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     Program 03 09 Guest David Levering Lewis Book W.E.B. Du Bois Biography of a
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from national public radio this is the fine print and exploration and celebration of the written word i'm rebecca bain what's going on what show w e b deboy is was never one to mince words born in massachusetts while andrew johnson was president and died in ninety five years later during lyndon johnson's administration liam edward burkhardt the boys was the premier architect of the civil rights movement in america during his extraordinary life he witnessed jim crow firsthand and later the supreme court's decision on segregation and that nonviolent protest discrimination by blacks in the south he was one of the
founding members of the end up alessi p an organization he later left because he thought it didn't do enough to affect racial inequality and he died on august twenty eight nineteen sixty three the day martin luther king delivered his famous i have a dream speech on the steps of the lincoln memorial in washington dc this year marks the one hundred anniversary of his landmark work the souls of black folk and according to dr david levering lewis a pulitzer prize winning author of a two volume biography of the boy's titled biography of a race the boys his life writing this and influence spanned more than half of the twentieth century intersecting with scholarship politics journalism and literature i'll be talking with dr louis about web dubois on today's program i hope you can join us dr lewis let's begin with your of
fascination for web deboy it's coming this work this monumental biography that you've done must have consumed a great deal of your time what made you decide that you wanted to do a book on the boy yes it didn't take much more time than i had their anticipated in spain i thought when i embarked on this project in nineteen eighty five that idea finished in two to five years and instead it took this team no i would add that in that fifteen year time span i wrote another book totally unrelated to dubois and so i suppose really i'm sad for about a dozen years i was attracted to baby boys biography from my writing a book in the late seventies just came out in nineteen eighty about writers indiana twenties around a harlem renaissance a book called when harlem was unloaded dubois had a featured part in that book and that made me a
quite aware that those great deal of been written about him and in fact there were i think about four in biographies and even quality they suffered from a lack of access to the dubois correspondence that was really quite disabling obviously there was also the fact that some of the work on two boys had been written during the fifties and sixties when he was most controversial in fact he was on his way to a formal affiliation with the communist party of united states and so they've never drawn dubois tended to be very political partisan i thought and i nineteen eighty one or two is again think about the project we could and should have a broad gauge appreciation of his life and then i explored the on location and accessibility of the enormous correspondence which by that time had come to rest
at the elusive massachusetts at amherst blood the papers are not and then correlated and so i waited and there when one day i was told by the curator special collections at human history that a collection was now available i was first in line at the rest is his biography but i was motivated not only just by the challenge of doing something that they're had been difficult to do it is very clear to me that dubois his life is simply not to have a full life however well done i might do not to have that life was not to have really much of the american historical narrative ally if it was lived at its fullest over some ninety five lucy diers straight across the twentieth century which she intersected with lives in all seals of scholarship of politics of journalism in literature not to have such a life was to deprive ourselves to where we didn't what made us as americans i walked
what we were and i have become and that sounds i know to make a large plane for two boys his life but in fact it is just that kind of seminal life whether you sign off on his political positions especially those in the post world war two era or whether you find the early ratings are maybe perhaps a tad too lyrical or whatever dubois is doing is in one way or another are other significant either for the intrinsic contribution to make sword for the controversy it is and genders i too have a great fan of reading people's letters i feel you learn so much about a person's mind the way their mind works how they feel about things through letters when you are reading the letters of the web to boys what sorts of things struck you about them their brevity that surprised me
whereas dubois the the journalist to dubois the essayist is the prolific seat he writes the war they showed for a topic but there's no gravity indeed those defectors comprehensive news galore but in his correspondence of the letters are precise even the postal letters are brief to the point not liking nuance know not solely lacking subtlety but may go straight to be a shorthand that is revealing it of course a revealing and then perhaps two ways one busy man wanting to get his message out and move on to the next intended recipient of his thoughts and his request i'm glad it all star weekend feel that in the terrorist list some correspondence reflected a psychological that device to screen himself and
two convey his innermost feelings very very carefully in a measured way and many of the letters and a large collection of for some one hundred thousand items many of the letters are very impressed all in that they are addressed to the women who wood dubois has said has had a special section four and that reciprocated indeed their letters to him we weren't all times rather unguarded a professional deep affection but on his softly call as rather businesslike i will be happy to meet over dinner and there'd be pleased to discuss the things that matter most to you and it'll be very nice to see you not having seen you since said oh june the twentieth of nineteen ten and circumspect to the core they are almost always all what some back up
just a little bit darker louis and talk about that we beat the boys he was born again eighteen sixty eight and it's my understanding that there were very few black people in the small town where he was born there are a few in the little town of great barrington in the western hills of their pastures it all maybe thirty families i think in the late nineteenth century that and then to that race as a most african americans were experiencing had survived those living in the south was not incidental factors are bringing but just one of the many things that a bright boy it would be aware of is a mild place of people knew each other and indeed in so far as questions of race intruded a he became aware of them as they were directed towards the migrants coming into the textile end of paper mills along with a satanic people from southern europe and from slavic europe
and there was sung prejudice i suppose is that the word visited upon them in terms of attitude because there were so few african americans on the contrary dubois was really living in a cocoon like environment but there were differences and that he writes of course famously ugly moment when he as a an adolescent or perhaps not quite an adolescent the versions very becomes aware on our skin color prejudice in the schoolhouse they are learning to be little ladies and gentlemen and they are to exchange visiting cards as an exercise and when he presents his card to a new comer a little girl who has just come to great barrington and she rebuffed him he writes that at that moment he became aware that as similar as he was to his playmates there was a different standard are they
all descended from that moment but they'll love a color it's quite dramatically expressed this moment of the trial melissa gray's i think it was somewhat exaggerated for the purpose of understory the perfidious mostly regretted spread out racial prejudice into the north this century turn he himself i think was not as devastating from that experience as you said but it became a medical condition or expressed in the cells our conversation with david levering lewis the pulitzer prize winning author of a two volume biography of web to boys will resume after this brief time that i hope you can continue to check out the fine print support for the fine print comes from real estate brokers allen coulter and jane smith
of lipman realty incorporated yet trusted to sell the most cherished homes in the nashville area four six three forty three thirty three you can hear the fine print any time by visiting our web site addresses w w w dot wpln got a large it's great again is it fair to say that he truly got an education and racism when he came to fisk university here in nashville to attend college who did he arrived in the south since this visit south he'd known
something of the difficulties after reconstruction as a bright lad and pay out wide reader of newspapers but the south was that it was a revelation this of course was an oasis and the glory day and a companionship only instruction he received but he spent it two summers as a student teacher and a backwoods of tennessee those experiences and they would be with him for a lifetime as he writes about the end of the sofa blindfold he thought that the african americans in these remote to hamlet's were in a condition of servitude that hadn't no way i've been affected by improved by changed by the emancipation proclamation it seemed to him as though he were riding in a place before the civil war and illiteracy but at the same time the exit at with which is so students learned another hunger for knowledge for the world of the open the pie of the
book was quite remarkable and so then all more tragically condition because when he returned a few years later to that part of tennessee he found that conditions have worsened the nfl handled sharecropping it come across the land and that's the appeal of the cities as the agricultural side of things offered less and less maneuver for people the appeal of the cities had drawn and many of these young people away from the land but not to a better life in the cities for the most part but to the evils and temptations of urban life and so the experience in tennessee outside nashville was profoundly deep upon him and doug knows would you tell the story of how web dubois came to study at dr university from berlin in germany he's in his fist in three years and is bizarre had always been to attend harvard and he probably
could have got their had it not been for the lack of financial resources et earned a fellowship to harvard med for second undergraduate degree wasn't uncommon in those days many people finished it pretty good schools in the midwest and elsewhere and then recycle themselves were at harvard for a second and i read her degree he did that he was valedictorian of his class he gave a marvelous graduation address on jefferson davis which electrified the nation and then went on to take his master's in history but he wanted to go to the unit is to berlin because it was then with heidelberg the capstone are the educated man a german degree it was simply the ultimate cache in the academy that he applied to the slave her father for scholarship
money to make that possible and was refused and curious letter from the president abbas later fund who happened to be robert hayes president hoover presided over the emotional wreckage to action saying that they foundation or the fund had not been able to find a talented african americans to take advantage of the bequest and so it was discontinuing higher education experiments and dubois it was a most acutely because here i am and he persisted he was able to get letters a reference from distinguished professors at harvard and elsewhere and so the fun he relented and off they went to what was then the kaiser three jews should you have an immediacy to it in berlin to study economics hoping to take the doctor in economics which would have been a first for american he did very well under two famous economists are one of the main
sure where the other that includes me for the moment then within a semester of his goal while receiving the doctor at this flavor of fun informed him that it would not renew his scholarship and so as he put it with some mischievous irony i was forced to return to america and take a harvard phd and in doing so he became the first african american to earn the degree at at harvard in history let's talk a little bit now about his landmark work the souls of black folks which of course us celebrates its one hundredth anniversary issue here what made this book so la changing what made this book so affected the sows a blindfold a collection of her fourteen essays about them and all i think maybe nine had published previously river is remarkable because in the decade or more before its appearance
in nineteen oh three the voice that dubois the voice that we hear in that book have not been heard are certainly not synced frederick douglass is definite at ninety three a voice which was adamant in claiming the civil rights guaranteed under the constitution and the amendments of a civil war amendments possible or amendments fourteenth and fifteenth amendments that may sound curious but after eighteen ninety five the process of what was called redemption in the south was in reaching it said its climax and that until the disposition of african americans from the public sphere the nullification of the voting rights and really varied that time one rather aptly described indeed by one of dubois is younger colleagues set richard logan as the media are of the african american experience
so with the closure of opportunity in la at night is the markers of that closure being the famous speech that booker washington gave in atlanta and at ninety five which renounced a civil rights in exchange for a bargain with the white south and which degree of economic prosperity would be permitted and the following year of course the a decision by the united states supreme court in plessy vs ferguson at separate equality was compatible with citizenship so in nineteen oh three dubois says this is all the state you cannot have citizenship and not have the right to have the ballot a week demand these things not in the fullness of time but immediately here now but more than that ghost estate those things was it's a startling not entirely revolutionary other african americans had similar opinions but dubois expressed in these aspirations of these imperatives in the tape
prose that is simply a remarkable and knew what can one say about it but that to read it is to confirm that here we have a special pen and a special ear for language and so he enveloped these aspirations and demands in a language inflected indeed a bit by the old testament the bible and by readings into history to give a certain special impact saying electricity and then beyond the demands were those essays that describe the condition of race relations in american democracy and with such clarity and passion and salient say that they amounted to it you would say two things one a kind of photograph democracy is not working in the first years of the twentieth century on the one hand and on the other a procession
that until the liberties and the rights of people of color who were restored and won again democracy to that degree was fraudulent and indeed all americans were to that degree impoverished by the initiation of citizenship and democracy fellow that expression his was a special pin that's a very eloquent itself it's i think it entirely apt i find that here in the hundreds or urine monthly publication of the souls of black folk and many students wiley concede the issue is that dubois raised as those issues that have a prominent say and durability and they're not necessarily very enchanted buy or moved by the pros may find the language ornate elaborate circuit more generally i think this is partly the consequence of
a generation of smart young people growing up in the universe of the internet and reading things online and they have it seems to me here is that a rather differently attuned to the language that's a pity because it's always of course important to convey the message to get the point across and a busy generation and busy time it's also important seems to me to convey the message in a way that has a kind of resonance and poetry or granger that this it's the urgency the message i couldn't agree more naturally we can't talk about web two boys without talking about the rather famous feud between the boys and booker t washington would you ivan elaborate on that just a little please don't lose well yes that's one of the titanic controversies of the african american experience and of the early twentieth century and essentially it was eight debate about the strategy over civil rights
how best to achieve them subjectively what the debate was about and to state it in that way i think you could simply say that one man and one path in mind than the other another so fair enough they had similar objectives but different a means to achieve them and you boys' himself later life conceded that that really was what it was all about but it was simply about more than that because the politics of ideas politics always come into play in order for a booker washington to defend his position and in order for his position to be defended he was increasingly place in a prison schimmel our virtual omnipotence indeed in which a word from him his patronage your silence from him determined the course of the policy the careers of men and women so that you know short
time what was at an intellectual position and resulted in the defense of the position leading to a machine and soon people spoke at least and dubois a circle of the washington machine of the tuskegee machine of the power ugly booker wright's to ruin or promote careers and and ideas and so the contest became very fraught pursell deter and behind the good doctor washington and it's certainly reinforce the uncertainty of a debate work powerful white man in the north well who's interested in this compromise is washington compromise had to do with cheap labor and regional reunification regional understanding quite self white north and such men andrew carnegie and william h baldwin and others wrote checks that made the tuskegee machine in the tuskegee institute
and the newspapers booker washington acquired either covertly or directly a juggernaut dubois gathered around him then like minded men and women called by him they talented tenth who articulated me at another demand for as we were saying a civil rights and then we talked about an important aspect of citizenship advancement and that was education higher education and in that area the two schools really i came across or four dubois understandably harvard educated berlin educated as sister by men and women on some culture some professional accomplishments most of them living in the north to be sure demanded that the university experience or the college experience prepare leaders people exposed to the liberal arts philosophy at history to science and not as was the case with me tuskegee and hampton paradigm formed into a vocational and a
technical skill us and trades now there's room for both obviously and the great majority of people at that time probably were better served as vocational am technically trained but on the money always lopsided lead to that are streamed over higher education and of the school's that that would have favored the leadership that dubois thought was poured into a democracy into a lay people say is scant atlanta university and some others withered or began to wither on the wife and so it was a controversy around class under our region and our politics as well as how best to achieve the citizenship that even booker washington said his group must have blood his urgency and his time frame where radically different from those best choice company david levering lewis author the pulitzer prize winning biography of william
edward burkhardt title biography of a race and that does conclude our program for this week and i hope you enjoyed it and i hope you'll join me next week as well when together we'll check out the fine print for national public radio i'm rebecca bain the fine print is produced by rebecca bain and scott smith for nashville public radio cd copies of the program are available to watercolor business office monday through friday at six one five seven six so to nineteen oh three you can hear the fine print any time by visiting our website you'll find more than three years worth of programs archived there plus more information about the fine print book club including our current selection morning by james lee burke published by simon and schuster the addresses w w w dot wpln dot org slash fine print before she was a national park service ranger and then a
bestselling author nevada water i was doing industrial training films and now radio voiceover reading i'm sorry the number you have reached is no longer in service get about three days breaking and nevada bar is my guest next week on the fine print saturday afternoon and sunday morning at nine on national public radio
The Fine Print
Program 03 09 Guest David Levering Lewis Book W.E.B. Du Bois Biography of a Race
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Chicago: “The Fine Print; Program 03 09 Guest David Levering Lewis Book W.E.B. Du Bois Biography of a Race ,” 2003-03-01, WPLN News/Nashville Public Radio, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 3, 2023,
MLA: “The Fine Print; Program 03 09 Guest David Levering Lewis Book W.E.B. Du Bois Biography of a Race .” 2003-03-01. WPLN News/Nashville Public Radio, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 3, 2023. <>.
APA: The Fine Print; Program 03 09 Guest David Levering Lewis Book W.E.B. Du Bois Biography of a Race . Boston, MA: WPLN News/Nashville Public Radio, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from