Britt Rusert, professor of African-American literature at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Adrienne Brown who is a University of Chicago professor discovered Du Bois’ “The Princess Steel” in an archives box packed with short fiction of various genres, including science fiction, states a Slate.com article. According to “io9”’s Charlie Jane Anders, the story was originally titled “The Megascope: A Tale of Tales”. Rusert and Brown “have dated [it] to 1908 and 1910—much earlier than any of Du Bois’ other speculative fiction,” explains Slate.com.
According to Slate, the story involves a black sociologist who looks into the past with a device called a “megascope”. Through the megascope, he sees a mythic society where an African princess, called the Princess Steel, is imprisoned by an imperial character known as “The Lord of the Golden Way”. He steals the princess’s silver hair that he discovers to be made of steel and uses it to establish a global-wide mill industry. Slate says the story is an important link in Afrofuturism, a social criticism movement against racism and poverty that often uses science fiction by black storytellers as a tool to teach about these issues.