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W. E. B. Du Bois, American Prophet

By Edward J. Blum

Publication Year: 2011

Pioneering historian, sociologist, editor, novelist, poet, and organizer, W. E. B. Du Bois was one of the foremost African American intellectuals of the twentieth century. While Du Bois is remembered for his monumental contributions to scholarship and civil rights activism, the spiritual aspects of his work have been misunderstood, even negated. W. E. B. Du Bois, American Prophet, the first religious biography of this leader, illuminates the spirituality that is essential to understanding his efforts and achievements in the political and intellectual world.

Often labeled an atheist, Du Bois was in fact deeply and creatively involved with religion. Historian Edward J. Blum reveals how spirituality was central to Du Bois's approach to Marxism, pan-Africanism, and nuclear disarmament, his support for black churches, and his reckoning of the spiritual wage of white supremacy. His writings, teachings, and prayers served as articles of faith for fellow activists of his day, from student book club members to Langston Hughes.

A blend of history, sociology, literary criticism, and religious reflection in the model of Du Bois's best work, W. E. B. Du Bois, American Prophet recasts the life of this great visionary and intellectual for a new generation of scholars and activists.

Honorable Mention, 2007 Gustavus Myers Center Outstanding Book Awards

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: Politics and Culture in Modern America


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pp. C-ii


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p. iii-iii


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pp. iv-vi


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pp. vii-2

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INTRODUCTION Rethinking W. E. B. Du Bois, Rethinking Religion and Race

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pp. 3-19

AT LEAST SIXTY-TWO African Americans were lynched in 1906 and the city of Atlanta experienced one of the worst racial massacres in American history, but this could not quench Hallie Queen's excitement. From her vantage point in February 1907, the nation was changing. One of two African American female students at Cornell University in upstate New York, she had been lead ...

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CHAPTER ONE The Hero With a Black Face Autobiography and the Mythology of Self

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pp. 20-60

SHORTLY BEFORE JOINING the Communist Party in 1961 and rejecting the United States in favor of citizenship in Ghana, the ninety-two-year-old W. E. B. Du Bois stepped into the Oral History Research Office at Columbia University in 1960. He was there to share memories from his life with William T. Ingersoll, one of oral history's earliest pioneers. Ingersoll queried Du Bois...

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CHAPTER TWO Race as Cosmic Sight in The Souls of Black Folk

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pp. 61-97

AMERICA'S CULTURAL LANDSCAPE was rocked by The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches. First published in April 1903, reprinted numerous times since, and translated into dozens of languages, Souls consisted of fourteen essays, an introduction, and a conclusion. Blending history, sociology, autobiography, and fiction to discuss race in the United States, Du Bois created...

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CHAPTER THREE A Dark Monk Who Wrote History and Sociology The Spiritual Wage of Whiteness, the Black Church, and Mystical Africa

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pp. 98-133

REREND WILLIAM L. BULL was deeply concerned. Massive economic, social. and religious forces were transforming the United States at the beginning of the twentieth century, and the church seemed to offer few answers. But with Bull's funds, the Episcopal Church's Philadelphia Divinity School would help. It inaugurated a lectureship in "Christian Sociology" that asked ...

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CHAPTER FOUR Black Messiahs and Murderous Whites Violence and Faith in Literary Expression

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pp. 134-180

AWAITING EXECUTION, Bigger Thomas sat brooding in his prison cell. The fictional lead of Richard Wright's gripping novel Native Son (1940) now had to endure the visit ofan African American minister from his mother's church. The pastor begged Bigger to accept the love of God. "Pergit yuh's black:' Reverend Hammond implored, "Gawd looks past yo' skin 'n inter yo' soul, son....

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CHAPTER FIVE Christ Was a Communist Religion for an Aging Leftist

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pp. 181-210

HORACE BUMSTEAD BELIEVED that he knew the truth about religion in Du Bois's life. According to the longtime president of Atlanta University, when Du Bois applied for a professorship there in 1895, a number of university leaders wondered "about his religion." "He's studied in Germany," they reasoned, "perhaps if you scratch him you'll find an agnostic." Bumstead...

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EPILOGUE The Passing of the Prophet

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pp. 211-222

"GOD IS NO PLAYWRIGHT," reflected the fictive Manuel Mansart of the Black Flame trilogy as he lay on his deathbed in Manhattan. Most "lives end dimly, and without drama; they pile no climax on tragedy nor triumph on defeat. They end quietly and helplessly-they just end." In the case of the real W E. B. Du Bois, Manuel could not have been more wrong. Du Bois died in...


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pp. 223-256


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pp. 257-270


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pp. 271-273

E-ISBN-13: 9780812204506
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812220865

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Politics and Culture in Modern America