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The Ideal of Human Brotherhood

"he saw himself, -- darkly as through a veil; and yet he saw in himself
some faint revelation of his power, of his mission" (11).
W. E. B. Du Bois' The Souls of Black Folk (1903)

 

Points of Reflection

Preliminary Questions

1. to what degree does race factor into your love for others? Does another person's skin tone make it either easier or harder to express affection (storge) towards them? Does this variable impact your romantic ardor (eros) for another person, your inclination towards friendship (phileo), or the ease with which you act charitably/sacrificially towards them (agape)?

2. in Race Matters (1994), Cornel West explores the power that color wields in shaping our culture's concepts of both beauty and eroticism. Has twenty-first century America (seventeen years after the publication of West's book) finally begun to accept the Civil Rights mantra "black is beautiful"?

3. does it feel either easier or harder to express certain types of love towards another person when you are convinced of their inferiority relative to yourself? Consider a range of such differences as you reflect on this question, including: socio-economic status, able-bodiedness, intellectual acumen, education, self-confidence, and emotional health.


Booker T. Washington's "Atlanta Exposition Address" (1895, 1901)

1. Du Bois criticizes Booker T. Washington's conciliatory posture towards the South--his habit of "indiscriminate flattery" that appears to compromise the truth. Does Washington's "Atlanta Exposition Address" contain evidence of such deference towards white people? Does Washington seem more preoccupied with conciliating a belligerent South than with improving the position of African Americans?

2. exactly what does Washington mean when he calls Negroes to "Cast down your bucket where you are"? What does he mean when he directs these words at white Southerners?

3. how did twentieth-century America interpret Washington's call for Americans of both races to be "In all things that are purely social . . . as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress" (Norton 681)?

4. do any of the following statements by Washington strike you as ironic, given his position on Negro education?

5. examine closely the following passage from Washington's address. On whom is Washington squarely putting the onus for Negro improvement? "My own belief is, although I have never before said so in so many words, that the time will come when the Negro in the South will be accorded all the political rights which his ability, character, and material possessions entitle him to. I think, though, that the opportunity to freely exercise such political rights will not come in any large degree through outside or artificial forcing, but will be accorded to the Negro by the Southern white people themselves, and that they will protect him in the exercise of those rights" (Norton 686).


W. E. B. Du Bois's The Souls of Black Folk (1903)

1. what does Du Bois mean by his claim that society allows him "no true self-consciousness" and only permits him to see himself "through the revelation of the other world," that he is always made to feel his "two-ness" (8 bot)?

2. why did post-Emancipation "Negro" ministers and doctors end up practicing "quackery and demagogy," according to W. E. B. Du Bois (9 mid-bot)?

3. does it make intuitive sense for Du Bois to claim that "the ideal of human brotherhood" among all races can be better obtained by embracing the "unifying ideal of Race" (13 bot)?

4. what is the "triple paradox" of which Du Bois accuses Booker T. Washington (38-39)?

5. Du Bois encourages what types of opposition to the "industrial slavery" and "civic death" of the Negro race brought about by Booker T. Washington's overly submissive posture towards the South (42 mid)?

6. Du Bois concludes that the efforts of his race to improve themselves must be "not simply seconded, but rather aroused and encouraged, by the initiative of the richer and wiser environing group" (43 bot). Into what types of assistance might this claim be translated?

7. does Du Bois advocate blanket hatred of white Southerners?

8. to what ends do Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois each employ Biblical ideas and images?


"Untitled (Woman with Flower Head)" (1937)
Salvador Dalí


Dr. Paul Marchbanks
pmarchba@calpoly.edu