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Lecture 5

Lecture 5- W.E.B. Du Bois and James Weldon Johnson.docx

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Department
English (Arts)
Course
ENGL 226
Professor
Kait Pinder
Semester
Summer

Description
Lecture 5: W.E.B. Du Bois and James Weldon Johnson Cultural and Literacy Context • the spiritual as a sort of cultural leader through an exemplary creation ◦ Johnson suggests reading the spiritual leader in this way ◦ example of what African Americans had to offer to culture • "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" song ◦ prophet Elijah's trip to heaven, Jordan River ◦ important for Christian tradition ◦ Christ and John the Baptist compared to Elijah ◦ "Elijah" means "my God is Yahweh" ▪ implied faith in the song and drawing on Elijah that something will take you home to Heaven ◦ heaven as a kind of metaphor for Canada, with the slaves fleeing to Canada via the Underground Railway ◦ faith is rendered as an inclusive America ◦ anthem of civil rights movement ◦ through such songs that African Americans made a claim to agency and cultural belonging ◦ recognized as an original American musical form and a cultural gem (think like Ragtime) • mixed race people, light coloured skin • Reconstruction ◦ question/debate over leadership ◦ who will lead these people and what public image do they want for themselves ◦ what is the role of a black cultural leader in a racist society ◦ how will they find their place as citizens instead of slaves ◦ how will they catch up to a white culture they have helped to build, yet have never been allowed to participate in ◦ is the South better than the North, or vice versa ▪ North is abstract equality ▪ South is universal racism ▪ individually might have white people interacting with black people in a more positive way ◦ who can live a good life in America? ◦ what place will education occupy? ◦ freedom and the way it was exercised by the freed slaves took many forms ▪ presided over confiscated lands ▪ moved to urban centres ▪ participated in the constitutional conventions and electoral process, taking office ▪ intense desire to take advantage of new freedom to become educated or take office ◦ seemed to confirm that America would make good on its promise that all men were created equal ▪ education! ▪ establishing of new schools in the South for African Americans post-Civil War ▪ designed to overcome illiteracy ▪ preparation for teaching ▪ training for the Christian ministry ▪ education in skilled trades ◦ question of class as well as race, when it comes to education ◦ urgency of real work used to trump the luxury of reading, or the learning of skilled crafts ▪ but trades education cannot completely overcome the vast divide that profited for so many years off of slave labour ◦ educated elite would become the Black leaders ◦ though many moved North, did not find individual acceptance they hoped for ◦ those who stayed in the South remained in substandard conditions without the means to support their daily lives ◦ promise of reconstruction halted by revolution of 1876 • difficulty in publishing work ◦ little access to mainstream means of publishing their works, getting their message out • essay (political or historical) most popular form ◦ because it was short, easier to get published ◦ political or historical because of time period and events at the time ◦ essays make an argument, take a stance on education, leadership, etc. • 1890: 154 black newspapers across the country ◦ newspapers took biased sides in debates, so what newspaper publishes the essay matters ◦ major publishing houses didn't take interest in Black writing ◦ didn't think there was an audience for this writing, or else less willing to promote Black writers ◦ only in 20thC did mainstream publishers take such an interest in them • Pauline E. Hopkins, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Charles Waddell Chesnutt ◦ Hopkins ▪ established her own publishing house to publish her own work and Black authors ◦ Dunbar ▪ gained attention in 1890s ▪ that audience meant publishers willing to publish him ◦ Chesnutt ▪ published story in Atlantic Monthly in 1887 ▪ successful to mainstream audience meant publishers took an interest in him • "Revolution on 1876" ◦ reconstruction brought to abrupt halt • President Rutherford B. Hayes ◦ ended Reconstruction ◦ election as pres. was controversial ▪ lost the popular vote, won electoral college vote after 20 disputed votes assigned to him ◦ removed federal troops from southern states means certain acts of violent racism and voter intimidation go unchecked ◦ made it possible for antebellum status quo to return • Compromise of 1877 ◦ giving Hayes the presidency ◦ unwritten deal b/w Dems and Reps. leads to Hayes' election • "The Betrayal of the Negro" (Rayford W. Logan) ◦ calls 1877-1901 "The Nadir" in African American life and history (Logan) ▪ the lowest point ◦ promises made were not kept ◦ free Black culture in a world that still treated them as slaves ◦ oppression of the Black vote, growing KKK intimidation, Jim Crowe laws, segregation, lynching • Negro Academy (1897) ◦ still desire to maintain and build freedom ◦ nat'l organization including most educated and elite Black citizens ◦ fosters educated leadership ◦ to counter the charge that African Americans did not contribute anything to cultural America • July 1905 Niagara Movement ◦ led by Du Bois and William Monroe Trotter ◦ civil rights organization calling for end of segregation and disenfranchisement ◦ opposed Booker Washington's politics of conciliation • Booker T. Washington versus Du Bois debate/controversy ◦ how African Americans should position themselves in society, what they should ask for, how they might become successful as freed men ◦ divided Black and White Americans alike ◦ Washington 1858 born ▪ before abolition ▪ his mother was Black ▪ born into slavery ◦ DuBois born after end of slavery ◦ Washington ▪ mine worker ▪ believed education would open doors for him ▪ graduated from Hampton Institute in Virginia ▪ Up from Slavery (1901) ▪ notable for absence of hard feelings against institute of slavery and those who perpetuated it ▪ "Up" gives idea of mobility for slaves post-civil war ▪ more willing to be critical of African Americans than of White people ▪ accomodationist and conciliatory figure ▪ not everyone is equally capable when you have large systems and disadvantaging barriers to Black people ▪ Black people should build their own communities and develop their own skill sets ▪ keeps them in a certain class based on l
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