W.E.B. Du Bois’ A Plea and A Protest

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In a circular letter published by the Council on African Affairs, W.E.B. du Bois makes a compelling argument that America’s involvement in the Korean War was driven by racial oppression and desired only by “hate preaching executives, trigger-happy generals, backed and encouraged by corporate wealth”. Du Bois finds it hypocritical that the U.S. government was seeking to secure freedoms abroad that had not been ensured for minorities at home. Further, he claims that requiring African-Americans to fight for Korean liberation was a façade for securing a familiar form of colonialism – duplicitous at best, and history repeating itself at its worst. After World War Two, the United States asserted itself as the World Power. Nonetheless, America found itself in the throes of the Cold War against communism. President Harry Truman’s foreign policy was driven by the Domino Effect: the fear that if one country fell to communism, the result would be a world driven by communism[1]. Domestically, fear of communism and the atomic bomb was rampant, but so was African-American’s fear of racially charged violence. Du Bois himself was arrested after he refused to identify himself as a communist[2]. This Du Bois circular looked to emphasize the connection between the plight of African Americans and America’s foreign policy. The release was a powerful reminder to Americans that their society consumed by fear was a society distracted from pressing domestic issues. Du Bois’ circular is effective in conveying that the Korean war was not a war driven by justice, rather by the ulterior motives of the powerful minority. The governmental minority, he found, had incorrectly prioritized waging war over facing racial inequality which consumed society. It also reminds its readers that regardless of its claim to fighting for democracy, the government was distracting the public with foreign affairs as opposed to securing equality and justice for its own citizens. W.E.B. Du Bois’ powerful dissenting letter served to confront racial inequality, check its government’s actions, and question the justice of the sacrifice that war required.  

[1] Merrill, Dennis. 2006. “The Truman Doctrine: Containing Communism and Modernity.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 36 (1): 27–37

[2] Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty! An American History. 5th ed. Vol. 2. Seagull. New York: W.W. Norton and Company.