nUkiEmOLe poetRy of Others #13/ 31 Jan 2020
The Riddle of the Sphinx, by W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt) Du Bois
“About the Author
William Edward Burghardt “W. E. B.” Du Bois ; February 23, 1868 – August 27, 1963) was an American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author and editor. Born in western Massachusetts, Du Bois grew up in a tolerant community and experienced little racism as a child. After graduating from Harvard, where he was the first African American to earn a doctorate, he became a professor of history, sociology and economics at Atlanta University. Du Bois was one of the co-founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909. Du Bois rose to national prominence as the leader of the Niagara Movement, a group of African-American activists who wanted equal rights for blacks. Du Bois and his supporters opposed the Atlanta Compromise, an agreement crafted by Booker T. Washington which provided that Southern blacks would work and submit to white political rule, while Southern whites guaranteed that blacks would receive basic educational and economic opportunities. Instead, Du Bois insisted on full civil rights and increased political representation, which he believed would be brought about by the African-American intellectual elite. He referred to this group as the talented tenth and believed that African Americans needed the chances for advanced education to develop its leadership. Racism was the main target of Du Bois’s polemics, and he strongly protested against lynching, Jim Crow laws, and discrimination in education and employment. His cause included colored persons everywhere, particularly Africans and Asians in their struggles against colonialism and imperialism. He was a proponent of Pan-Africanism and helped organize several Pan-African Congresses to free African colonies from European powers. Du Bois made several trips to Europe, Africa and Asia. After World War I, he surveyed the experiences of American black soldiers in France and documented widespread bigotry in the United States military.”
Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil by W.E.B. DuBois, © 1920 see: amazon book reviews
- E. B. Du Bois was a public intellectual, sociologist, and activist on behalf of the African American community. He profoundly shaped black political culture in the United States through his founding role in the NAACP, as well as internationally through the Pan-African movement. Du Bois’s sociological and historical research on African-American communities and culture broke ground in many areas, including the history of the post-Civil War Reconstruction period. Du Bois was also a prolific author of novels, autobiographical accounts, innumerable editorials and journalistic pieces, and several works of history.
Considered a sequel to Du Bois’s wildly popular The Souls of Black Folks, Darkwater revisits many of the same themes with a more militant edge, even revising previously published essays and poems to include in this newer volume. Published in 1920, Darkwater focuses on the political climate following World War I. In ten carefully crafted chapters, Du Bois explores the important issues of that period- labor, capital, politics, gender, education, and international relations-in tandem with an overarching theme of race. Blending lyrical autobiography with political thoughts and even poetry, Du Bois makes a powerful, forceful argument regarding race and the color line. With a series introduction by editor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and an introduction by Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, this edition is essential for anyone interested in African American history.
Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil (The Oxford W. E. B. Du Bois) Oxford University Press iFlipd, www.iflipd.com
The Riddle of the Sphinx
Dark daughter of the lotus leaves that watch the Southern Sea!
Wan spirit of a prisoned soul a-panting to be free!
The muttered music of thy streams, the whisper of the deep,
Have kissed each other in God’s name and kissed a world to sleep.
The will of the world is a whistling wind, sweeping a cloud-swept sky,
And not from the East and not from the West knelled that
But out of the South,—the sad, black South—it screamed from
the top of the sky,
Crying: “Awake, O ancient race!” Wailing, “O woman, arise!”
And crying and sighing and crying again as a voice in the
But the burden of white men bore her back and the white world
stifled her sighs.
The white world’s vermin and filth:
All the dirt of London,
All the scum of New York;
Valiant spoilers of women
And conquerers of unarmed men;
Shameless breeders of bastards,
Drunk with the greed of gold,
Baiting their blood-stained hooks
With cant for the souls of the simple;
Bearing the white man’s burden
Of liquor and lust and lies!
Unthankful we wince in the East,
Unthankful we wail from the westward,
Unthankfully thankful, we curse,
In the unworn wastes of the wild:
I hate them, Oh!
I hate them well,
I hate them, Christ!
As I hate hell!
If I were God,
I’d sound their knell
Who raised the fools to their glory,
But black men of Egypt and Ind,
Ethiopia’s sons of the evening,
Indians and yellow Chinese,
Arabian children of morning,
And mongrels of Rome and Greece?
And they that raised the boasters
Shall drag them down again,—
Down with the theft of their thieving
And murder and mocking of men;
Down with their barter of women
And laying and lying of creeds;
Down with their cheating of childhood
And drunken orgies of war,—
Till the devil’s strength be shorn,
Till some dim, darker David, a-hoeing of his corn,
And married maiden, mother of God,
Bid the black Christ be born!
Then shall our burden be manhood,
Be it yellow or black or white;
And poverty and justice and sorrow,
The humble, and simple and strong
Shall sing with the sons of morning
And daughters of even-song:
Black mother of the iron hills that ward the blazing sea,
Wild spirit of a storm-swept soul, a-struggling to be free,
Where ‘neath the bloody finger-marks thy riven bosom quakes,
Thicken the thunders of God’s Voice and lo! a world awakes!
by W. E. B. DuBois, 1918
–note: all thru-out high school, in the gym dressing rooms and showers, afro-Amers other than those from my sister’s high school 3-mile distant, which had hardly one afro-Amer. My tRavel tRavoils in anti-NucleaRist protestings, and I would ask those, afro-Amers, some who asked why me standing there, or I’d ask poetms readors, why not more Langston Hughes, and I actually heard W.E.B. DuBois from Hispanics, from urbanites, who came came to read and to listen. Why weren’t these sessions televised on community teevee?