W.E.B Dubois- Dusk of Dawn



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W.E.B Dubois- Dusk of Dawn

‘Dusk of Dawn was published in 1940 and is essential in understanding contemporary political life. As the essay is a mix of sociological commentary and autobiography, it seeks to retrieve the historical and social identities of African Americans of early 20th Century. Rather, it is not just a narrative that seeks to create a singular self life. This is a concept of race and Dubois uses the collective sociopolitical objective to expose the history of America’s racism. The essay enlightens the author’s position on main political concerns and issues. For instance, Dubois enhances self-separation as a development for African Americans. In addition, he puts it straightforward that though he supports economic analysis of society by Karl Marx, he does not support communism as he is not a communist himself (Horne, Gerald, and Mary 65). Dubois view Hitler’s rise as similar to racism ingrained in Western civilization. Thus, “Dusk of Dawn depicts the author as a person in search of society in a world, an African American and an American culture, which is based on classes created by class or racial differences.

Therefore, the essay tracks the genealogy of the concept of race as it has affected the author’s life. This is the reason why Dubois uses personal experiences in his theoretical writing and links the experiences with the broader social and historical phenomena that the author identifies as essential to the development and function of race in America. Dubois states,” This was the concept of race that has dominated my life, and the history of which I have made an attempt to make the principal theme of this work. It had as I have tried to show all forms of unreasonable irreconcilable tendencies and trends. Perhaps it is not right to speak of it at all as “a concept” rather than as a group of conflicting forces, facts and tendencies. At any rate, I hope I have made its meaning to me clear” (Du, Bois and Ellen 150). This is what forms the basis for understanding the contemporary political life. The arguments of Dubois can broaden and enrich individuals’ thinking and understanding of the contemporary political life in America and other regions across the world.

The work of Dubois in this book is divided into nine chapters that reflect on political life of the contemporary world. In the first and second chapters, Dubois begins with explaining the New England and Reconstruction that occurred to him. He gives childhood experiences in Great Barrington all through to his high school life. This explains how the State was and experiences that are of social and historical nature and which form the basis for understanding the contemporary political life. It is essential to note that any history creates a foundation for explaining whatever concept or subject of concern an individual is trying to understand.

In the third chapter, this is where Dubois realizes that his analysis of the race was restricted to the relation of his people to the movement in the world. This is because Dubois did not question the world movement. This was during the later decades of the 19th century. During the period of 1894-1910, the author began teaching. It was during this time that the author published a work, The Crisis, and also went to the Niagara Movement. It was during this period, however, that the author’s thinking and understanding changed as Dubois became disenchanted with the capability of empirical evidence to change bias caused by racial differences. This is when Dubois started to think about racism as ideologies or forces that embrace more than individuals’ reasoned actions and deeds. These forces as stated by Dubois include habits, physical, psychological, and biological forces, enactments, and conventions (Du Bois 110). It is evident that these forces exist today where issues of racism exist. In fact, they are evident even in political concerns. Dubois talks of the Concept of Race in the fifth chapter. He holds that the change of the concept of the race was random. The foundation of distinguishing races was altered without any apology and elaboration. Dubois goes further explanation of his family tree in discusses themes on racial chauvinism, miscegenation, and Africa’s role in black identity.

Dubois challenges the supremacy and domination of the white world. Dubois clearly states, “The democracy that the white world seeks to protect does not exist. It has been splendidly conceived and discussed but not recognized” (Du Bois and Ellen 165). The white world emphasizes on racial and group exclusiveness establishing an advocacy of misinformation in which the ideals of racism are not mutually exclusive with Christian morality and democracy. In fact, the author expresses the social and psychological paradox of racial segregation and inequality. The seventh chapter is the colored world within. Dubois question what this world will do on the present issues and situations (Du Bois 115). In this case, the author reflects on the Africa Americans’ status, the various political and social inequities wrongly termed as natural inferiorities, and their omission from institutions. While the author uses this basis, he highlights an economic plan that he calls the Negro-cooperative movement, which acknowledges the power held by African American as consumers. Dubois also proposes that by using the capacities of production that African Americans already possess can help this community to attain some degree of political and social autonomy.

The next chapter in the ‘Dusk of Dawn’ is on misinformation and the world war, whereby the author highlights and explains the main events that shaped politics. These include the implication of the World Bank (WB) on Black consciousness in America, Dubois’ engagement in the NAACP, the importance of the Great Migration. The author also talks of other major concerns including Haiti’s seizure by America and the development and growth of awareness of Pan-African. In the last chapter, Revolution, the author reflects on the influence of the thinking of Karl Marx on his own thinking. In this chapter, he explains his artistic activities and the ways in which he promoted creative expression in the black society, as well as, his insistence on graphic arts. Dubois argues, “I sought to promote the graphic arts not only by magazine covers with Negro faces and themes, but as frequently as I could afford I portrayed the faces and features of colored folk” (Du Bois, 130).Dubois realized that he had not been taught of any positive thing about the black people. This is when the author experienced a cultural awakening, and this was in 1885 while he was at Fisk University. Dubois states of how he loves the beauty of the black skin, which whites cannot see.

The ‘Dusk of Dawn’ enables individuals to reflect on major issues on the influence of racism on political matters. Thus, it forms a basis of enriching understanding of the contemporary political life. Issues of racial segregation and inequality have always been evident in the State for a long period of time. In fact, these affect not only the social and political life of individuals, but also their psychological and economic way of life as all these aspects are interrelated and operate dependently on each other in society. The distinction between African America and the whites started a long time ago, and these divisions have continued to distinguish people according to their races. Dubois highlights that the distinction to some extent has been regarded as natural inferiority. This, however, is not true as the differences were established by individual human beings. Dubois is among people who have tried to eliminate the idea of colonialism in their work. As a philosopher, scholar, social activist, and an educator, is one of the intellectuals who are most influential in the 19th century. As a pioneer of movements on human civil rights, Dubois was dedicated to eliminate exploitation, colonialism, and racism across the world. It is, therefore, essential to note that this character represents a voice for African American generations that seek social equality and justice in society (Horne et al. 85).

Dubois had hope that black American could achieve political and economic justice. This is why he supported Marx’s ideas where the have nots will one day become the ruling class and overthrow the bourgeoisie. This was proclaimed by Marx as the time of socialism. Black consciousness has been witnessed in the recent years. This is what the author wished for and wanted. These ideas have presently come to be referred to as the aesthetic ideology and influence the political way of life of individuals. Dubois ideas on political inequality were pressured on the need to explain on the failure of a society that is enlightened to offer a political domain representing the black race. The quest for modern identity of the black people is one of the major political issues in America (Horne et al. 92). In fact, the enlightenment and political consciousness have had significant impacts on the political way of life of the American society especially now that the state is governed by a Black American.

It is not only in America that the matter of black consciousness is witnessed. Rather, the entire contemporary world understands and experiences the matter, as well. Although, the whites’ domination continues being witnessed in some areas, things are not as they were during the earlier times where the Blacks had no position not only in the political arena, but also in other areas including the economic sphere. In other words, what was termed as black primitivism has changed as the period of enlightenment continues (Du Bois, 158). Modernism is what has altered and transformed the negative ideologies about blacks. Racial segregation and inequality is still experienced today, but not as much as it was during the earlier times. Therefore, the work of W.E.B Dubois is particularly essential in enriching the thinking and understanding of the contemporary political life. These and other works are essential in the political science field as they provide a basis upon which argument on political life may be based on. As mentioned, other works of W.E.B Dubois including The Crisis are important in understanding political matters.




Du, Bois W. E. B, and Ellen I. Diggs. Dusk of Dawn: An Essay Toward an Autobiography of a Race Concept. New Brunswick: Transaction Books, 2002. Print.

Du Bois, W. E. Burghardt . “Dusk of Dawn.” African American History. Version 1. Harcourt. Brace & World, Inc, 1 Oct. 1968. Web. 9 Apr. 2013. http://www.negroartist.com/writings/Dusk%20of%20Dawn.htm

Horne, Gerald, and Mary Young. W.e.b. Du Bois: An Encyclopedia. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2000. Print.



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