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Web dubois and the deep roots of the african heritage

References and Further Reading 1. He had a happy early childhood, largely unaware of race prejudice, until one day, as he records in Souls of Black Folk, a student in his class refused to exchange greeting cards with him simply because he was black Souls, 2. This experience made Du Bois feel for the first time that he was different, in that he was both inside the white world since he lived within it and outside of it since he was perceived in the white world through the lens of race prejudice.

Throughout his life after this event, Du Bois was continually made to feel, as he says, that he was both an American and an African, but never an African-American, with his own distinct, coherent identity in the American world.

Du Bois refused to become depressed by his new realization, and in fact made it his life's work to combat race prejudice and to find a way to achieve coherent personhood for blacks in America.

Du Bois, it turns out, was just the right person for the job, since he had it in his character to affirm himself as web dubois and the deep roots of the african heritage matter of course. He was a bold, courageous youth, willing to fight for himself and his peers. All his life Du Bois was self-assertive without being aggressive, assuming without hesitation the right to equality of all people.

Knowing his mission early on, Du Bois headed to school to become educated adequately to realize it a task not without struggle in the virulently racist world of the times. He attended Fisk University as an undergraduate student and Harvard University as a graduate student as well as studied abroad in Germany. He was the first African-American to be awarded a Ph. Du Bois learned a lot from his philosophy teachers, especially James, but he came to reject academic philosophy, referring to it as "lovely but sterile" Lewis, Biography 92.

He turned to history and sociology instead. Du Bois' dissertation reflects this new direction. Du Bois began to turn his energies to a socio-economic analysis of the African-American situation.

An encyclopedia of philosophy articles written by professional philosophers.

His efforts were guided by the belief that a proper understanding of this situation would help eliminate racism; if people only understood properly what African-Americans were going through, Du Bois felt, they would appreciate better the circumstances that they face and would work toward their full liberation and flourishing. This line of thought led to the publication of The Philadelphia Negro in 1899.

Du Bois' most important work, The Souls of Black Folk, was published in 1903, and reflects an important new direction of his thinking.

This is the work for which he is most renowned, the work in which he declared, famously, that "the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line" Souls, V.

About this work, Du Bois' biographer writes, "It was one of those events epochally dividing history into a before and an after" Lewis, Biography 277. What makes this work so important, culturally, is the way in which it speaks out passionately and uncompromisingly about the spirit of African-Americans, emphasizing their humanity and strength despite centuries of the worst oppression. In addition, Du Bois in this book dared to challenge the web dubois and the deep roots of the african heritage famous African-American intellectual of the day, Booker T.

Washington, and to assert an opposing principle to Washington's belief that industrial education alone would lead to equality. Du Bois argued instead that African-Americans must be given the chance to attain the most sophisticated, higher education as well, so that they might partake of the goods of civilization as well as be fit candidates to educate other African-Americans in turn a task not to be left fully to whites.

  • For Abrahams, the chance encounter with Souls was clearly ephiphanic, the triangulation of previous meanings by a visual image hence the description of the text as "a fat black book" which would in turn engender a move away from "the self as usually understood, to a fragmentation of experience which calls our ordinary notions of identity into question;
  • Luckily, as Du Bois makes clear, the dual perspective of African-Americans can be used to grasp the essence of whiteness and to expose it, in the multiple senses of the word "expose;
  • Routledge, 1990 ; J;
  • One could, of course, pause here to ask why DuBois insisted on the identity of Africa as a reaction against "the assumptions of the whites" when it would have been much easier to legitimize his attachment to the continent through the invocation of a certain idiom of authenticity;
  • Still, he insisted that modern culture was the result of a process of differentiation, and each race was associated with a distinctive civilization, a set of ideals;
  • The white person in America, by contrast, contains but a single consciousness and perspective, for he or she is a member of a dominant culture, with its own racial and cultural norms asserted as absolute.

The Souls of Black Folk is a work rich in philosophical content, as will be discussed in more detail below. For now, however, it should be noted that Du Bois shifts direction in this work and takes a novel approach from his previous work. Still trying to build understanding and sympathy for the situation of African-Americans, especially in the period after Reconstruction, Du Bois now combines socio-economic research with poetry, song, story, and philosophy.

A new, multi-faceted voice grips Du Bois, allowing him, in what can only be called a great and profound piece of literature, to pierce the mind of his readers and to make them feel overwhelmingly the significance of being black in America.

  • As Robert Bernasconi makes clear, Du Bois is a central figure in the debate about the nature of race because he has triggered an intense discussion about the extent to which there is a biological basis to race and the extent to which social and cultural features define race as well "Introduction," 1-2;
  • The supposedly civilized concept of "whiteness" in truth sinks into barbarism and insatiable world conquest;
  • Up the stairway clambered a soldier in khaki, aide-de-camp of the President of the Republic, a customhouse official, the clerk of the American legation—and after them sixty-five lithe, lean black stevedores with whom the steamer would work down to Portuguese Angola and back;
  • For DuBois and other African intellectuals in the 1920s the rise of modernism and its legitimation of African primitivism as an alternative to industrial civilization is significant for two reasons;
  • In 1959, after a lifetime of combating rampant racism in the U.

In his middle works, most notably Darkwater, published in 1919, Du Bois changes directions again, as Manning Marable notes Marable, vi. This time, instead of trying to make the reader gently understand, Du Bois lambastes the reader for failing to understand.

Darkwater is a fiery, accosting work, in which Du Bois makes such claims as that "white Christianity is a miserable failure" because of its racism Darkwater, 21and that white civilization is to a large extent "mutilation and rape masquerading as culture" Darkwater, 21.

Du Bois' new approach consists of the attempt to wake up the reader from their racist slumber, to force them to see the racism wherever it is for what it is. This work, in which Du Bois asserts that, "a belief in humanity is a belief in colored men" Darkwater, 27has become particularly important for later, critical race theory see below.

It is worth noting about the work for now that again Du Bois blends philosophy, poetry, literature, history, and sociology in a unique, energizing manner that was to remain his stylistic trademark.

Du Bois' later works include Dusk of Dawn 1940his "autobiography of a concept of race. An Essay in the History and Sociology of the Negro Race 1939in which he endorses a form of Marxist critique, and the posthumously published Autobiography of W.

Du Bois 1968which contains reflections on his life in its last decade. Throughout his life, in addition to writing, Du Bois worked as an activist for social causes.

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (1868—1963)

He was editor of the journal, Crisis 1910-1919which explored contemporary racial problems and how to combat them. He ran for the U. Senate in order to help improve the plight of African Americans. In 1959, after a lifetime of combating rampant racism in the U.

He spent his time in Africa working on an Encyclopedia of African Peoples and refining his social analysis, which had come to include Marxist elements he became an official member of the U. Communist Party before his departure. Du Bois died in Accra, Ghana, on August 27, 1963---immediately before the March on Washington that inaugurated the civil rights movement in America, as several commentators have observed Lewis; Hynes.

General Philosophical Orientation Philosophically speaking, Du Bois' work is difficult web dubois and the deep roots of the african heritage characterize, since he lived and wrote for such a long time and refined his position over so many years. Holmes has described Du Bois as a materialist and a social philosopher Holmes, 80-1. According to Holmes, "with Dr. Recent scholarship has adopted a more nuanced perspective. Cornel West puts Du Bois decidedly in the camp of the pragmatiststhat is, in the camp of someone who works in the " Emersonian tradition " of evading traditional philosophical problems altogether and turning instead to the empowerment of individuals and communities.

What Du Bois adds to the pragmatists, according to West, is an impassioned and focused concern for "the wretched of the earth" and for thinking about how one can alleviate their plight West, 138.

  1. A man got up and came over.
  2. The dreamless beat of midday stillness, at dusk, at dawn, at noon, always. References and Further Reading 1.
  3. Why is that and what are your suggestions as to how it can be used to support long-term poverty reduction and community empowerment?

Other more recent approaches tend to see Du Bois as a highly important critical theorist, or someone whose work is inherently and purposefully interdisciplinary in nature, drawing on multiple disciplines as needed to critique power, especially white power Rabaka, 2.

This view would seemed to be confirmed by Du Bois' biographer, who concludes his painstakingly thorough account of Du Bois' life and work by noting that Du Bois, in essence, "attempted virtually every possible solution to web dubois and the deep roots of the african heritage problem of twentieth century racism---scholarship, propaganda. Hence, the traditional view of Du Bois as always concerned with getting at the truth about race through science would seem to be contradicted by recent scholarship, which holds that Du Bois tried multiple, irreconcilable approaches even propaganda to achieve his ends.

Even so, there remains important recent scholarship that sees Du Bois as a more traditional philosopher, concerned with the ideals of truth, goodness, and beauty. According to Keith Byerman, for example, Du Bois possesses "confidence in his grasp of truth," and his autobiographies, for one, are stories in which he always gains "a fuller view of truth" Byerman, 7.

The truth that Du Bois realizes, according to Byerman, is that there is a "Law of the Father," which "challenges the corrupt father. By supplanting the father, the son can install an "empire" of reason, morality, and beauty to replace arbitrary power and self-interest" Byerman, 7-8. On this reading, which is Platonic in many ways, truth, goodness, and beauty are ideal qualities by appeal to which Du Bois judges and condemns the corrupt world of racial inequality.

Overall, then, we can see that the general interpretation of Du Bois' philosophy is contested ground, and that no clear-cut, agreed-upon definition of it emerges from the scholarship. Some Continental Philosophers have even identified Du Bois as Hegelian in a crucial respect or at least as having "held out as ideal" one of Hegel's main goals Higgins, 58.

The point is made that, like Hegel, the Du Boisian self is also torn asunder, divided within itself, only to have to struggle to attain a higher synthesis of identity in a new formation. Materialist, Pragmatist, Critical Theorist, Platonist, Hegelian---Du Bois' general philosophical orientation is far from having been finally determined.

Double Consciousness Whatever turns out to be the best general account of Du Bois' philosophy, it seems the significance of his thought only really shows up in the specific details of his works themselves, especially in The Souls of Black Folk. It is here that he first develops his central philosophical concept, the concept of double consciousness, and spells out its full implications.

Du Bois asserts that "the color line" divides people in the States, causes web dubois and the deep roots of the african heritage harm to its inhabitants, and ruins its own pretensions to democracy. He shows, in particular, how a veil has come to be put over African-Americans, so that others do not see them as they are; African-Americans are obscured in America; they cannot be seen clearly, but only through the lens of race prejudice.

African-Americans feel this alien perception upon them but at the same time feel themselves as themselves, as their own with their own legitimate feelings and traditions. This dual self-perception is known as "double consciousness. In the background of Souls is always also the moral import of its message, to the effect that the insertion of a veil on human beings is wrong and must be condemned on the grounds that it divides what otherwise would be a unique and coherent identity.

Souls thus aims to make the reader understand, in effect, that African-Americans have a distinct cultural identity, one that must be acknowledged, respected, and enabled to flourish. Souls contains a Forethought, fourteen chapters, and an Afterthought. Each chapter is preceded by a bar of African-American spiritual music coupled with a poem. The Forethought tells us the plan of the work: Chapter 1, "Of Our Spiritual Strivings," is perhaps the most important chapter of the book from a strictly philosophical perspective.

Here Du Bois lays out the basic concept of double consciousness, while the remainder of the work provides concrete instances of the concept. The Afterthought, rich and powerful in poetic imagery, implores the reader not to let Du Bois' "leaves" fail to take root: Or, as he also expresses the point, "Why did God make me an outcast and a stranger in mine own house?

Double consciousness is the awareness of being a split person, a dual self whose different parts are at dire odds with one another. The American self in a person, such as America was then constituted, works against the Negro self; while the Negro self, resisting as it must such a constitution, works against the American self. In one person, therefore, we have two deeply divided tendencies.

Du Bois does not conceive this division to be a good thing; he conceives it, indeed, as positively unhealthy and problematic.

He refers to it as "this waste of double aims, this seeking to satisfy two unreconciled ideals," which "has wrought sad havoc with the courage and faith and deeds of ten thousand people" Souls, 3.

  1. I am a political economist and originally studied international finance reform and international development. To be primitive was no longer to exist outside civilization; on the contrary, the primitive was now seen as the custodian of an alternative mode of social life, one that was immune to the disease of civilization and its discontent.
  2. It spoke about a people in a valley. Essays Classic and Contemporary, Ed.
  3. While most discussions of this essay have focused on the analytical failure or success of DuBois nascent notion of race, I am interested in what one may call the unfinished aesthetic project of this essay, namely the author's awareness that the elaboration of a racial theory that could take account of Africa and the African in the Americas as part of a larger human community, confronted a set of cognitive and explanatory problems in its moment of inauguration.
  4. The significant point, though, is that his Saint Orgne, like Carlyle's Jocelyn of Brakeloud, would prescribe the spiritualism of culture as the solution to the problems of the age, building a community in which material needs were regulated by the larger spiritual interest.

Not knowing which particular direction to turn, always fighting against oneself in either direction, what double consciousness prevents web dubois and the deep roots of the african heritage the attainment of "self-conscious manhood," a coherent sense of self and direction, the ability "to merge his double self into a better and truer self" Souls, 2. In Du Bois' conception, the human self is thus capable of being cut or split, and at the same time capable of growing back together again and becoming, as he says, better and even more true.

Of course, a truer self implies something like truth---and thus we can see that Du Bois holds to the idea of a more genuine ideal of a person, specifically of African-Americans. Du Bois' idea is that African-Americans have in truth a unique, valuable identity but that current conditions keep this identity from forming or at least becoming fully active and available.

We can see here, too, Du Bois' famous call for allowing African-Americans to become genuine participants in American culture, "to be a co-worker in the kingdom of culture" Souls, 3in such a way that American culture could only benefit by the inclusion of its own genuine members. Du Bois does not wish to eliminate white American culture nor Negro culture in America. He wishes to fuse the two into a genuine new element, "in order that some day on American soil two world-races may give each to each those characteristics both so sadly lack" Souls, 7.

Through recognition of a place for African-Americans in American culture, Du Bois wishes to achieve a genuine American culture as well: In the remaining chapters of Souls, Du Bois provides some rather powerful and tragic instances of the struggles with dual selfhood that African-Americans have had to undergo. A key idea of Chapter 1 is to show what Reconstruction meant for African-Americans: Chapter 2 examines the aftermath of Reconstruction and shows how Reconstruction in the form of the Freedmen's Bureau at first worked slowly toward, but then ultimately failed to achieve, this ideal.

  • The white person in America, by contrast, contains but a single consciousness and perspective, for he or she is a member of a dominant culture, with its own racial and cultural norms asserted as absolute;
  • Du Bois, it turns out, was just the right person for the job, since he had it in his character to affirm himself as a matter of course;
  • Du Bois's words had the impact of a revelation;
  • In Chapters 4 and 5, Du Bois takes his readers further into the idea of the veil, taking a look both inside it and outside in each chapter, respectively.

Chapter 3 continues to show how the ideal failed to develop by pointing to the slow and ineffective rise of leadership of African-Americans. It is in this chapter that Du Bois famously challenges Booker T. Washington for his call to lead blacks through industrial education without the inclusion of higher learning.

How, Du Bois reasons, can African-Americans become "co-workers in the kingdom of culture" if they are only trained in the sterile practice of moneymaking? In Chapters 4 and 5, Du Bois takes his readers further into the idea of the veil, taking a look both inside it and outside in each chapter, respectively.

Interview: The Deep Roots of African American Cooperative Economics