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W.E.B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century 1919-1963 Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 1, 2000


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Hardcover, Bargain Price, October 1, 2000
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A pioneering sociologist, educator, essayist, activist, and political theorist, W.E.B. Du Bois was one of America's great intellectuals. This second volume by David Levering Lewis picks up where his Pulitzer Prize-winning W.E.B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race left off, chronicling his life from 1919 until his death in Ghana in 1963, on the eve of the March on Washington. "In the course of his long, turbulent career," Lewis writes, "W.E.B. Du Bois attempted virtually every possible solution to the problem of twentieth-century racism--scholarship, propaganda, integration, cultural and economic separatism, politics, international communism, expatriation, third world solidarity."

Lewis's lean and lyrical writing rescues Du Bois's stuffy, Afro-Victorian speech from historical documents, breathing life into his letters, memos, and numerous articles, both published and unpublished. He takes us through Du Bois's battles with the NAACP (which he cofounded); his ideological wars with "Back to Africa" nationalist Marcus Garvey; his many Pan-African conferences; and his tours of Africa, Japan, Russia, and China. He probes deeply into many of Du Bois's books, including Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil and Black Reconstruction, adding marvelous new insights into the neglected novel Dark Princess. Lewis also details Du Bois's relationships with friends and foes alike, including James Weldon Johnson, Walter White, and Alain Locke, as well as his triumphs, such as his acquittal in the infamous trial in which he was accused of being an "unregistered foreign agent," and his defeats, notably his failure to publish his Encyclopedia Africana.

A foremost authority on this great man, Lewis summarizes Du Bois as having "an extraordinary mind of color in a racialized century ... possessed of a principled impatience with what he saw as the egregious failings of American democracy that drove him, decade by decade, to the paradox of defending totalitarianism in the service of a global idea of economic and social justice." A reading of this magnificent work is nothing less than a reading of modern black America. --Eugene Holley Jr. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

This second (and final) volume of Lewis's critically praised biography of one of the founders of the contemporary black civil rights movement and a champion of human rights around the world is as astute and superbly written as the first. Here, in the years after WWI, Lewis finds Du BoisDalready established as one of the most controversial, powerful and persuasive voices of the movement through such books as The Souls of Black Folk and his editorship of the highly influential journal of the NAACP, CrisisDfaced with spiraling white violence against African-Americans as race riots and lynchings increase. Lewis concentrates on Du Bois's attempt to guide the movement through the increasingly precarious complexities of U.S. politics and culture as he explicates such diverse issues as Du Bois's commitment to feminism and women's rights, his dedication to Pan Africanism and his expanding roles as an official and unofficial foreign ambassador for the U.S. government, all of which are controversial both within and outside of the civil rights movement. Lewis is especially adroit at interpreting the complications of Du Bois's personal and emotional life, including his long, though not especially companionable, marriage to his wife, Nina, and his series of "parallel marriages" to other women. The biography is at its most politically and intellectually gripping when it details the tensions and interplay between the NAACP and the American Communist Party during the notorious Scottsboro trial, and later when Arthur Schlesinger Jr. red-baited the civil rights group in an infamous article in Life. While readers will need to read Lewis' first volume to fully appreciate this one, his superb command of the complexity of his subject and time make this a major work of American biography and history. Lewis's two volume biography is not only a must-read for those fascinated by African-American history, but also holds powerful crossover appeal for anyone interested in the racial conflicts at the heart of 20th century American history. Photos not seen by PW. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 715 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt (October 1, 2000)
  • ISBN-10: 0805025340
  • ASIN: B0006Q1URA
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 2.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,246,505 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Randall O. Westbrook on November 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
By his own admission, David Levering Lewis' first installment on the life of W.E.B. DuBois was "ambitiously subtitled". His "Biography of a Race", which followed DuBois from birth to age 50, lived up to its appointment, garnering among others, the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1994. And while his latest work is less loftily titled, it is no less worthy of the acclaim accorded the first.
DuBois, intellectual giant, master propoagandist, patron of the storied Harlem Renaissance and Co-Founder of the NAACP, was indisputably one of the most influential African Americans of the frst half of the 20th century. Lewis opens the book (which continues chronicling DuBois's life from 1919 through to his death at 95, in 1963)detailing DuBois' ascent to power as the pre-eminent "Race Leader". Almost from the moment Dubois received such recognition, he found himself under siege; if not from the disciples of his sometime bitter rival, Booker T. Washington (who died in 1915), then from at the hands of his colleagues in the leadership of the NAACP, or the upwardly mobile young adults whom he doubtless had in mind when he coined the phrase, "Talented Tenth". Lewis's narrative fairly crackles with tension, setting the tone for the rest of the book.
Lewis also shows the reader the sometimes contradictory aspects found in the life of this most complicated man: often deeply suspicious, yet generous enough with his research to have indiscriminately shared sensitive information with foreign agents from nations friendly and not; a fierce Pan-Aficanist with a distinct love for things continental; an ardent feminist who subjugated his wife, and served as mentor and paramour with a host of his protegees.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover
With volume two Lewis completes his magisterial work chronicling the life and times of the controversial W. E. B. Du Bois, and this second volume is every bit as fascinating and scholarly as the first one which won the Pulitzer Prize. This volume follows Du Bois' descent from a founder and spokesman for the NAACP to his self-imposed exile in Ghana in 1963. Throughout the journey Lewis thoroughly develops the changing viewpoints Du Bois put forth as solutions to the problems of racial discrimination and the powerlessness of people of color in this country and around the world. From an integrationist (who at the same time criticized the assimilationist attitude of Frederick Douglas), Du Bois moved into the Pan-Africa movement (although he disliked and opposed Marcus Garvey and his movement), and eventually supported Black separatism before settling on socialism and Marxism in the later years of his life. His "petty bourgeois" ideas concerning Black economic separatism were, of course, vehemently criticized by his Marxist friends. Many believed "Du Bois was a romantic, a racialist, and an old man given to dreams of a 'shopkeepers paradise' as a solution to the depression."
Although Lewis soft-pedals Du Bois' deep character flaws which caused him to be constantly at odds with others who were "on his side" in the fight for racial equality, and permitted him to excuse the murder and outrages of Stalinism and the Japanese military aggression and ethnic cleansing in Asia, the author clearly reveals these facts of Du Bois' life.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Alan Mills VINE VOICE on August 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover
W.E.B. DuBois was born 2 years after slavery was abolished, and died two years before the wide ranging civil rights acts of 1965 were enacted. During this century, America was transformed from a largely rural nation whose economy depended on agricultural production (not the least of which was the cotton grown in the south by slaves) to an urban nation with the world's largest economy, built on industrial production. Throughout most of this transformation, DuBois was the loudest and clearest voice proclaiming the injustices suffered by the nation's Blacks.
DuBois voice took many forms. He was the nation's leading Black Sociologist, Political Scientist and Hstorian scholar for most of his life. He was among the giants, regardless of race, in each of these fields. This alone would have been remarkable, even had he not had to struggle against the burden of racism every step of the way. What makes DuBois' life truly amazing (an over used word, which is fully justified here) is that in addition to his academic leadership, DuBois was a newspaper columnist, speaker, and founded dozens of popular mass organizations (most famously, the NAACP). He was quite literally the mentor of virtually every leading Black scholar, lawyer, business man, politician, etc. that followed.
Surprisingly, given the transformation of the rest of society, DuBois retained his leadership role in the country as his many competitors and detractors faded--Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey, and Walter White, among others.
Lewis has produced a masterful biography of this complex, vastly under rated man. Lewis keeps his writing interesting, as he traces the twists and turns DuBois was forced to follow in his battle against racism.
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