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 commissioned and
published a landmark history of black Americans: The
Gift of Black Folk: The Negroes in the Making of America, by civil rights pioneer W.E.B. Du Bois.
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 A. 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
“A hundred years after W.E.B. Du Bois helped cofound the NAACP, the United States
can view its civil rights achievements with pride,” Anderson wrote in the
introduction. “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 fully appreciate these monumental achievements. It is our belief that Du
Bois’ classic work will continue to inform and inspire for many generations to
The book is available through KnightsGear.com, Amazon or
other online book outlets.
Three years earlier, against the same backdrop of widespread bigotry, the Order
established the Knights of Columbus Historical Commission to combat the revisionist
history of the time, which tended to exclude minority groups from the record of
historical achievement. The project was overseen by Edward McSweeney, who served as
assistant U.S. Commissioner of Immigration at Ellis Island from 1893-1902.
As early as the 1890s African-Americans were members, and officers, of the Knights
of Columbus. In 1895 - just 13 years after the Order's founding - the Philip
Sheridan Council was formed in Southboro, MA; Samuel Williams, an African-American,
was one of the four organizers of the council and became the council's first
Chancellor. A year later, Williams also assumed a special role at the Massachusetts
State Convention as one of the concluding speakers, along with the State