The Wisdom of W.E.B. DuBois

Above the Veil: Revisiting the Classicism of W. E. B. Du Bois
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Enter into the spirit of your big bed-room. Enjoy what is and not pine for what is not. Read some good, heavy, serious books just for discipline: Take yourself in hand and master yourself. Make yourself do unpleasant things, so as to gain the upper hand of your soul.

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Above all remember: your father loves you and believes in you and expects you to be a wonderful woman. Yolande went on to be an educator and an activist, and married the Harvard-educated poet Countee Cullen fourteen years later, with Langston Hughes as groomsman. Posterity is a trove of timeless wisdom in its slim but potent entirety. Complement this particular excerpt with Simone Weil on the crucial difference between our rights and our responsibilities and Margo Jefferson on the provisions of privilege , the revisit W.

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Privacy policy. I shall write each week and expect a weekly letter from you. Lovingly yours, Papa Yolande went on to be an educator and an activist, and married the Harvard-educated poet Countee Cullen fourteen years later, with Langston Hughes as groomsman.

As a son, husband, and father, Du Bois engaged a perspective on women not endorsed by the majority of men of his era. He was a feminist who lobbied for the social, political, and sexual equality of women. Like that of his contemporary, Ida B. Wells Barnett, his political agenda placed the urgency of securing civil rights for African Americans a notch above that of obtaining the same for women in general, but he never let it drift far from the sphere of his concerns.

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The issue for Du Bois was as much a matter of political and social practicality as it was one of sacred duty. As the son of a nomadic father, Alfred Du Bois, who left his family when Du Bois was still a toddler, he was very much aware of the limitations placed upon the lives of women by their forced dependence on men. The painful irony was that in cases like that of his mother, women were often forced to accept the responsibilities refused by men but were left without the social or economic means to meet those responsibilities.

American women, like so many others around the world, were trained largely to live as second-class citizens, and living as a second-class citizen meant living as a victim. It was only by empowering them with full social and economic equality that average mothers, wives, and daughters of the world stood a chance of providing for themselves and the offspring they bore.

Most extreme among the abuses of women were those suffered by black women during American slavery. Against their will, they served in turn as instruments of sexual pleasure for their white masters and as breeding mares for the institution of slavery. Added to the shock of the routine violation of their bodies was the trauma of having to relinquish their children to unknown slaveholders.

Du Bois considered this physical, mental, and spiritual abuse of black women — with its inevitable result being the destruction of the traditional African family — the highest crime committed by slave-holders and the one thing for which he said he could not forgive them. In his universe, the image of the black mother was that of a sacred being whose innate enchantment had been polluted and diluted by the ignorance, greed, and lust of white men.

She now "sobbed her life away in song, longing for her lost palm trees and scented waters. All religion, from beauty to beast, lies on her eager breasts; her body bears the stars, while her shoulders are necklaced by the dragon. No state can be strong which excludes from its expressed wisdom, the knowledge possessed by mothers, wives and daughters.

There was a day in the world when it was considered that by marriage a woman lost all her individuality as a human soul and simply became a machine for making men. We have outgrown that idea. In other years women's way was clear: to be beautiful, to be petted, to bear children. Such has been their theoretic destiny and if perchance they have been ugly, hurt, and barren, that has been forgotten with studied silence. We cannot abolish the new economic freedom of women.

We cannot imprison women again in a home or require them all on pain of death to be muses and housekeepers. The uplift of women is next to the problem of the color line and the peace movement, our greatest modern cause. Not being expected to be merely ornamental, they have girded themselves for work, instead of adorning their bodies only for play.

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Their sturdier minds have concluded that if a woman be clean, healthy, and educated, she is as pleasing as God wills and far more useful than most of her sisters. It is inconceivable that any person looking upon the accomplishments of women today in every field of endeavor, realizing their humiliating handicap and the astonishing prejudices which they face and yet seeing despite this that in government, in the professions, in sciences, art and literature and the industries they are leading and dominating forces and growing in power as their emancipation grows — it is inconceivable that any fair-minded person could for a moment talk about a "weaker" sex.

It is the mother I ever recall, — the little far off mother of my grandmothers, who sobbed her life away in song, longing for her lost palm trees and scented waters; the tall and bronzen grandmother, with beaked nose and shrewish eyes, who loved and scolded her black and laughing husband as he smoked lazily in his high oak chair; above all, my own mother, with all her soft brownness. See All Customer Reviews. Shop Books.

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Overview The men and women who shaped our world—in their own words. Compiled by scholars, this series presents excerpts from the most important and revealing writings of the most remarkable minds of all time. Martin Luther King, Jr. Du Bois was a tireless explorer and a gifted discoverer of social truths. His singular greatness lay in his quest for truth about his own people. A brilliant writer and speaker, he was the outstanding African-American intellectual of his time. During his lifetime, Du Bois was a powerful force in academia, literature, civil rights, and the peace movement.

Using excerpts from his many books as well as from articles, essays, poems, letters, and speeches, The Wisdom of W. Du Bois provides a telling portrait of the man and his groundbreaking ideas. The battle for humanity is not lost or losing.

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Which is really Truth — Fact or Fancy? The most hopeless of deaths is the death of Faith. Thicken the thunder of God's voice, and lo! Human unity within and without Nations, must and will succeed. Men have forgotten where civilization started. How hard a thing is life to the lowly, and yet how human and real. Feeling like dying isn't going to help things a bit.

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The Valley of the Shadow of Death gives few of its pilgrims back to the world. The matter of our logic is not nearly so important as that of our ethics and religion. Let the ears of a guilty people tingle with truth. It is a hard thing to live haunted by the ghost of an untrue dream. Inspiration strives with doubt, and faith with vain questionings.

Let us follow the clear light and afterward turn to other darknesses. With clean hands and honest hearts we must front high heaven and beg peace in our time. Du Bois asserts that "the color line" divides people in the States, causes massive 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.

New York: Holt, 1915

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: to present "the spiritual world in which ten thousand Americans live and strive" Souls , v. 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 Wisdom of W.E.B. Du Bois

The Afterthought, rich and powerful in poetic imagery, implores the reader not to let Du Bois' "leaves" fail to take root: it is an impassioned call to action based on the book's insights. 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.

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Masterpieces of Negro Eloquence. In protest of conferences held in segregated hotels, resigns his membership in the American Association of University Professors. The Souls of Black Folk is a work rich in philosophical content, as will be discussed in more detail below. They would have made it count. Du Bois defines democracy in terms of criticism when he attacks Booker T. Let the world take no backward step in that slow but sure progress which has successively refused to let the spirit of class, of caste, of privilege, or of birth, debar from life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness a striving human soul.

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.

Not knowing which particular direction to turn, always fighting against oneself in either direction, what double consciousness prevents is 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.

ficnasettzystbreath.tk 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.