Towards an Unpatriotic Education: Du Bois, Woodson, and the Threat of Nationalist Mythologies

By William Horne


This article examines two essays by W. E. B. Du Bois, his November 1910 “Editorial” and “The Propaganda of History,” alongside The Mis-education of the Negro by Carter Woodson to probe the politics of knowledge production in light of the escalating Republican attacks on education today. Together, these revolutionary Black thinkers reveal miseducation to be a political project, a form of sabotage and propaganda designed to facilitate and expand white power under the guise of “patriotism.” These miseducation tactics, employed by white conservatives during the 1890s, coincided with a wave of antidemocracy laws and practices from voter suppression to white vigilantism that helped create the Jim Crow apartheid state, one that remained intact for the next seventy years and continues to shape our institutions today. The GOP deploys anti-“CRT” laws, which target teaching and information critical of white supremacy, in much the same way, attacking education while supporting “patriotic” antidemocracy and vigilante organizing. Du Bois and Woodson show the historical dangers of these tactics and the need for a response that combines politics with historical fact. A close reading of Du Bois and Woodson reveals the importance of a robust “unpatriotic” history, one that grounds our hopes for a future defined by justice and equality in an awareness of America’s racist past.

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It should be mentioned that the major voter suppression in 1910 was by the Democratic Party in the south (and was of course far worse than the GOP tries to do these days). The Democratic Party was also continuing voter suppression at least through 1960 (such as through Daly's Chicago that won the election of Kennedy in 1960). Both the GOP and the "Democratic" Party have demonstrated themselves to be unpatriotic servants of the corporations and the military/industrial complex.

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