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Next to the Color Line: Gender, Sexuality, and W. E. B. Du Bois

Susan Gillman
Alys Eve Weinbaum
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 416
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttv6dj
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  • Book Info
    Next to the Color Line
    Book Description:

    This provocative collection investigates how W. E. B. Du Bois approached gender and sexuality. The essays in Next to the Color Line not only reassess his politics but also demonstrate his relevance for today's concerns. Contributors: Hazel V. Carby, Vilashini Cooppan, Brent Hayes Edwards, Michele Elam, Roderick A. Ferguson, Joy James, Fred Moten, Shawn Michelle Smith, Mason Stokes, Claudia Tate, Paul C. Taylor.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9803-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. Introduction: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Politics of Juxtaposition
    (pp. 1-34)
    Susan Gillman and Alys Eve Weinbaum

    Gender and sexuality are rarely viewed as central analytical categories within Du Bois’s substantial corpus. As is well known, Du Bois is most frequently touted as a modern theorist of the “race concept” and as a renowned scholar of “the problem of the color line,” which he prophetically announced in 1900 “is the problem of this century,” which was then not even one year old.¹ And yet, even as Du Bois’s signature formulation activates in the insistent verb “is,” the past, present, and future of race history as we in the twenty-first century know it, there could hardly be a...

  4. 1 Move On Down the Line: Domestic Science, Transnational Politics, and Gendered Allegory in Du Bois
    (pp. 35-68)
    Vilashini Cooppan

    W. E. B. Du Bois’s explosive formulation of the color line as “the problem of the twentieth century” was initially uttered at the first pan-African conference of 1900, famously repeated in the 1903The Souls of Black Folk,and extended and expanded in the 1906 essay “The Color Line Belts the World.” The figure of the color line would, in fact, return many times throughout Du Bois’s long career, from his early sociological studies to his later historical, political, and literary writings, in works of nationalist bent as well as in those with internationalist, pan-Africanist, or socialist, allegiances. While Du...

  5. 2 Profeminism and Gender Elites: W. E. B. Du Bois, Anna Julia Cooper, and Ida B. Wells-Barnett
    (pp. 69-95)
    Joy James

    By expanding critical theoretical frameworks, W. E. B. Du Bois demystified racism and class elitism. Unfortunately, at the same time, he also mystified the agency of African American women. Du Bois’s sexual politics suggest that he navigated between increasingly nonclassist and democratic ideologies, and a moribund gender progressivism, into a quagmire of contradictory progressive and paternalistic racial-sexual politics. Attempting to better understand the contradictions of Du Bois’s profeminist ideology, we see an analogy with antiracism. Like some types of antiracism, certain forms of feminism and profeminism are disingenuous. Guided by a Eurocentrism that presents European (American) culture as normative, antiracist...

  6. 3 Interracial Romance and Black Internationalism
    (pp. 96-123)
    Alys Eve Weinbaum

    In late June 1926, at the annual NAACP conference convened in Chicago, Du Bois delivered an address that announced what has subsequently been enshrined as his mandate: “all art is propaganda.” He published “The Criteria of Negro Art” later that same year inThe Crisis,presenting it as the final contribution to an ongoing “Symposium” prompted by a short questionnaire on representations of “the Negro in Art.” Over a period of eight months (beginning in March), responses by a number of contemporary race leaders, artists, and cultural pundits including Countee Cullen, Jessie Fauset, Langston Hughes, Alfred A. Knopf, Sinclair Lewis,...

  7. 4 Late Romance
    (pp. 124-149)
    Brent Hayes Edwards

    In reflecting upon the hundredth anniversary of the publication ofThe Souls of Black Folk,it is worth noting that W. E. B. Du Bois might justifiably be described as the paradigmatic black proponent of centennial logic: the compartmentalization of history into regular units oflongue durée,and the theorization of history’s shifts and conundrums using the abstract outer limit of an individual human lifespan as a basic measure of evaluation. This predilection was integral to Du Bois’s intellectual orientation, not simply a function of his longevity as a public figure who lived long enough to grumble sardonically on the...

  8. 5 Race and Desire: Dark Princess: A Romance
    (pp. 150-208)
    Claudia Tate

    On December 15, 1927, Du Bois sent the final version of the manuscript ofDark Princess: A Romance,his second novel, to Harcourt, Brace and Company. In the attached letter, he asked whether his prior statements about the work’s social purpose were adequate for the publisher’s promotional plans for the novel, which would appear in the spring of 1928. The marketing staff at Harcourt, Brace evidently requested no additional information but drew on these statements to prepare the newspaper notices about the novel (Aptheker, Introduction, 18). This publishing firm was well aware of Du Bois’s prominence and was confident that...

  9. 6 Du Bois’s Erotics
    (pp. 209-233)
    Michele Elam and Paul C. Taylor

    Our epigraph, from David Levering Lewis’s award-winning biography of W. E. B. Du Bois,¹ offers a glimpse into one of the many challenges involved in understanding Du Bois in the context of gender politics. Just how is it that Du Bois the “moralist” somehow coexisted with Du Bois the “priapic adulterer”? How is it that the feminist advocate was also, paradoxically, a retrograde rake? Lewis expresses some unease that the revelation, “smacking” as it does, he fears, of a vulgar critical voyeurism, places not only Du Bois’s but also his own reputation at risk. Lewis’s ambivalence about “appropriate disclosure” seems...

  10. 7 The Souls of Black Men
    (pp. 234-268)
    Hazel V. Carby

    In a grand Victorian gesture of self-sacrifice, W. E. B. Du Bois, then a young man in the formative years of his intellectual development, determined to subordinate his individual desires and ambitions to promote a political project that would benefit the world in general by advancing the particular interests of African American peoples. In his journal entry of February 23, 1893, his twenty-fifth birthday, Du Bois wrote:

    I am striving to make my life all that life may be—and I am limiting that strife only in so far as that strife is incompatible with others of my brothers and...

  11. 8 “W. E. B. Du Bois”: Biography of a Discourse
    (pp. 269-288)
    Roderick A. Ferguson

    Can we be sure that we are speaking of a person when we think we are speaking of a person? Isn’t it possible that we could be silently evoking an assemblage of norms, concepts, and ideals when all the while we presume we are only discussing a “real” historical figure? In this essay, I am not actually concerned with a historical person but with the discourse that goes by that person’s name. This is a discourse whose power is concealed by the apparent transparency of its referent’s fame and notoriety, a discourse that convinces us not to scrutinize its deployment....

  12. 9 Father of the Bride: Du Bois and the Making of Black Heterosexuality
    (pp. 289-316)
    Mason Stokes

    When Countee Cullen, unofficial poet laureate of the Harlem Renaissance, married W. E. B. Du Bois’s daughter, Yolande, in 1928, the result was both a spectacular and a failed moment of black heterosexuality. Cullen’s subsequent decision to travel to Paris not with his new bride, but with his, well, pick your euphemism, “special friend,” “longtime companion,” “fellow traveler” Harold Jackman revealed the extent of the marriage’s failure, a failure that was made official when the couple divorced in 1930. While newspapers in Harlem reported the existence of an alleged “other woman” as cause of the breakup, Yolande revealed to her...

  13. 10 Uplift and Criminality
    (pp. 317-349)
    Fred Moten

    This is an essay about stolen life, where uplift and criminality converge in the animateriality of W. E. B. Du Bois’s fugitive voice. Considering stolen life requires that we move, in the words of Du Bois and in their transformative amplification by Nahum Chandler, in the sphere—the open set—of “the Negro Question.” The plain of the ordinary, of common ground or of a common underground, of the common underground or outskirts of the city, before the distinction between urban and rural and the formation of modernity and its opposite that distinction engenders, is where such movement, such structuring...

  14. 11 Second-Sight: Du Bois and the Black Masculine Gaze
    (pp. 350-377)
    Shawn Michelle Smith

    In the well-known scene in which W. E. B. Du Bois describes his first recognition of the color line and his dawning double consciousness, he figures “race” through a gaze:

    It is in the early days of rollicking boyhood that the revelation first bursts upon one, all in a day, as it were. I remember well when the shadow swept across me. I was a little thing, away up in the hills of New England. . . . In a wee wooden schoolhouse, something put it into the boys’ and girls’ heads to buy gorgeous visiting-cards—ten cents a package—...

  15. 12 Pageantry, Maternity, and World History
    (pp. 378-416)
    Susan Gillman

    The habit of self-quotation that is central to W. E. B. Du Bois’s writing poses a special challenge to the historically inclined reader attentive to issues of gender and sexuality. It was common for Du Bois to incorporate into his autobiographies passages from his own speeches, or from essays and other writing he’d done for various magazines and journals, and to re-cite, in the later autobiographies, his own earlier recollections. For instance, everyone associates Du Bois with the famous color line aphorism, “the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line,” but few question either the fact...

  16. Contributors
    (pp. 417-418)
  17. Publication History
    (pp. 419-420)
  18. Index
    (pp. 421-433)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 434-436)