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X-The Problem of the Negro as a Problem for Thought$
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Nahum Dimitri Chandler

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780823254064

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823254064.001.0001

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The Souls of an Ex-White Man

The Souls of an Ex-White Man

W. E. B. Du Bois and the Biography of John Brown

(p.112) Chapter Three The Souls of an Ex-White Man
X-The Problem of the Negro as a Problem for Thought

Nahum Dimitri Chandler

Fordham University Press

This chapter considers W. E. B. Du Bois’ s 1909 biography of John Brown. It shows the distinction of Du Bois’ s approach, which places Brown in relation to an African American sense of the project and destiny of America. Du Bois weaves Brown into the fabric of African American historical memory in two dimensions, conceiving of Brown as a leader that is both of and for African Americans and as a spiritual figure whose sense of self and mission was reconstructed through his complex re-identification of himself by way of a kind of “double-consciousness” - no longer simply “White” but not Black or African American, but something else altogether - in relation to the abolition of slavery and the recognition of the humanity of Negro American slaves. The death of John Brown “proper” should be understood to have marked the opening toward the possibility of a new relation to the future, for America in the most general and world-historical sense. Yet, Du Bois operated his own sense of “double-consciousness” as a theoretical perspective to reopen this story. Brown may be situated not only in relation to Frederick Douglass, but back to David Walker and Maria Stewart, and forward to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Keywords:   historical memory, biography, death, proper name, “double-consciousness”, slavery, White(ness), Negro, Black, America, W. E. B. Du Bois, John Brown

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