Charismatic, singularly determined, and controversial, W.E.B. Du Bois was a historian, novelist, editor, sociologist, founder of the NAACP, advocate of women's rights, and the premier architect of the Civil Rights movement. His hypnotic voice thunders out of David Levering Lewis's monumental biography like a locomotive under full steam.
This second volume of what is already a classic work begins with the triumphal return from WWI of African American veterans to the shattering reality of racism and lynching even as America discovers the New Negro of literature and art. In stunning detail, Lewis chronicles the little-known political agenda behind the Harlem Renaissance and Du Bois's relentless fight for equality and justice, including his steadfast refusal to allow whites to interpret the aspirations of black America. Seared by the rejection of terrified liberals and the black bourgeoisie during the Communist witch-hunts, Du Bois ended his days in uncompromising exile in newly independent Ghana. In re-creating the turbulent times in which he lived and fought, Lewis restores the inspiring and famed Du Bois to his central place in American history.
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
Wells's fight for racial and gender justice began in 1883, when she was a young schoolteacher who traveled to her rural schoolhouse by rail. Forcibly ejected from her seat on a train one day on account of her race, Wells immediately sued the railroad. Though she ultimately lost her case on appeal in the Supreme Court of Tennessee, the published account of her legal challenge to Jim Crow changed her life, propelling her into a career as an outspoken journalist and social activist. Also a fierce critic of the racial violence that marked her era, Wells went on to launch a crusade against lynching that took her across the United States and eventually to Britain. Though she helped found the NAACP in 1910 after resettling in Chicago, she would not remain a member for long. Always militant in her quest for racial justice, Wells rejected not only Booker T. Washington's accommodationism but also the moderating influence of white reformers within the early NAACP. The life of Ida B. Wells and her enduring achievements are dramatically recovered in Mia Bay's To Tell the Truth Freely.