K. Bailey Thomas
Black History Month

Du Bois Scholar Talk: K. Bailey Thomas, "The ‘Transubstantiation’ of Poor Whites and How W. E. B. Du Bois Predicted Trumpism”


Event Details

Thursday, February 16, 2023

5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Library, W.E.B. Du Bois

154 Hicks Way

Amherst MA 01003


Event Website


Adam Holmes

UMass Amherst Libraries


This lecture will explore how W.E.B. Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction in America operates simultaneously as a rebuke of William Dunning’s popularized narrative of Reconstruction and as an intellectual genealogy of white supremacy. It will argue that Du Bois’ text elucidates the origins of contemporary right-winged nationalism, which has been overlooked due to a fixation on evaluating the efficacy of Du Bois’s utilization of Marxism. Black Reconstruction is not merely a revision of history but can also provide an explanation of how Trumpism swiftly swept the nation.

While political pundits and theorists claim that Trumpism is the result of a “whitewash” in response to the country’s first Black president, this talk will propose that the sentiments behind Trumpism existed long before the election of Barack Obama. An examination of the “transubstantiation” of Andrew Johnson in the eighth chapter of the text clearly demonstrates this as Du Bois remarks how Johnson's supporters were quickly swayed by the idea that enslaved and free Blacks posed a genuine threat to their livelihood. Returning to Du Bois’s foreshadowing in “The Propaganda of History,” provides a warning that the failure to understand the intricate intertwining of racism and classism fueling this propaganda of history only results in further misconceptions about the origins of radical conservatism and its furthering of white supremacy.


K. Bailey Thomas is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Philosophy at Dartmouth College and an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Louisville. During their residence at the W.E.B. Du Bois Center, they conducted research on a long-term project focusing on central arguments made by Du Bois in Black Reconstruction (1935). This project aims to address the importance of this seminal text through arguing for its relevancy in three areas: advancing current understandings of “racial capital” with regards to the afterlives of slavery in the United States, the need to re-situate predominant understanding of Du Bois’ critiques against Marxism and its application to race, and Du Bois’ foreshadowing of a current white supremacist ideology that has persisted into the current era. Outside of Bailey’s work on Du Bois, they also research topics at the intersection of social epistemology and African American and Black Studies, such as intellectual genealogies, radicalized knowledge and ethics of care. Their research specializations are in African American and Black American philosophy, social epistemology, social and political philosophy, Black American feminist theory, and critical philosophy of race.