesting dolls, in which multiple parenthetical phrases are interrupted by additional parenthetical phrases. 

But the same kinds of tics are common in the writing of many theoreticians whose works are currently being grappled with by a wide range of readers in and out of the academy. The resurgence of popular and scholarly interest in the great Caribbean thinker Sylvia Wynter comes to mind in this vein. Like Wynter, whose labyrinthine sentences and epic essays can be a challenge to navigate, Chandler is a poetic and evocative stylist, as well as a profound thinker, who offers the reader aesthetic and intellectual pleasures that help compensate for whatever syntactic or semantic hurdles pop up along the way. Difficulty notwithstanding, it might be that in Chandler’s case his “deep cogitative archive” has been less grappled with simply because, until quite recently, so much of his work had not yet been published.

Consequently, there has never been a better time to “strap in” with Chandler. Since the publication of X, several of his longer manuscripts have been brought into print, giving readers an opportunity to become better acquainted with the full breadth and depth of a thinker whose underground influence has already been felt for an entire generation. Among other recent publications, Chandler has edited The Problem of the Color Line at the Turn of the Twentieth Century: The Essential Early Essays (2015), perhaps the most thoroughly annotated collection of Du Bois’s early essays ever published, and authored Toward an African Future—Of the Limit of World (2021), a small but active volcano, a landscape-reshaping meditation on the significance of “Africa” as a heading for thought in Du Bois’s later work. In addition to “Beyond This Narrow Now,” another of Chandler’s ruminations on Du Bois, Annotations, is scheduled for publication in 2023. 

One of the most succinct ways to convey Chandler’s Talmudic approach to Du Bois is by way of his editorial practice. In The Problem of the Color Line at the Turn of the Twentieth Century, Chandler numbers the paragraphs in Du Bois’s essays for ease of reference, a practice sometimes applied to canonical religious and philosophical texts that are expected to be subject to extensive, line by line exegesis and analysis, often across multiple editions and languages, but a practice that is seldom applied to works of literature, history, or sociology, and, perhaps more troublingly, a practice even less frequently applied to Black thinkers in any discipline. 

For Chandler, however, this patient exegetical method to approaching Du Bois is entirely fitting, even overdue, since for him Du Bois is “above all a thinker-writer, the producer of formulations of problems for knowledge, notably with regard to matters African American—but not only. For his problematization concerns matters of the human in general.” Put differently, for Chandler, a notable “thinker-writer” himself, Du Bois is a formulator of the most intractable questions that we face, both practically and philosophically, one whose importance now and for the foreseeable future cannot be limited to any one scholastic discipline or any subgroup of those purported or purporting to be human. 

In “Beyond This Narrow Now,” Chandler deploys this method of patient, pains-taking exegesis and analysis to excavate the genesis and significance of Du Bois’s most quoted phrase or concept-metaphor: “the problem of the color line.” The book’s argument proceeds mainly by way of engagement with Du Bois’s lesser-known early speeches and essays from 1894–1904, the period whose signature production is The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches (1903). In addition to introducing Du Bois’s readers to a set of works with which they are likely to be unfamiliar, Beyond’s focus on mostly under-read pieces from the fin de siècle has the effect of entirely reframing The Souls of Black Folk, transforming it into something rich and strange by allowing fans of that work to catch its most famous formulations in flight, as it were, as they emerge from a longer trajectory in Du Bois’s early inquiries and endeavors. And Chandler frequently pauses to annotate how these inaugural essays lay out a “problematic”—“an ensemble of questions that are given to a thinker as a task by the conditions of time and situation”—that ramifies across every stage and major work in Du Bois’s subsequent career. 

What is uncovered through Chandler’s extended exegetical labor, however, is more than just the emergence and semantic thickening of a set of now timeworn Du Boisian tropes, such as “the veil,” “double consciousness,” or “the problem of the color line.” He is at pains to show that what Du Bois represents in and through those tropes is a distinctive way of understanding and narrating modern global historicity by way of the African American example. In Chandler’s reading, across the critical decade in question, Du Bois develops a deeply phenomenological “approach or practice best understood as from or of a history of the problems of existence.” Chandler elaborates this thorny formulation as follows: 

Historicity . . . as I understand Du Bois to proffer it across his discourse, is announced in the promulgation of an engagement with problems, with the dynamic constitution of a difficulty as existence itself, its coming into being, in the forms of existence. To place this as a pragmatic matter, historicity emerges in the forms by which an engagement with the difficulties posed as existence configures a group for a time, perhaps, including both its possibility, its survival, or its becoming something else altogether. 

Of singular importance in the “survival or . . . becoming something else altogether” of any collective form of existence is the “construction and reconstruction” of “ideals of life,” which Chandler describes as “those headings of value . . . that would orient a collective social life, the terms that would assist in the organization and sustenance of a collectivity.” 

Since these inherited ideals of life organize and sustain forms of collective existence (peoples, states, nations, races, civilizations, religions, families, etc.), they necessarily promote or threaten the fullest expression of human flourishing by encouraging certain forms of collective existence and discouraging others. Crucially, for Du Bois, we can discriminate between successful and failed ideals through a critical historiographical practice, such as the one that he pursued as a thinker-writer. And we can intervene to construct, perpetuate, change, or eliminate ideals through various forms of human striving. In other words, the specific problems that prevent us from our fullest possible flourishing—the problem of the color line, for instance—can and should be diagnosed and treated as they arise. But existence will always present itself as an engagement with difficulties, leaving us with an infinite task. 

Du Bois’s work as a historian, sociologist, novelist, poet, autobiographer, and essayist would thus always be more than merely scholastic. It would be a strategy for permanent social revolution, an attempt at an ongoing and, in principle, endless reevaluation of values, a striving within the possibilities of his historical situation toward what lies “beyond this narrow now” in an illimitable and endlessly receding futural horizon. That futural horizon, according to Chandler, would include the possibility of worlds that were not yet possible in Du Bois’s time, and which might remain impossible in our own, such as a world beyond the color line. 

And here, with the problem of the color line, a final nettle pricks us in an already thorny theory: in Chandler’s account of Du Bois, collective forms of social existence are not atomistic. Instead of being formed within firm boundaries, social identities would always be formed by way of intermixture and relation along multiple axes. Borrowing a metaphor from Du Bois, Chandler describes the infrastructure of collective forms of social existence as akin to “the warp and weft in the construction of fabric for a cloth or tapestry.” When construed in a self-reflexive form, social existence would always take the form of a “double” consciousness, or, in Chandler’s radicalization of Du Bois, a consciousness that is “at least and never only double,” a refracting and refracted multiplicity. 

To address the problem of the color line would thus be something much more than just removing a set of obstacles that have been put in front of one group of people and providing them with resources that have been withheld or stolen for generations. It would be to entirely transform the social and historical fields out of which our collective forms of existence have been co-constructed. It would be to produce different horizons of world and ideals of life, which would configure new forms of relation and new ways of living. And the collective forms of social existence that would arise within that new structure of limit would be a different “us” than we have been hitherto. 

Due to its level of theoretical sophistication and abstraction, Chandler’s interpretation of Du Bois can be difficult to parse at times, especially in the introductory portions of Beyond, where there are fewer concrete examples on which to gain a foothold and it seems possible to construe his formulations in multiple ways. But readers who hang on are richly rewarded. In the main body of the text, a series of close readings makes his argument more tractable. In Part I, which focuses on what he calls “originary possibility,” Chandler reconstructs the development of Du Bois’s distinctive problematic piece by piece. There, the reader can trace how the young scholar is first led to think through the most fundamental questions of individual and collective existence as part of an attempt to think through his own status and situation as a Black American. 

Famously, Du Bois’s status becomes an issue for him because he is made to experience himself as a representative example of a kind of national and world-historical problem, one that by the turn of the twentieth century had come to be known colloquially as “the Negro problem.” Of course, Du Bois’s most iconic presentation of this experience occurs in the essay “Strivings of the Negro People” (1897), better known to most readers as “Of Our Spiritual Strivings,” the first chapter of Souls. In that essay, Du Bois relates how he is plied with a series of seemingly innocuous questions that hint at but leave unasked another question, which lurks behind them all: “how does it feel to be a problem?” 

Chandler shows us that this iconic scene is a variation on one that Du Bois had written a few years prior in the essay “The Afro-American” (ca. 1894), which went unpublished in Du Bois’s lifetime, but which can be found in a fully annotated form in the Chandler-edited collection The Problem of the Color Line at the Turn of the Twentieth Century. In that earlier essay, the setting and context can be more thoroughly reconstructed. The narrator, presumptively Du Bois, is riding a train in Europe, and everything about his bearing—his accent, his manners, his conversational abilities—perplexes a fellow traveler, because it contradicts his presuppositions about what it means to be a Negro, and so he cannot make sense of how the narrator’s color and gentlemanly comportment can be properly conjugated. This prompts the traveler to engage Du Bois in conversation, as he attempts to suss out the young scholar’s authentic racial and national provenance. When the narrator eventually informs his fellow traveler that he is “an American,” this elicits further questions and mistaken guesses about what sort of American he must be, until, eventually, the narrator informs his temporary companion that he is “a Negro,” eliciting an ejaculation of surprise and disbelief. In a final turn, the narrator redescribes himself as “Afro-American,” a new name that confounds any simple or singular provenance—both “African” and “American,” rather than one or the other—and which Du Bois uses as the heading for a form of collective existence whose ideals of life are still being worked out by the group in question. It thereby becomes a name for what Chandler calls “a project of immanent striving that will yield another world in the time to come.” 

In Chandler’s analysis, one point of the colloquy is to illustrate that the cause of the “Negro problem” cannot be attributed to some lack of capacity by a group of people then classified as “Negroes.” At its root, the problem must be traced to a form of absolute categorical proscription that would wholly delimit one identity—“the Negro”—as agonistic and subordinate to another absolutely categorically distinct identity—understood here alternately as white, European, or American. It is this preexisting form of absolute categorical proscription that leads to the mistaken presumptions of Du Bois’s interlocutor, and which causes the latter to manifest a peculiar sort of disorientation, an inability to properly apprehend aspects of his own historical situation that are readily apparent to Du Bois. At the same time, paradoxically, it is precisely this division of the social field, this failed attempt at total delimitation, which also makes possible Du Bois’s more clear-eyed perspective, what he will later call his “second sight,” and his orientation toward an “Afro-American” future yet to come. Possibility thus emerges as the other side of limit in the exchange. The delimitation that distinguishes one collective identity from another also acts as a de-limitation that establishes a relation between the identities on both sides of the division and makes possible their respective and intertwined horizons of world. 

In the remainder of Part I, what is writ small in this most quotidian of encounters—a conversation between traveling strangers—acquires greater amplitude as Chandler turns his attention to historiography and Du Bois’s subsequent attempts to represent various aspects of the divided yet connected social field first revealed in “The Afro-American.” As we move from one close reading to the next, Chandler shows us Du Bois testing out new tropes—“a fissure,” “vertical barriers,” “the veil”—to describe absolute categorical proscription and its various effects and aspects. At the same time, we see Du Bois expand his canvas from the national to the global, the lived past to the longue durée. We move from a case of mistaken identity in a cramped train car to the doubled social world of a segregated town, and then to the twinned intercontinental developments of the Renaissance and the Atlantic slave trade. 

Ironically, it is in Part II, where Chandler turns his attention from “originary possibility” to its other side, “historical limit,” that this expansion of geographic and chronological scope achieves its grandest, most panoramic form. In Beyond’s final close reading, Chandler walks us through Du Bois’s rhetorical and theoretical moves in “The Present Outlook for the Dark Races of Mankind” (1900), a text that he rightly describes as virtually unread in Du Bois studies. “The Present Outlook” contains Du Bois’s first fully formed theoretical elaboration of “the world problem of the color line,” and anticipates his use of the signal phrase in the essay “The Freedman’s Bureau” (1901), more well-known as Chapter II, “Of the Dawn of Freedom,” in The Souls of Black Folk. 

Originally delivered as an address at the third annual meeting of the American Negro Academy in Washington, D.C., in December of 1899, “The Present Outlook” proceeds in two parts, each of which is governed by a separate narrative conceit. In the first part, the dominant conceit is a whirlwind global tour: Du Bois asks his audience to follow him on a mental journey that begins in Africa and touches on developments in every continent, before he eventually concludes in Europe. When Du Bois arrives at each destination, he recounts historical forms of colonialism, imperialism, and conquest that have taken place there, as well as those that are new and ongoing. We are thereby presented with a comparative account of the tendentiously global reach of the color line and the extent to which it has transformed the world. 

In the second part of the speech, Du Bois abandons the conceit of global travel for time travel. Having left off his global tour in Europe, he begins working his way backward through European history one century at a time. This second narrative conceit establishes a comparative historical framework whereby the problem of the color line can be analyzed in relation to the different forms of categorical proscription and ascription that had been dominant in previous centuries, such as social rank, religion, and natality.

Between these two narrative conceits, Du Bois would seem to be presenting his audience made up of the Black American intelligentsia with an utterly hopeless account of their own historical situation. As soon as one regime of domination was overthrown, it was replaced with another one, and the current problem of the color line has expanded to every corner of the globe. Then too, when he looks to the present in the United States, he sees that a period of regression is pushing Black Americans back from the gains of Reconstruction. And when he looks to the near future, he sees signs that war is on the horizon. 

Nevertheless, as Chandler points out, Du Bois once again reads possibility as the other side of limit. From the imperial expansion of the United States to include “Porto Rico, and Havana . . . Cuba, and . . . the Philippines,” Du Bois estimates that the “Colored population of our land . . . is about to be doubled,” and he enjoins his audience that it is their duty to offer them aid, protection, and alliance. Likewise, when he looks to the future of European expansion, he sees that it will necessarily result in a proliferation of “nations within nations” positioned similarly to Black Americans: “German Negroes, Portuguese Negroes, Spanish Negroes, English East Indian, Russian Chinese, American Filipinos.” Further, in Chandler’s reading, even Du Bois’s chronological narrative of centuries of categorical proscription contains a buried narrative of endless possibility: “above all . . . [Du Bois] narrates a history of change . . . and change in the thetic character of a categorical claim is always a wearing and a tearing way of the grounds of its premise.” Put differently, if all forms of absolute categorical delimitation are unmaintainable, then they are always in the process of devolving, breaking down, and being overthrown. Perhaps this is why Du Bois predicts that “the third millennium will dawn . . . upon a brown and yellow world out of whose advancing civilization the color line has faded as mists before the sun.” 

When viewed with over a century of hindsight and from the vantage point of our own time of regression, Du Bois’s view of a future world beyond the color line cannot help but seem a little ridiculous. Wasn’t the twentieth century red in tooth and claw? Is the twenty-first century not moving backward toward that same bloody time, if not even earlier still? Perhaps it is best to understand Du Bois’s vision of the future not as a prediction, but as a vision for a possible future, one that could only be realized through tremendous striving. In that case, it was also a call to action, one that could be repeated today, and whose herculean labor has been passed down as a kind of bequest. Ours.


*An essay-review of

W. E. B. Du Bois: Black Reconstruction. Edited by Eric Foner and Henry Louis Gates Jr. New York: The Library of America, 2021. 1097 pp. $45.00.

“Beyond This Narrow Now”: Or, Delimitations, of W. E. B. Du Bois. By Nahum Dimitri Chandler. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2022. 328 pp. $27.95.


Ian Litwin is an independent scholar who specializes in antebellum U.S. literature and the literatures and cultures of slavery and abolition in the Atlantic world during the Age of Revolution. He earned his PhD in English from the University of California, Irvine in 2020.