Lines of Descent

Lines of Descent

Kwame Anthony Appiah
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    Lines of Descent
    Book Description:

    W. E. B. Du Bois never felt so at home as when he was a student in Berlin. Germany was the first place white people had treated him as an equal. But anti-Semitism was prevalent, and Du Bois' challenge, says Kwame Anthony Appiah, was to take the best of German intellectual life without its parochialism--to steal the fire without getting burned.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-41934-6
    Subjects: Sociology, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[x])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)

    On November 3, 1958, W. E. B. Du Bois returned to his alma mater in Berlin to accept a diploma. He was ninety at the time; both he and the institution had endured considerable tumult in the previous half-century. But the building at Unter den Linden 6 seemed little altered. With its Palladian windows and Corinthian pillars, the late-baroque facade revealed its mid-eighteenth-century origins as a palace for a Prussian prince. At the turn of the nineteenth century, Friedrich Wilhelm III had placed the elegant building in the hands of his energetic minister of education, Wilhelm von Humboldt, and in...

  4. CHAPTER ONE The Awakening
    (pp. 25-44)

    Du Bois boarded the Dutch steamshipAmsterdamand set sail for Europe in July of 1892. On the first of August, a couple of weeks later, he disembarked in Rotterdam. Soon he was on a steamer, making his way along the Rhine. His academic semester did not start until late October and he was in no rush. He visited Düsseldorf, Cologne, and Frankfurt. In Eisenach, the birthplace of Bach and the site of the Schloss Wartburg, where Luther had translated the Bible into German, he lived in rooms let by the pastor of the local church, Johannes Marbach, and brushed...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Culture and Cosmopolitanism
    (pp. 45-82)

    The notion of culture Du Bois encountered in Berlin had deep roots … and glossy foilage. One useful point of entry to the conceptual world the young scholar found in Berlin is in the work of Johann Gottfried Herder, the great German nationalist and philosopher of romanticism. Du Bois absorbed not only Herder’s romantic conception of individuality but also the Herderian picture of the spiritual life of nations. For Herder, writing before the ascendancy of the modern nation-state, each nation has a distinct governing spirit, itsVolksgeist(a word one might translate as “national soul”), which is expressed in every...

  6. CHAPTER THREE The Concept of the Negro
    (pp. 83-118)

    We have been exploring the intellectual underpinnings of Du Bois’s project of racial advancement, the conceptual matrix in which it grew. We’ve examined his strategies of scholarly engagement; his aesthetic, moral, and methodological cosmopolitanism; his ideas of culture and spirit and striving. But so far we have merely circled his central preoccupation: the idea of race itself.

    Du Bois’s first programmatic discussion of the subject was in “The Conservation of Races,” a paper he gave at the second meeting of the American Negro Academy, which was published as the second of the academy’s Occasional Papers in 1897. There he urged...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR The Mystic Spell
    (pp. 119-142)

    Throughout his life, Du Bois sought to formulate an answer to the question that his son-in-law, Countee Cullen, asked in his best-known poem: “What is Africa to me?”¹ In his earlier years, Du Bois took Africa to be the “fount.” Its history was the past that originated the narrative of the Negro. “The mystic spell of Africa is and ever was over all America,” Du Bois wrote in 1908. “It has guided her hardest work, inspired her finest literature, and sung her sweetest songs. Her greatest destiny—unsensed and despised though it be,—is to give back to the first...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE The One and the Many
    (pp. 143-166)

    In an essay on his “evolving program for Negro freedom,” Du Bois describes a disciplinary crisis that befell him when he was in his forties. “Facts, in social science, I realized, were elusive things: emotions, loves, hates, were facts; and they were facts in the souls and minds of the scientific student, as well as in the persons studied,” he wrote. “Their measurement, then, was doubly difficult and intricate.” In investigating the 1917 race riot in East St. Louis, Du Bois says, he realized that any recounting merely of the “cold, bare facts of history” would omit too much; and...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 167-220)
    (pp. 221-224)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 225-227)