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Du Bois: Souls of Black Folk

The Concept of the Political in Du Bois and the wage of whiteness
by

Jasmine Yarish

on 4 June 2013

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Transcript of Du Bois: Souls of Black Folk

Conclusion The end! And one more thing... is here About the Author:
W.E.B. Du Bois The Souls of Black Folk Whiteness The Political in Souls of Black Folk and the Wage of Whiteness Born 1868 in Great Barrington, Mass. - after the Civil War.
At age of 17 went to Fisk University in Tennessee
Fisk founded in 1860 was an all Black college
Continued education at Harvard where he received 3 degrees between 1888 and 1895 (B.A. philosophy, M.A. history, Ph.D. history)
First Black to achieve a Ph.D. at Harvard
In between his studies at Harvard, he spent a year in Berlin.
After experiencing the wrath of the McCarthyite America, Du Bois emigrated to Africa in 1961.
Died August 1963 - the same year he became a citizen of Ghana, as well as the same day that MLK gave his "I Have a Dream" speech in front of a quarter of a million people in Washington, D.C. Biographical: Life & Education Public Figure
wrote for national magazines regarding civil rights
fought the Georgia legislature's plan to take away Black voters access to the polls
National Leader
fought against Booker T. Washington's assimilationist standings alongside others
Du Bois - "Talented Tenth" (pp. 99-100)
Washington - leadership based on skilled farmers and tradespeople
Founding member of the NAACP
Global Leader
participated in the first worldwide gathering of Black leaders
Pan-African movement Biographical: Political & Leadership

Sociology
Du Bois came to the study of sociology "by way of philosophy and history" (The Autobiography of W. E. B. Du Bois, p. 149). At that point it did not exist at Harvard.
1897 Hired by the University of Pennsylvania to study Philadelphia Blacks.
Interviewed 5,000 people for the study which was published as The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study published in 1899 by the University of Pennsylvania
Even though he abandoned the "scientific" study of sociology and returned to his roots in philosophy and history with Souls (1903) and Black Reconstruction (1935) respectfully, he did return to a more nuanced sociology with Color and Democracy: Colonies and Peace (1945) where he analyzed the policies of Western nations as part and parcel of the larger imperial movements around the globe. Theoretical Contributions: Interdiscplinarity "strange experience" (p. 37-38)
problem of the color-line (p. 45)
1. Redefinition of Race
race typically understood as biological
Du Bois arguing for a sociopolitical definition of race
2. Du Bois is wrestling with the conflict between a fully socio-historical conception of race, and a more essentialized and deterministic vision like that found in the understanding of race as biological.
DuBois is identifying a burden that blacks (and perhaps other dominated groups) carried – being seen by the dominant society not as people but as a problem people, as a people who posed a problem for the rest of society.
"two-ness" (p. 38)
gift or burden? Double Consciousness Sorrow Songs Old version - The call to bring civilization to the darker peoples of the world. Best exemplified in the poetry of Rudyard Kipling. Towards a new version of white man's burden New version - Perhaps the object of civilization should not be peoples of color across the globe, but white people themselves (those who hold on to the "possessive investment of whiteness")? Perhaps the notion of civilization itself should be recognized for what it is - a mechanism of control and exploitation? "listen to the striving in the souls of black folk" (p. 44). Double Consciousness Breakdown Du Bois' shows the debilitating effects of "double consciousness," but he also develops in Souls that one's peculiar position gives him or her a unique standpoint that enables one to see critically - revealing the "bubble." This ability to see critically grounds the democratic mores attuned to the cultivation of human creative powers at the level of everyday life. Sorrow Songs:
Democratic Ethos What is Whiteness?
Turn to a youtube clips
Film: American History X
1998: New Line Cinema
Director: Tony Kaye
Writer: David McKenna
http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLCFF3CB0F0AEAB440 Is Du Bois only talking about Blacks? Take up the White Man's burden -
Send forth the best ye breed-
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need Went to Harvard to study philosophy. Studied with William James (pragmatism).
"I conceived the idea of applying philosophy to an historical interpretation of race relations" (The Autobiography of W. E. B. Du Bois, p. 148).
Due to Du Bois's pragmatism, culture making is the prime instance of history making. Thus The Souls of Black Folk (1903) is seen as Du Bois's philosophical contribution. Saw the value in the discipline to provide research methods. Trained by Albert Bushnell Hart (one of the first professionally trained U.S. Historians).
Hart viewed race relations as each "race" possesses certain gifts and endowments.
Hart was instrumental in Du Bois's development for the initial research that would become the seminal historical piece set to change the historical frame of the crucial point of American history Post-Civil War - Du Bois's Black Reconstrution (1935). History Philosophy The Black middle-class had attempted to disassociate themselves from the songs because of the memory they evoked.
Du Bois attempts to reclaim Black folk culture from the memories of slavery through the use of the "Sorrow Songs" to unlock the American spirit as he sees coming from the Black experience and inheritance (p. 189).
He reads these songs as not a memory of enslavement, but as the engines of autonomy, community survival, and resistance - all of which are democratic mores.
Music can be read as marking the time - through tempo, rhythm, and rhyme - however, singing itself, like speaking, opens up expression in hostile spaces (p. 191; p. 187). Between affect and action Remember Du Bois' own experience (pp. 37-38)
two-fold move toward a revealing of his feelings (affect - a physical response to a phenomenon)
1. veil drops between Du Bois and others
dropped by them but protectively held by him
breaks off contact and isolates to disavow the painful feelings of contact
2. retreat into intellectual superiority
holding people at a distance in contempt
defense mechanism
suppressed and repressed anger
contempt of white folks turns into contempt for them
contempt fades because Du Bois realizes that him being labeled a problem is not his problem, but that of those who attempt to name him.
But not this easy - constant negotiation! Brief overview of book




11 "Of the Passing of the First Born"
12 "Of Alexander Crummell"
13 "Of the Coming of John"
Social Death and Disappointed Enlightenment

14 "The Sorrow Songs"
Spirit? Mis-recognition & Double Consciousness Du Bois wants to be recognized as equal, like his peers, to be accepted. He is confronted not merely with his individual psychological experience, but a contradiction of (social) facts.

This is a common theme within Black literature from Franz Fanon to Malcom X to Ralph W. Ellison's Invisible Man, and some of the examples read from banal to viscous.
Just to pick out one of these lets take Malcolm X
In his autobiography, Malcolm recalls when he told his teacher of his desire to become a lawyer.
The teacher, who Malcolm respected, said "you've got to be realistic about being a nigger. A lawyer - that's no realistic goal for a nigger. You need to think of something you can be. You're good with your hands ... Why don't you plan on carpentry?" (The Autobiography of Malcolm X, p. 36).

What other experiences resemble this kind of logic? What should the response be? What possible responses are available before being labeled (i.e. (mis)recognized) as: crazy, ignorant, belligerent, angry, unreasonable, uppity, rude, inconsiderate, etc.? Are such responses adequate or desirable?

Does this happen in reverse? Say an upstanding Black man, went to Columbia and Harvard, became a lawyer, and ended up teaching at the University of Chicago's law school... Barack Obama:
The First African American President "All my life, I had carried a single image of my father, one that I had later tried to take as my own. The brilliant scholar, the generous friend, the upstanding leader ... I hadn't seen what perhaps most men see at some point in their lives: their father's body shrinking, their father's best hopes dashed, their father's face lined with grief and regret.

"Yes, I'd seen the weakness in other men - Gramps and his disappointments, Lolo and his compromise. But these men had become object lessons for me, men I might love but never emulate , white men and brown men whose fates didn't speak to my own. It was into my father's image, the black man, son of Africa, that I'd packed all the attributes I sought in myself, the attributes of Martin and Malcolm, DuBois and Mandela. And if later I saw that the black men I knew - Frank or Ray or Will or Rafiq - fell short of such lofty standards; if I had learned to respect these men for the struggles they went through, recognizing them as my own - my father's voice had nevertheless remained untainted, inspiring, rebuking, granting or withholding approval. You do not work hard enough, Barry. You mush help in your people's struggle. Wake up, black man!" (Dreams from My Father, p. 220). 1 "Of Our Spiritual Strivings"
Sets up the themes 2 "Of the Dawn of Freedom"
3 "Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others"
politics 4 "Of the Meaning of Progress"
5 "Of the Wings of Atalanta"
6 "Of the Training of Black Men"
education 7 "Of the Black Belt"
8 "Of the Quest of the Golden Fleece"
9 "Of the Sons of Master and Man"
economics and everyday life 10 "Of the Faith of the Fathers"
Black churches and Black religious experience The gifts of Black folk to America (pp. 192-93)
1. gift of story and song
2. gift of sweat and brawn
3. gift of the Spirit

Without Blacks:
1. America would not have any indigenous music,
2. the material foundations of its empire, or
3. the ethical critiques to remind America of its own moral limits (democratic ethos) “The world Du Bois analyzed is still very much with us. We live in a racialized society, a society in which racial meaning is engraved upon all our experiences. Racial identity shapes not only ‘life-chances,’ but social life, taste, place of residence” (Winant, "Racial Dualism at Century's End" in The House that Race Built, p. 89). “Du Bois once observed that the psychological wage of whiteness put ‘an indelible black face to failure.’ Yet with the advent of affirmative action, suddenly African Americans were leapfrogging over poor and working class whites on their way to Harvard and Yale and taking Jobs in police departments and fire departments that had once been reserved for whites” (Alexander, The New Jim Crow, p. 244).
"The Negro dimly personifies in the white man all his ills and misfortunes..." (Souls, pp. 128-9) "The possessive investment in whiteness is not a simple matter of black and white; all racialized minority groups have suffered from it, albeit in different degrees and in different ways. ... The new racial categories that emerged in each these eras all revolved around applying racial labels to 'nonwhite' groups in order to stigmatize and exploit them while at the same time preserving the values of whiteness" (Lipsitz, The Possessive Investment in Whiteness, p. 3).
Justified through "White Man's Burden" and other mechanisms (Souls, pp. 165-6).
According to Du Bois this affected poor whites as well. Alexander, Michelle, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York: The New Press, 2010).
Cruse, Harold, The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual (New York: New York Review of Books, 2005).
Davis, Angela Y, Women, Race & Class (New York: Vintage Books, 1983).
Du Bois, W.E.B., The Autobiography of W. E. B. Du Bois: A Soliloquy on Viewing My Life from the Last Decade of Its First Century (New York: International Publishers, 1968).
Du Bois, W.E.B., The Souls of Black Folk (Boston: Bedford Books, 1997).
Jackson, Kennell, America Is Me (New York: Harper Perennial, 1997).
Jensen, Robert, The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism, and White Privilege (San Francisco: City Lights Publishers, 2005).
Kaye, Tony, director (1998) American History X, Los Angeles, CA: New Line Cinema.
Lipsitz, George, The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1998).
Obama, Barack, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2004).
Omi, Michael & Howard Winant, Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s (New York: Routledge, 1994).
Robinson, Cedric J., Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2000).
West, Cornel, The American Evasion of Philosophy: A Genealogy of Pragmatism (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989).
Winant, Howard, "Racial Dualism at Century's End", in Wahneema Lubiano (ed.), The House that Race Built (New York: Vintage Books, 1998), pp. 87-115.
Wolfenstein, Eugene Victor, "Recognition and The Souls of Black Folk," Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society, 7 (2005), 129-39.
X, Malcolm, and A. Haley, The Autobiography of Malcolm X (New York: Grove Press, 1965). Bibliography
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