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CR: The New Centennial Review 6.3 (2007) 193-239

The Possible Form of an Interlocution
W. E. B. Du Bois and Max Weber in Correspondence, 1904–1905
Nahum D. Chandler
Tama University, Tokyo, and Columbia University, New York

I am quite sure to come back to your country as soon as possible and especially to the South, because I am absolutely convinced that the "color-line" problem will be the paramount problem of the time to come, here and everywhere in the world.

—Max Weber to W. E. B. Du Bois, November 17, 1904

And above all consider one thing: the day of the colored races dawns. It is insanity to delay this development; it is wisdom to promote what it promises us in light and hope for the future.

—W. E. B. Du Bois, "Die Negerfrage in den Vereinigten Staaten" [End Page 193]

Part I: The Letters and the Essay

I. The Correspondence

A. The Impossible Present of the Past: W. E. B. Du Bois and Max Weber in Correspondence, 1904–1905

In late October or early November 1904, just after concluding a whirlwind train tour of the eastern half of the United States with his wife, Marianne—a circuit that included, on the outgoing leg from New York City, stops in Buffalo, Chicago, St. Louis, and New Orleans, as well as excursions to Niagara Falls, a Cherokee community in Oklahoma, the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, and a visit to relatives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina and, on the return leg, a hurried passage through the East Coast cities of Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Boston, before landing back in Manhattan—Max Weber wrote, in his own hand, on stationary from the Holland House at 5th Avenue and 30th Street in Manhattan to W. E. B. Du Bois. At that time, Du Bois was at Atlanta University in Georgia, situated among the slight red hills overlooking the center of the city of Atlanta from the southwest. Weber's letter comprised an apology and a request.

An account of the provenance of this letter and the correspondence that followed may, in turn, make it possible to render legible the terms of address that organized the essay at hand—"Die Negerfrage in den Vereinigten Staaten," or "The Negro Question in the United States"which was first published in the January 1906 issue of the Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik edited at Heidelberg, Germany by Max Weber, Edgar Jaffé, and Werner Sombart (Du Bois 1906a).1 Although originally drafted in English by Du Bois, that version is apparently no longer extant. And, although it was translated and published in German through the initiative of the editors of the Archiv, it remains uncertain as to who actually carried out the translation. Below, I suggest a possible source of the translation. The essay, as such, is published in English in this issue, translated from the German, for the first time.2 The commentary that follows is divided into two major parts, addressing, respectively, the correspondence and the essay, and then the terms of a theoretical interlocution (forthcoming in issue 7:1 of [End Page 194] CR: The New Centennial Review); a coda will be offered in conclusion. For a brief account of "Die Negerfrage" itself, one can proceed directly to the second section of the present essay.

Only part of Weber's original letter from November 1904—its first two pages—has come down to us. Three different hand scripts show on the first page: one that is presumably Weber's, for the body of the letter is in this hand; another that is perhaps Du Bois's, a date—"Nov. 8th"—is inscribed in the place where he (or his secretary) habitually marked the occasion of his reply in these early years, which is therefore when he most likely responded to Weber's initial letter, an assumption in which we are more or less confirmed by Weber's signed...


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