The Dismantling of W.E.B. Du Bois’ Spiritual Legacy by Contemporary Scholars

by Stanford Lewis

There has been a crusade to dismantle the spiritual legacy of Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois by some contemporary scholars. It has become a contemporary issue of whether or not Du Bois had any spirituality which has been give birth to in part, by two time Pulitzer Prize winning biographer Dr. David Levering Lewis. Other scholars, namely, Dr. Cornel West, Dr. Herbert Aptheker, Arnold Ramperstad and Mary Helen Washington have added fuel to this false image of Du Bois. Du Bois’ spirituality is no different than those we call saints today. It is not the absence of fear that makes one courageous; rather it is the ability to persevere in face of fear. Similarly, it is not the absence doubt that causes one to lack spirituality but, the inability to function positively in the world because of doubt. Some people who are viewed as saints had serious and overwhelming doubt but their doubts never stopped them from making a positive contribution to humanity. Doing good work in the world trumps the human frailty of doubt. Du Bois is not afforded this benefit. He is continuously condemned as agnostic, and atheist for expressing candidly things he did not know and could not answer when in reality Du Bois was far from being an agnostic or atheist. Du Bois’ honesty relative to doubt is used against his spirituality while his priestly public service of seventy years is completely negated. He is the high priest of public service who dared to save the souls of black folks. “Du Bois is a phenomenon” proclaimed Ghana’s President Nkrumah at Du Bois’ funeral. It would be a tragedy indeed to find out that this phenomenon that had literally saved the souls of Black folks in his masterpiece of the same title was himself soul less. Like the blind men of Indostan each of these men successfully defined what they inspected but, being blind they fail to see the elephant. Similarly, contemporary scholars fail to see Du Bois’ elephant like commitment to his Christian spiritual understanding of the world.

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The Dismantling of W.E.B. Du Bois’ Spiritual Legacy by Contemporary Scholars by Stanford Lewis

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