Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas with Du Bois 3.0

In the last post, from the December 1926 issue of The Crisis, Du Bois editorialized from Luke 2 about the birth of Peace, the Savior. Earlier that year, in January, he fashioned a story from Matthew 2 about the travels of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus to Egypt titled “No Room in the Inn.”

Du Bois began this editorial by quoting directly from Luke 2, an account of Christ’s birth, swaddling clothes, a manger, and an inn with no vacancy. Then, with the Great Migration in mind, and the attendant issues that emerged with an influx of southern Blacks to the North, Du Bois mused with sarcasm and satire: “Perhaps the inn was really full. Perhaps there was still place for the Rich but none for the Poor. Perhaps the manners of Joseph were not suited to the better bred patrons; perhaps Mary’s condition made the sleek gowned ladies, who could not be bother with children, high incensed; how shocking!” And addressing notions of racialized science present in the 1920s, Du Bois continued, “Perhaps the nose of Joseph was too high and his color too dark for the clerk at the inn.”

Using Mary, Du Bois reflected on the experiences of Black females. He narrated certain moments in her life even as he praised tenacity in the midst of struggle. (And much like the scriptures after the birth of Jesus, Joseph recedes from the picture.) “Ah, but how we black folk can sympathize with the poor little homeless mother of God! Long had been the journey and you had come into the great strange town at night. You hesitate—a stranger, a dark and harried stranger. Then taking desperate courage, you walk into the inn.”

Denied service, denied a place to stay, bewildered and humiliated from the stinging pain and harsh reality of Jim Crow, Du Bois used the experience of Mary and one part of the Christmas story to editorialize about white supremacy and black rage: “And all the time your heart sinks down, down, till the wave of anger and contempt sweeps it up…And so you storm into the night. There is no room in the inn. Not even for Jesus Christ.”

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