Saturday, July 14, 2007

Devotions with Du Bois, Day 2

Commentary and context:

Prayers for Dark People constitutes the prayers Du Bois penned during 1909-1910, in his early 40s, while teaching at Atlanta University, which at the time held classes for what today we’d call elementary, middle, high school, and college students. This gives the prayers and meditations a didactic quality, though not pedantic, and it is probably not too much to say that the prayers reflect something of a pastoral tone. The messages are certainly moralistic, focused on virtue (sometimes even “holiness”), yet there is a spiritual urgency in his words as well, a firm conviction to sieze the day. Some prayers have a theme attached to them (e.g., “Cleanliness”), while others end with one or two scripture references. The upshot is clearly practical theology, something akin to what some contemporaries called the Social Gospel.

At the time, Du Bois had published his well-known The Souls of Black Folk (1903), and in 1909 published his study of John Brown, who he considered to be something of a spiritual exemplar. In 1095 Du Bois co-organized the Niagra Movement, which later became the the NAACP. Du Bois lost his first son Burghart in 1899, and the following year attened the first Pan-African Congress in London, at which he was elected Secretary. The final point to mention about the larger context surrounding the composition of the prayers, Du Bois left Atlanta Univeristy in 1910 to assume editorship of The Crisis, the key publication of the NAACP, and oversee other editorial tasks for the organization.

[Photo from the online archive at UMASS-Amherst.]


Edward Carson said...

I recall reading accounts of criticism and racism because he wrote in such high regards of Brown. Calling DuBois a racist is no surprise seeing that he was one of the more vocal critics of white supremacy.With that stated, Brown is a person that I have yet to gain a true understanding of. My reading of him has been very limited.

Phil said...

I must say that I need to do more reading on Brown also, as I see him cited all over the place in my reading about race/racism/race reconciliation. Hope your time in Vegas has been good.