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Dusk of Dawn: An Essay Toward an Autobiography of a Race Concept

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In her perceptive introduction to this edition, Irene Diggs sets this classic autobiography against its broad historical context and critically analyzes its theoretical and methodological significance.


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In her perceptive introduction to this edition, Irene Diggs sets this classic autobiography against its broad historical context and critically analyzes its theoretical and methodological significance.

30 review for Dusk of Dawn: An Essay Toward an Autobiography of a Race Concept

  1. 4 out of 5

    Malik Newton

    my god. Du Bois is not only prophetic, but a prophet. his life is magnificent, spanning nearly a century, from just after the civil war to just before the passing of the civil rights act, reading his autobiography is to profoundly grasp the movement of History.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    This remarkable volume is a collection of autobiographical essays in which this eminent scholar and thinker writes about key moments and insights throughout his long life. Most of these deal with the earlier decades of the 20th century, although he has a couple of powerful ones written around 1940 as well. (Note: He also wrote an independent autobiography.) Incredibly rich throughout, of necessity I am going to highlight just a few of the points in which I took greatest interest, even though eac This remarkable volume is a collection of autobiographical essays in which this eminent scholar and thinker writes about key moments and insights throughout his long life. Most of these deal with the earlier decades of the 20th century, although he has a couple of powerful ones written around 1940 as well. (Note: He also wrote an independent autobiography.) Incredibly rich throughout, of necessity I am going to highlight just a few of the points in which I took greatest interest, even though each essay is truly a “teaching moment.” By the latter part of the 19th century, Du Bois had already taken issue several times with aspects of the eminent Booker Washington, also a truly great man but with whom Du Bois differed strongly on attitude, education, and role that Black people should play in these difficult years of Jim Crow laws and segregated institutions. In his earlier collection – The Souls of Black Folk – he wrote at some length about these earlier differences. In this volume, he goes into more detail about how the Tuskegee Institute – the organization founded by Washington but made viable through the financial support of wealthy white backers – pretty much controlled the scope of what was possible in both thought and action, at least until Mr. Washington’s death just before US entry into World War I. Du Bois never accepted some of Mr. Washington’s core precepts – especially, that given the tenuous situation occupied by the former slaves following the collapse of Reconstruction, Blacks – then called Negroes – ought to basically keep their heads down, attain basic education aimed at the trades, be wary of behaving “uppity,” and prove their worth before asking for much more. While Du Bois did early share Mr. Washington’s belief that proof of Black’s abilities would gradually soften white resistance, he quickly came to understand that there was much more behind segregation and white hatred and resentment than ignorance. He early understood that this was rooted in cultural and economic factors that were firmly in the control of white people. He also knew that the distortions of Darwin’s discoveries – namely, that there were definite, and different, “races” as was evident by skin-color and physiological differences, and that of these the whites were superior and all people of color – especially Blacks – inferior. He understood that clinging to this belief was all that poor and disrespected whites had, and that they would fight like hell to preserve this cultural bracketing. In his essays on the early decades of the 20th century, Du Bois details the considerable efforts placed in organizing Black people and their white allies in order to educate, advance understanding of Black needs, and to push for changes desperately needed to give Blacks the chance to attain a better, if not exactly equal, status. In a remarkable essay from 1940, Du Bois discusses how the inevitability of economic change – resulting from the havoc wrought by the Great Depression as well as from the war clouds gathering over Europe – would demand new responses from society, in industrial and business organization and methods, of course, but also in how citizens, very much including Blacks, would be able to advance and cooperate under these new circumstances. He writes of how although he was never a Communist he did admire Karl Marx for his insight into how economic arrangements influenced – not “controlled” – every aspect of life and that, if people such as workers, women and Blacks were to have a chance at greater opportunities, then the time was now to begin anticipating those changes and to plan on how best to capitalize on them for the benefit of the greater good. Du Bois was a remarkable man and is also a very gifted writer. I learned a great deal from this book, and I suspect other Americans (and citizens of other cultures) will too. He possesses the great gift of being able to unfold for us how the “things” and methods of our own country really work. The challenge is that after we have been given the gift of seeing will we have the gumption to do anything to change matters. We will never have a more just and equal society until the majority of Americans take such a challenge seriously.

  3. 5 out of 5

    kripsoo

    Some reviewers refer to DuBois as "the Black Emerson" and as a university instructor I heard similar references made 'the Black Dewey" or the Black Park referring to the Chicago School scholars Du Bois was brilliant indeed, these white men should be being called "the white Du Bois" Du Bois literally created the scientific method of observation and qualitative research. With the junk being put out today in the name of "dissertations," simply re-read Du Bois' work on the Suppression of the African Some reviewers refer to DuBois as "the Black Emerson" and as a university instructor I heard similar references made 'the Black Dewey" or the Black Park referring to the Chicago School scholars Du Bois was brilliant indeed, these white men should be being called "the white Du Bois" Du Bois literally created the scientific method of observation and qualitative research. With the junk being put out today in the name of "dissertations," simply re-read Du Bois' work on the Suppression of the African Slave Trade and his work on the Philadelphia Negro and it is clear that he needs not be compared to any white man of his time or any other he was a renaissance man who cared about his people and unlike too many of the scholars of day he didn't just talk the talk or write the trite he walked the walk and organized the unorganizable White racism suffered because Du Bois raised the consciousness of the black masses. But he did more than that; by renouncing his American citizenship and moving to Ghana, he proved that Pan Africanism is not just something to preach or write about (ala Molefi Asante, Tony Martin, Jeffries and other Africanists) it is a way of life both a means and an end Du Bois organized the first ever Pan African Congress and, in doing so, set the stage for Afrocentricity, Black Studies and the Bandung Conference which would be held in 1954 in Bandung Indonesia Du Bois not only affected people in this country he was a true internationalist

  4. 4 out of 5

    Andre

    This inquiry about the African Diaspora is a testament of Dubois’s exceptional scientific acuity and his powerful imagination. DuBois writes for us ‘an autobiography of a race.’ This general idea alone validates the book as a highly creative concept. Anyone with experience in writing can imagine this project being a daunting task. It is a great contribution to understanding the matters of racial exploitation. By the same token, the only thing I can mull over is the sheer amount of knowledge miss This inquiry about the African Diaspora is a testament of Dubois’s exceptional scientific acuity and his powerful imagination. DuBois writes for us ‘an autobiography of a race.’ This general idea alone validates the book as a highly creative concept. Anyone with experience in writing can imagine this project being a daunting task. It is a great contribution to understanding the matters of racial exploitation. By the same token, the only thing I can mull over is the sheer amount of knowledge missing in the world about the African Diaspora. This book offers colorful depictions about my heritage, but it also makes me feel the void of all that is lost for the cause of western expansion. You envision a multitude of people devoid of their cultural identity. Whole-hearted liberties are bounded up due to a culture’s narrow economic focus. With renewed feeling, the reader abhors the cost it took to build in the US what seems like a gaudy monstrosity. I’m not sure whether to see DuBois as an artistic intellectual or an intellectual artist. The ebb and flow in his descriptions of African beauty and a racial identity pours over your mind in the most cooling way. His words unearth treasures that have long been buried under the sands of hatred, exploitation and oppression. DuBois words are eternal. The words are gems that humanity will always have access to when perceiving life as a romance. The spirit of the book is summarized in the following words. "What was wrong was that I and people like many thousands of others who might have my ability and aspiration, were refused permission to be a part of this world. It was as though moving on a rushing express, my main thought was as to the relations I had to the other passengers on the express, and not to its rate of speed and its destination. In the day of my formal education, my interest was concentered upon the race struggle. The fight on the moving car had to do with my relations to the car and its folk; but on the whole, nothing to do with the car's own movement." The Colored World Within The root of the whole book is planted in the chapter “The Colored World Within.” In this chapter, DuBois speaks of the "double environment" that encompasses the black American experience. There is this white surrounding world and this closer all-encompassing black world that is formed. DuBois acknowledges that the outer white world is more intelligent, richer, and has better legal and governmental systems to sustain its community. Furthermore, he points out that the black American is not naturally stupid or criminal or unhealthy or impoverished. There are systemic restraints that place people against the odds. Again, in his words, “…the fact remains that there are among 12 million American Negroes, there are today poverty, ignorance, bad manners, disease, and crime………..Above all the Negro is poor: poor by heritage from two-hundred forty-four years of chattel slavery, by emancipation without land or capital and by seventy five years of additional wage exploitation and crime peonage.” These words destroy the lurking ignorance that strikes at the minds of millions of Americans in today’s media-sphere. The most significant part of this chapter is DuBois accurate depiction of the structure of the Black American class. He likens it to a steeple with a strong base with a pointed top. The pointed top represents the small number of black people in the higher classes. He stays on track and depicts the white class structure as a tower that bulges in the middle before thinning at the top- this top, however, being much larger in circumference than the pointed steeple of the black American class. These are shapes that are still present in today’s sketch. Dusk of Dawn dispels myths that have been used as techniques to create confusion. Modern man questions why the African-American race has not come out of its obscurity. The author answers back with a scientific breakdown, which is today’s most acceptable methodology. He appraises the police tyranny in the black community, not to mention the poor housing, the insufficient hospitalization, the underfunded education system, the weak legal system, the high unemployment rate, and the meager earnings per household in order to silence the condescending voices. He takes into account society’s obsession with the ‘exceptions’ as means to justify a theory of non-existing racial barriers. He reminds people that it takes a lot more to sweep a whole race of people out of their unfavorable conditions. Another topic in ‘The Colored World Within’ is the isolation of the educated and higher wage- earning Negro. DuBois states that this particular individual is wedged between a race oppressing economic machine and an ‘ignorant, anti-social low cultural black American class’. The reader has to be cognizant of DuBois impartial observations. His descriptions can come off as too blunt. However, there is a duality between his cold hypothesis and poetic imagery that coexist throughout the whole book. One last word Altogether, this book is a treasure that is meant to last forever. I believe these scientific accounts on the race problem in America will be studied in a future post modern world. DuBois is a giant in our very young trial in understanding American society. He makes known that there are undeniable certainties that scream for settlement. These pressing needs have erupted here and there in the last 150 years. Bear in mind that this volcano will deface the American fantasy if we continue to ignore these issues.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sara-Maria

    ‘But why have you black and yellow men done nothing better or even as good in the history of the world?’ We have, often. “I never heard of it.” Lions have no historians. “It is idiotic even to discuss it. Look around and see the pageantry of the world. It belongs to white men; it is the expression of white power; it is the product of white brains. Who can have the effrontery to stand for a moment and compare with this white triumph, yellow and brown anarchy and black savagery?” You are obsessed by ‘But why have you black and yellow men done nothing better or even as good in the history of the world?’ We have, often. “I never heard of it.” Lions have no historians. “It is idiotic even to discuss it. Look around and see the pageantry of the world. It belongs to white men; it is the expression of white power; it is the product of white brains. Who can have the effrontery to stand for a moment and compare with this white triumph, yellow and brown anarchy and black savagery?” You are obsessed by the swiftness of the gliding of the sled at the bottom of the hill. You say: what tremendous power must have caused its speed, and how wonderful is Speed. You think of the rider as the originator and inventor of that vast power. You admire his poise and sang-froid, his utter self-absorption. You say: surely here is the son of God and he shall reign forever and forever. You are wrong, quite wrong. Away back on the level stretches of the mountain tops in the forests, amid drifts and driftwood, this sled was slowly and painfully pushed on its little hesitating start. It took power, but the power of sweating, courageous men, not of demigods. As the sled slowly started and gained momentum, it was the Law of Being that gave it speed, and the grace of God that steered its lone, scared passengers. Those passengers, white, black, red and yellow, deserve credit for their balance and pluck. But many times it was sheer luck that made the road not land the white man in the gutter, as it had others so many times before, and as it may him yet. He has gone farther than others because of others whose very falling made hard ways iced and smooth for him to traverse. His triumph is a triumph not of himself alone, but of humankind, from the pusher in the primeval forests to the last flier through the winds of the twentieth century.” (149-150)

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ivan

    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 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...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Can my friends tell that I am taking a class on W.E.B. Du Bois this semester? It seems that he is all that I read. This is written in an autobiogrpahy style. He applies his life to the rest of the African-American population.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lesley Larkin

  9. 5 out of 5

    Michael Lloyd-Billington

  10. 4 out of 5

    Leslie Harris

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mt Malcolm J Randall

  12. 4 out of 5

    Katie

  13. 5 out of 5

    Craig Werner

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lincoln

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ash

  16. 4 out of 5

    Weckea

  17. 5 out of 5

    Stephan D.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sam

  19. 5 out of 5

    Aura Carrillo

  20. 5 out of 5

    Akil

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jana

  22. 4 out of 5

    Elijah

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jon

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jade Lamb

  25. 4 out of 5

    Goodreads Management

  26. 5 out of 5

    Daizha

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jishnu Guha

  28. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mandla Nyindodo

    A glimpse of Black History through the eyes of an enlightened human being. Stay woke!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

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