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I just finished reading W.E.B. Du Bois’ DUSK OF DAWN and it’s clear that victims of racism that throw hatred at him either have not read this book or are easily swayed into hating their own by white people celebrating them. This book is somewhat autobiographical, but primarily sums up the arc of Du Bois’ social and political views up until his 70s. And his views are quite complex. He was famous to most haters for being opposed to Booker T. Washington and Marcus Garvey. This book goes into detail about what it was about Booker T. Washington’s “Tuskegee Machine” that he was opposed to. It was that Tuskegee was a controlling other organizations and made it difficult for people with opposing philosophies to function without the consent of Booker T. Washington himself. For someone like Du Bois’ who was very opinionated it was inconceivable to write or analyze with handcuffs on. It wasn’t that he personally disliked Washington like so many like to claim. There isn’t much about his problem with Garvey’s efforts with the UNIA, but he was willing to praise Garvey for being a great leader and propagandist. He just disagreed with the economic practicality of his plan. And overall Du Bois was not for the separation of the races like Garvey. Du Bois was a Pan-Africanist but ultimately he did see a future with all the races working together to achieve peace. He was not an integrationist in the conventional sense being that he angered so many others and was so for the unification of Africans that he was forced out of the NAACP by white members of the organization that didn’t like anything too Black. One of the most compelling things about this book is how much Du Bois eventually came around to embrace a view of racism that mirrored Booker T. Washington years earlier. Du Bois came to believe that segregation would last for many more years for Blacks in America, thus we should embrace It and use it our economic benefit. How many alleged integrationists later came to embrace segregation as a tool to fight racism? Du Bois had no problem admitting that he was wrong and changing his views. You have to respect that. Most people don’t have the integrity to do that. Du Bois was not really a leader, but a tremendous analyst and journalist on the subject of racism. Garvey and Washington were leaders that could galvanize Black people for a common cause. We all have different personalities and some of us are more social than others. Personality wise I am rather similar to Du Bois in the sense that I am very critical, opinionated and not really leader material. I want to help solve the problems of the race but bringing people together is not really a skill I have. Don’t’ misunderstand. I don’t complete agree with Du Bois’ views on the subject of race. I don’t really agree with all the views of any person on the subject of race. But Du Bois was a race man and devoted his life to the problems of his race and did not get rich doing it. It’s strange that people would call him an uncle tom and such. His goal was exactly the same as Neely Fuller Jr. and I’ve never heard anyone ever call Mr. Fuller an uncle tom. Mr. Fuller wants a world of justice and that world would mean a world with all the race treating each other correctly, not a world under Black rule. I don’t ever see a world with Europeans at peace with Africans. So, I can’t agree with either men. That does not stop me from respecting them both. I get the feeling that self-righteous victims of racism hate Du Bois mostly because whites praise him as an important 20th century figure on the subject of race. We turn on our own because whites praise them. That goes to demonstrate how little we know about our own. I had an encounter a few months back with a Facebook friend attacking Malcolm X as a sellout because whites were teaching a course in a college about him. This person proclaimed with Malcolm X was trying to takedown the Nation of Islam and that history needed to talk more about Elijah Muhammad and less about Minister Malcolm X. The same people that hate Du Bois would praise Elijah Muhammad, who openly advocated for the murder of Malcolm X in speeches and in his periodical Muhammad Speaks. Du Bois didn’t ask for violence against Washington or Garvey. I can forgive a disagreement, but not violence towards other victims. Back to Du Bois. Every single problem that Du Bois speaks of in this book still rests with Black people in America today and I think it is important that we look at all of the failed methods to solve these problems and go the other way. Minister Malcolm X in his speech about revolutions made it clear that we should all look at people in history with problems that resemble ours and copy methods that actually work. Du Bois was always thinking along these lines. He traveled the world and was always trying to apply the methods of other countries with the problems faced by Black people in America. I highly recommend this book. Full of a lot of great historical information that is sadly still relevant today.
Reviewed in the United States on November 28, 2020
FIRST LINE REVIEW: "From 1868 to 1940 stretch seventy-two mighty years, which are incidentally the years of my own life but more especially years of cosmic significance, when one remembers that they rush from the American Civil War to the reign of the second Roosevelt; from Victoria to the Sixth George; from the Franco-Prussian to the two World Wars." And this amazing span of a life is captured through the lens of one of African Americans greatest champions. Sadly, though this "autobiography of a Race Concept" was written in 1940, it strongly echoes the same challenges being fought today. Disheartening, at best...
Well, this was W.E.B. DuBois' third autobiography which he wrote late. History is encapsulated by name-dropping famous politicians and intellectuals he meets, but he doesn't waste space explaining things -- you need to know your way around the 19th and 20th century historically to understand the import of what he's saying.
The full title says it all: "An Essay Toward an Autobiography of a Race Concept". His narrative is smart, and rhetorically nearly impeccable. I recommend this book to anyone, and wish it were better known.