Quest of the Silver Fleece 1

The Quest of the Silver Fleece was W.E.B. Du Bois’ first novel. Published in 1911 by A.C. McClurg & Co. of Chicago, the novel combined literary realism with some romanticism and political-economic analysis to provide a story of two Black protagonists, a man and a woman, who eventually work together to build an economic community — a community that provided a way to overcome both the overt and the systemic racism of a fictional post-Reconstruction Alabama town and county. The silver fleece of the title referred to cotton, which was the valuable crop that, as Du Bois suggested in the novel, would help rural African Americans become self-sufficient.

Du Bois mentioned The Quest of the Silver Fleece in a few of his later works. In his 1915 book The Negro Du Bois included Quest under the bibliographic heading “The Future of the Negro”. In Dusk of Dawn, Du Bois wrote “In 1911, I tried my hand at fiction and published “The Quest of the Silver Fleece” which was really an economic study of some merit.” (1940: Ch.9 [1968 Schocken edition: p.269]).

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