In 1924, Jim Crow laws were still enforced in many parts of the United States and the Ku Klux Klan was experiencing resurgence. Martin Luther King Jr. had not yet been born, and the Civil Rights Act would not be enacted for another 40 years. Nonetheless, it was the year in which the Knights of Columbus published a landmark history of black Americans: The Gift of Black Folk: The Negroes in the Making of America. The book was written by civil rights pioneer W.E.B. Du Bois and was commissioned by the Knights of Columbus.
As part of its continuing legacy of promoting racial equality, and in celebration of Black History Month, the Knights of Columbus is sending free copies of Du Bois’ book (reprinted in 2009 by Square One Publishers) to the libraries of Catholic colleges and universities throughout the United States.
The Gift of Black Folk, which received critical acclaim, presented the contributions of black Americans from the earliest colonial settlements through World War I and the early 1920s. It was recently republished by the Knights of Columbus. The new edition features an introduction by Carl Anderson, who, prior to becoming Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, spent nearly a decade working on issues of racial equality as a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
"A little more than a hundred years after W.E.B. Du Bois helped co-found the NAACP, the United States can view its civil rights achievements with pride, but we can still do better in building a nation in which we all treat each other as equals," Anderson said. "African-Americans have served on the Supreme Court, in the Cabinet, and, finally, as President of the United States. The Gift of Black Folk allows us to more fully appreciate these monumental achievements in greater context. It is our belief that Du Bois’ classic work will continue to inform and inspire for many generations to come."
The Knights of Columbus was founded in 1882 as a fraternal benefit society. The organization now has more than 1.8 million members worldwide. Last year, Knights donated more than $158 million and 70 million hours to charitable causes.