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Thinking Through CrisisDepression-Era Black Literature, Theory, and Politics$
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James Edward Ford

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780823286904

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823286904.001.0001

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W. E. B. Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction

W. E. B. Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction

Theorizing Divine Violence

(p.123) Notebook 3 W. E. B. Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction
Thinking Through Crisis

James Edward Ford III

Fordham University Press

Notebook 3 continues to build on the concept of the multitude. Du Bois calls the region of the multitude that pursues truth and justice the “dark proletariat.” This chapter theorizes the dark proletariat’s revolutionary force analyzing the argument and form of Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction, especially the chapters on “The General Strike” and “The Coming of the Lord.” With this analysis, Du Bois’s account of the dark proletariat during the Civil War marks the historical expression of the divine violence Walter Benjamin identifies but cannot historically locate in his enigmatic essay “Critique of Violence.” Divine violence undoes the guilt that binds the oppressed to the law and State. While Benjamin sought his example among the working class in Europe’s metropoles, Du Bois makes the figure of the fugitive slave the protagonist of his narrative.

Keywords:   the camp, Civil War, divine violence, W. E. B. Du Bois, emancipation

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