Herbert Aptheker

was an American Marxist historian and political activist. He wrote more than 50 books, mostly in the fields of African American history and general U.S. history, most notably, American Negro Slave Revolts (1943), a classic in the field, and the 7-volume Documentary History of the Negro People (1951-1994). He compiled a wide variety of primary documents supporting study of African-American history.From the 1940s, Aptheker was a prominent figure in U.S. scholarly discourse. David Horowitz described Aptheker as "the Communist Party’s most prominent Cold War intellectual".[1] He was blacklisted in academia during the 1950s because of his Communist Party membership.Aptheker's master's thesis, a study of the 1831 Nat Turner slave revolt in Virginia, laid the groundwork for his future work on the history of American slave revolts. Aptheker revealed Turner's heroism, demonstrating how his rebellion was rooted in resistance to the exploitative conditions of the Southern slave system. His NEGRO SLAVE REVOLTS IN THE UNITED STATES 1526-1860 (1939), includes a table of documented slave revolts by year and state. His doctoral dissertation, American Negro Slave Revolts, was published in 1943. Doing research in Southern libraries and archives, he uncovered 250 similar episodes. It remains a landmark and a classic work in the study of Southern history and slavery.Aptheker challenged racist writings, most notably those of Georgia-born historian Ulrich Bonnell Phillips. The latter had characterized enslaved African Americans as child-like, inferior, and uncivilized; argued that slavery was a benign institution; and defended the preservation of the Southern plantation system. Such works had been common in the field before Aptheker's scholarship revealed a much more nuanced society, in which African Americans acted from agency.Considering himself a protégé of W. E. B. Du Bois, Aptheker long emphasized his mentor's social science scholarship and life-long struggle for African Americans to achieve equality. In his work as a historian, he compiled a documentary history of African Americans in the United States, a monumental collection which he started publishing in 1951. It eventually resulted in seven volumes of primary documents, a tremendous resource for African-American studies.


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