Abstract

In this article, I defend the pragmatic relevance of race in history. Kant and Hegel's racist development thesis assumes that nonwhite, non-European racial groups are defective practical agents. In response, philosophers have opted to drop race from a theory of history and progress. They posit that denying its pragmatic relevance amounts to anti-racist egalitarianism. I dub this tactic “colorblind cosmopolitanism” and offer grounds for its rejection. Following Du Bois, I ascribe, instead, a pragmatic role to race in history. Namely, Du Bois argues that race is an “instrument of progress” that advances emancipatory struggle. He appeals to the writing of history—or historiography—to cultivate group consciousness of historical memory in order to (1) strengthen intragroup bonds among the racially oppressed, especially black Americans, and (2) create intergroup bonds that reconstruct the republic on the basis of universal ideals. I detail Du Bois's defense of the black struggle for freedom in the wake of the U.S. Civil War to provide a concrete illustration of “spirit” in American history.

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