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W.E.B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868-1919.

No American, Black or White presents such a formidable challenge to a biographers as William Edward Burghardt Du Bois. Not only did his life span nearly a century - he was born in 1868 and died at 95 in 1963 on the eve of the March on Washington - he also was pivotally involved in nearly every vital event of his day.

To this awesome task David Levering Lewis brings a meticulous approach, sifting through primary sources in his reconstruction of Du Bois' complex life. His passion is equal to his subject's rich diversity, as he complements or amends the facts Du Bois dispensed in three autobiographies.

W.E.B. Du Bois. Biography of a Race, 1868-1919 is a revealing subtitle for a book tracing Du Bois' momentous path across the social/political map of black and American histofy. Whether at Harvard, where he was the first African-American to win a Ph.d., or in the black leadership fray, where he took on Booker T. Washington, Or directing the emergent

Civil Rights Movement, Du Bois was a central figure. Lewis' impeccable scholarship keeps the man in focus as he dissects the swirl of events.

The one weakness in this first volume is excess. Lewis is so caught up in setting the stage that it's often difficult to recall the point. There are also some minor flubs, but to emphasize, these miscues "would be contemptible," to paraphrase Du Bois.

Just as Boswell found his Johnson, Lewis has found his Du Bois, and Volume II should be no less compelling.
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Author:Boyd, Herb
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1994
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