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Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil (Dover Thrift Editions) [Paperback]

W. E. B. Du Bois
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Book Description

July 2, 1999 Dover Thrift Editions
The distinguished American civil rights leader, W. E. B. Du Bois first published these fiery essays, sketches, and poems individually nearly 80 years ago in the Atlantic, the Journal of Race Development, and other periodicals. Reflecting the author's ideas as a politician, historian, and artist, this volume has long moved and inspired readers with its militant cry for social, political, and economic reforms for black Americans. Essential reading for students of African-American history

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About the Author

Manning Marable is Professor of Public Affairs, History and African-American Studies, and Director for the Center for Contemporary Black History at Columbia University.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


I was born by a golden river and in the shadow of two great hills, five years after the Emancipation Proclamation. The house was quaint, with clapboards running up and down, neatly trimmed, and there were five rooms, a tiny porch, a rosy front yard, and unbelievably delicious strawberries in the rear. A South Carolinian, lately come to the Berkshire Hills, owned all this -- tall, thin, and black, with golden earrings, and given to religious trances. We were his transient tenants for the time.

My own people were part of a great clan. Fully two hundred years before, Tom Burghardt had come through the western pass from the Hudson with his Dutch captor, "Coenraet Burghardt," sullen in his slavery and achieving his freedom by volunteering for the Revolution at a time of sudden alarm. His wife was a little, black, Bantu woman, who never became reconciled to this strange land; she clasped her knees and rocked and crooned:

"Do bana coba -- gene me, gene me!

Ben d'nuli, ben d'le -- "

Tom died about 1787, but of him came many sons, and one, Jack, who helped in the War of 1812. Of Jack and his wife, Violet, was born a mighty family, splendidly named: Harlow and Ira, Cloë, Lucinda, Maria, and Othello! I dimly remember my grandfather, Othello, -- or "Uncle Tallow," -- a brown man, strong-voiced and redolent with tobacco, who sat stiffly in a great high chair because his hip was broken. He was probably a bit lazy and given to wassail. At any rate, grandmother had a shrewish tongue and often berated him. This grandmother was Sarah -- "Aunt Sally" -- a stern, tall, Dutch-African woman, beak-nosed, but beautiful-eyed and golden-skinned. Ten or more children were theirs, of whom the youngest was Mary, my mother.

Mother was dark shining bronze, with a tiny ripple in her black hair, black-eyed, with a heavy, kind face. She gave one the impression of infinite patience, but a curious determination was concealed in her softness. The family were small farmers on Egremont Plain, between Great Barrington and Sheffield, Massachusetts. The bits of land were too small to support the great families born on them and we were always poor. I never remember being cold or hungry, but I do remember that shoes and coal, and sometimes flour, caused mother moments of anxious thought in winter, and a new suit was an event!

At about the time of my birth economic pressure was transmuting the family generally from farmers to "hired" help. Some revolted and migrated westward, others went cityward as cooks and barbers. Mother worked for some years at house service in Great Barrington, and after a disappointed love episode with a cousin, who went to California, she met and married Alfred Du Bois and went to town to live by the golden river where I was born.

Alfred, my father, must have seemed a splendid vision in that little valley under the shelter of those mighty hills. He was small and beautiful of face and feature, just tinted with the sun, his curly hair chiefly revealing his kinship to Africa. In nature he was a dreamer, -- romantic, indolent, kind, unreliable. He had in him the making of a poet, an adventurer, or a Beloved Vagabond, according to the life that closed round him; and that life gave him all too little. His father, Alexander Du Bois, cloaked under a stern, austere demeanor a passionate revolt against the world. He, too, was small, but squarish. I remember him as I saw him first, in his home in New Bedford, -- white hair close-cropped; a seamed, hard face, but high in tone, with a gray eye that could twinkle or glare.

Long years before him Louis XIV drove two Huguenots, Jacques and Louis Du Bois, into wild Ulster County, New York. One of them in the third or fourth generation had a descendant, Dr. James Du Bois, a gay, rich bachelor, who made his money in the Bahamas, where he and the Gilberts had plantations. There he took a beautiful little mulatto slave as his mistress, and two sons were born: Alexander in 1803 and John, later. They were fine, straight, clear-eyed boys, white enough to "pass." He brought them to America and put Alexander in the celebrated Cheshire School, in Connecticut. Here he often visited him, but one last time, fell dead. He left no will, and his relations made short shrift of these sons. They gathered in the property, apprenticed grandfather to a shoemaker; then dropped him.

Grandfather took his bitter dose like a thoroughbred. Wild as was his inner revolt against this treatment, he uttered no word against the thieves and made no plea. He tried his fortunes here and in Haiti, where, during his short, restless sojourn, my own father was born. Eventually, grandfather became chief steward on the passenger boat between New York and New Haven; later he was a small merchant in Springfield; and finally he retired and ended his days at New Bedford. Always he held his head high, took no insults, made few friends. He was not a "Negro"; he was a man! Yet the current was too strong even for him. Then even more than now a colored man had colored friends or none at all, lived in a colored world or lived alone. A few fine, strong, black men gained the heart of this silent, bitter man in New York and New Haven. If he had scant sympathy with their social clannishness, he was with them in fighting discrimination. So, when the white Episcopalians of Trinity Parish, New Haven, showed plainly that they no longer wanted black folk as fellow Christians, he led the revolt which resulted in St. Luke's Parish, and was for years its senior warden. He lies dead in the Grove Street Cemetery, beside Jehudi Ashmun.

Beneath his sternness was a very human man. Slyly he wrote poetry, -- stilted, pleading things from a soul astray. He loved women in his masterful way, marrying three beautiful wives in succession and clinging to each with a certain desperate, even if unsympathetic, affection. As a father he was, naturally, a failure, -- hard, domineering, unyielding. His four children reacted characteristically: one was until past middle life a thin spinster, the mental image of her father; one died; one passed over into the white world and her children's children are now white, with no knowledge of their Negro blood; the fourth, my father, bent before grandfather, but did not break -- better if he had. He yielded and flared back, asked forgiveness and forgot why, became the harshly-held favorite, who ran away and rioted and roamed and loved and married my brown mother.

So with some circumstance having finally gotten myself born, with a flood of Negro blood, a strain of French, a bit of Dutch, but, thank God! no "Anglo-Saxon," I come to the days of my childhood.

They were very happy. Early we moved back to Grandfather Burghardt's home, -- I barely remember its stone fireplace, big kitchen, and delightful woodshed. Then this house passed to other branches of the clan and we moved to rented quarters in town, -- to one delectable place "upstairs," with a wide yard full of shrubbery, and a brook; to another house abutting a railroad, with infinite interests and astonishing playmates; and finally back to the quiet street on which I was born, -- down a long lane and in a homely, cozy cottage, with a living-room, a tiny sitting-room, a pantry, and two attic bedrooms. Here mother and I lived until she died, in 1884, for father early began his restless wanderings. I last remember urgent letters for us to come to New Milford, where he had started a barber shop. Later he became a preacher. But mother no longer trusted his dreams, and he soon faded out of our lives into silence.

From the age of five until I was sixteen I went to school on the same grounds, -- down a lane, into a widened yard, with a big choke-cherry tree and two buildings, wood and brick. Here I got acquainted with my world, and soon had my criterions of judgment.

Wealth had no particular lure. On the other hand, the shadow of wealth was about us. That river of my birth was golden because of the woolen and paper waste that soiled it. The gold was theirs, not ours; but the gleam and glint was for all. To me it was all in order and I took it philosophically. I cordially despised the poor Irish and South Germans, who slaved in the mills, and annexed the rich and well-to-do as my natural companions. Of such is the kingdom of snobs!

Most of our townfolk were, naturally, the well-to-do, shading downward, but seldom reaching poverty. As playmate of the children I saw the homes of nearly every one, except a few immigrant New Yorkers, of whom none of us approved. The homes I saw impressed me, but did not overwhelm me. Many were bigger than mine, with newer and shinier things, but they did not seem to differ in kind. I think I probably surprised my hosts more than they me, for I was easily at home and perfectly happy and they looked to me just like ordinary people, while my brown face and frizzled hair must have seemed strange to them.

Yet I was very much one of them. I was a center and sometimes the leader of the town gang of boys. We were noisy, but never very b... --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Series: Dover Thrift Editions
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications (July 2, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486408906
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486408903
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.4 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #274,534 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BELOVED, LISTEN TO CONSCIENTIOUS VOICES. March 9, 2003
Fondly called W.E.B., Dr William Edward Burghardt DuBois was a conscientious voice, whose mouthpiece was just a pen. Each of his writings buttressed this point.
A bundle of intellect, all his works have remained potent till this day. Having enumerated the problems and experiences of emancipated slaves in "The Souls of Black Folk", Dr DuBois used this book, "Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil", to highlight the intricacies of the then White-Black relationships. This book has a socio-economic focus, and dealt with such associational issues like exploitative labour, voting rights, women's rights, and family values. It suggested guidance and remedies wherever necessary. The ideas and insights of Dr DuBois were general in perspective: both Whites and Blacks were thought of.
This book is more than eighty years old; however, anybody who reads it, needs only to turn a few pages before discovering that we are still grappling with most of its lamentations.
Finally, I must say that I cherished reading this book. "Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil" is a compelling piece; especially for anyone who is familiar with either "The Souls of Black Folk" or "Dusk of Dawn".
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerhouse Book from the Greatest March 7, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you don't know, Dr. Du Bois is the greatest social scientist of all time. In this book, Du Bois emerges as a fearless truthteller while remaining erudite in his observations. Du Bois is also simultaneously a poet, as several of his poems are embedded in this work. Much of his cogent analysis remains highly relevant and proves even to be prophetic.

One of the highlights of this book is that Dr. Du Bois writes the companion essay to The Souls of Black Folk. There is an essay in here called The Souls of White Folk. It is an absolutely devastating analysis of Eurocentric culture and worldview. He connects the development of whiteness in social relations to race riots and the world war. He readily admits the faults of people of color worldwide, but speaks to the arrogance and superiority embedded in European imperialism. It is because of this essay that you can really begin to understand the depths of human depravity and greed which led to both world wars and wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

The other highlight of this book is how clearly Dr. Du Bois speaks as a liberation theologian. I don't want to spoil the surprise, but his rendering of Jesus Christ is genius and touching. Parts of this book are the reason another scholar (Edward Blum) wrote a book about Dr. Du Bois referring to him as an American Prophet. He is prophetic in theology, racial justice, gender justice, education and in his expansive vision for labor, love, and beauty.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read August 31, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book is definitely one for culturally diverse people, it's still relevant today as are the situations and conditions. W.E.B. DuBois is a prolific writer. He definitely masters the art of story-telling, the book has a sense of humor, his memory recall is engaging and empowering. I would recommend this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Read it. May 3, 2015
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Please do not miss reading this insightful view of African Americans from a brilliant writer.
It was the first time a Black man wrote about the status of Blacks in this country and the
writing is not even 100 yrs. old. What does that tell us about our race relations when
African Americans were brought here hundreds of years ago to serve whites.!!!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars lifting the veil January 30, 2010
a veritable mixed bag -- polemic, social science, poems, a biographical sketch of coleridge-taylor, a black composer, nature writing, autobiography, and a surprisingly good short story which may well had inspired the film `the world, the flesh, and the devil' starring harry belafonte.

activist and social scientist, dubois wrote in this collection, published in 1920, of the industrial society of the north after the defeat of the agrarian society of the south and of the black men and women who migrated north for jobs and their mistreatment -- one incident was the terrorist attacks by white mobs on the black citizens of east st louis, which became known as the east st louis riots. dubois arguments extend beyond the rights of the black worker to the rights of the black soldier. during the first world war, dubois was successful in getting a reluctant government to train black soldiers as officers at fort des moines.

dubois' rhetorical style is purple, alternately bruising and floral. certainly his love of the united states shines through as his scenic descriptions compete with the lyrics of our national anthem. not the easiest reading, but if you can get through emerson, dubois should not be a problem.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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