Picking up where he left off seven years ago, Lewis (The Race to Fashoda, 1988, etc.) continues his authoritative biography of the African-American intellectual and activist William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (1868–1963).
This second volume begins when Du Bois, at 50, was already a living legend—the editor in chief of Crisis (the journal of the NAACP), a pioneer in sociology, a powerful critic, and a tireless agitator for human rights. The author steadily guides us through the many peaks and valleys of Du Bois’s last 45 years. Over the course of his 25 at Crisis, Du Bois struggled against Marcus Garvey’s black Zionism, sowed the seeds of his own Afro-centrism, worked to establish a Pan-African Congress, and scanned for political significance in the artistic explosion of the Harlem Renaissance (to his dismay, he found none)—all the while creating as many enemies (through his irascibility) as friends. Personal politics eventually led Du Bois away from the NAACP and back to academia, where (from his post at Atlanta University) he became more radical and no less outspoken. He devoured Marx, rethought his dogma on the Talented Tenth, and published Black Reconstruction in America, a masterwork of American history. Within ten years, pushed out of Atlanta through disagreements with the university president, Du Bois returned to the NAACP no less energetic and far more controversial for his unrepentant socialist beliefs. These beliefs, during the Cold War years, made him too radical for many of those who once revered his every word. He died, active and exiled, in Ghana at 95.
A life of letters and agitation, masterfully synthesized by Lewis.