A Review on W. E. B Du Bois Bioagraphy of A Race”

Filed under: A & E,NEWS NOW |

It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve shared a literary review. The lengthy absence is owed to my careful appreciation of this 700-page masterpiece of historical biography, David Levering Lewis’s remarkable, “W. E. B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868-1919.

That this mammoth tome only covers a little more than half Du Bois’ life (he died in 1963) is a testament both to Levering’s assiduous eye for detail and Du Bois’ prodigious output and energy.

Lewis delivers a fascinating study of Du Bois’s formative influences, notably his fraught experience as a black prodigy in late 19th century America, mostly in white environments.

The unifying theme of the book is the construction of Du Bois’s powerful sense of self, developed behind the “veil,” to use his seminal metaphor of blackness in America. A man who saw himself as a savior and a Cesar could be both incredibly empathetic and insightful in his public life, but elite and acerbic in private affairs. It was Du Bois who unforgettably wrote that the “problem of the 20th Century is the problem of the Color Line,” and that an American Negro (He insisted on capitalization of the word, and ultimately brought white editors to heel) would “always feel his two-ness.”

The meticulous treatment of the founding of the NAACP, punctuated with Du Bois’ extensive correspondences with friends and foes, is both riveting and revealing, as is his artful duels with Booker T. Washington, who advocated a very different track for African Americans struggling against the yoke of post Civil War Jim Crow.

Ultimately, the book is as spectacular as its subject. It was Du Bois who first clearly articulated the kinds of insight and creativity forged in the uniquely African American alienation and offered a proud, glorious way forward. For Du Bois and his famed “Talented 10th,” there was no compromise or well-mannered subordination. There was excellence, black and unafraid.

The book is magisterial, erudite, fascinating, endlessly complex and driven by deep currents of self-importance and profundity — just like the great man.

Follow Robert Rogers on Twitter: @roberthrogers1

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Posted by on October 11, 2017. Filed under A & E, NEWS NOW. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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