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W.E.B. Du Bois: A Reader.

"These are my plans: to make a name in science, to make a name in literature, and thus raise the race. Or perhaps to raise a visible empire in Africa...And if I perish--I perish." So reads a diary entry of 25-year-old William Edward Burghardt Du Bois. Youthful exuberance? Delusions of grandeur? Probably more like the early turnings of a brilliant and determined mind.

We can visit the source of this thinking in W.E.B. Du Bois: A Reader, edited by David Levering Lewis, who also authored a biography of Du Bois last year. This book, however, is a collection of nearly 150 of Du Bois' writings, covering a panorama of passions, prejudices and visions.

In it we find the expected historical highlights and prescriptions for black progress. Such pieces as "Japan, Color and Afro-American" and "The Pan-African Congresses: The Story of a Growing Movement" also serve to remind us of how broad Du Bois' horizons were. There are also selections that show nastiness (read "A Lunatic or a Traitor" on Marcus Garvey), naivete ("Socialism and the Negro Problem," in which he praises the dictator Stalin) and contrition ("Talented Tenth: A Memorial Address," in which he recants his naive, elitist idea for the uplifting of the race).

Although Du Bois (1868-1963) did not raise an African empire, he did raise the consciousness of his people and the level of discourse on race and class at home and abroad.

If you haven't read Du Bois in a while or don't remember his works, this collection is a superb way to renew your acquaintance. This almost 700-page anthology will inspire you to read his complete works. Inasmuch as the issues he grappled with--separatism vs. integration, capitalism and race pride-- are still with us today, W.E.B. Du Bois: A Reader gives essential context and background to current debates, thus meriting our attention.
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Author:Bolden, Tonya
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1995
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