Criteria of Negro Art (1926). W.E.B. Du Bois. W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) Early Life . 1868- Born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts 1885-1888- Attends Fisk University and quickly becomes a “race man”: a writer, editor, and impassioned orator
W.E.B. Du Bois
1868- Born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts
1885-1888- Attends Fisk University and quickly becomes a “race man”: a writer, editor, and impassioned orator
1890- Earns Bachelor’s degree from Harvard University
1896- Completes Graduate Work and Plunges Into Public Life
1896- Begins copious work as a sociologist
1900- Organizes first Pan-African Congress- “The Father of Pan Africanism”
1903- Publishes The Souls of Black Folk
1909- Founds NAACP and Crisis- (Publishes [among others] Hughes, McKay, Cullen, Fisher, Fauset, and Toomer)
1927- Breaks with the NAACP
1927- Begins his Marxist conversion during a junket in the Soviet Union
"How is it that an organization like this, a group of radicals trying to bring new things into the world, a fighting organization which has come up out of the blood and dust of battle, struggling for the right of black men to be ordinary human beings -- how is it that an organization of this kind can turn aside to talk about art? After all, what have we who are slaves and black to do with art?"
Or perhaps there are others who feel a certain relief and are saying, "After all it is rather satisfactory after all this talk about rights and fighting to sit and dream of something which leaves a nice taste in the mouth."
Let me tell you that neither of these groups is right.
The Project of Letters and Selfhood:In place of the rampant accumulation of wealth that is said to constitute the base of white happiness, the black marginalized have turned to “beauty”
THE NEW NEGRO?: The Promise of the Renaissance Vanguard
Beauty is everywhere, infinite, and amongst the modern masses sadly overlooked. The new racial-uplift and cultural production of the black community can provide prove a fecund source for the infusion of beauty into the world for all mankind.
We black folk may help for we have within us as a race new stirrings; stirrings of the beginning of a new appreciation of joy, of a new desire to create, of a new will to be; as though in this morning of group life we had awakened from some sleep that at once dimly mourns the past and dreams a splendid future, and there has come the conviction that the youth that is here today, the Negro youth, is a different kind of youth, because in some new way it bears this mighty prophecy on its breast, with a new realization of itself, with new determination for all mankind.
Racial and National Uplift in Negro Art:Owing to their marginalisation, the promise, present goals, and ideal of America are seen differently by blacks Americans than by white Americas
This different “sight” seems to place less of a premium on the unabashed accumulation of wealth, on tawdry materials, or status. Moreover—in the case of the white community—the pursuit of strength and accomplishment has effaced the importance of beauty.
If you tonight suddenly should become full-fledged Americans; if your color faded, or the color line here in Chicago was miraculously forgotten; suppose, too, you became at the same time rich and powerful -- what is it that you would want? What would you immediately seek? Would you buy the most powerful of motor cars and outrace Cook County? Would you buy the most elaborate estate on the North Shore? Would you be a Rotarian or a Lion or a What-not of the very last degree? Would you wear the most striking clothes, give the richest dinners, and buy the longest press notices?
Negro Art?On the one hand, there seems to be little—perhaps other than subject matter--that distinguishes “good black art” from other art, but there is an imperative for Negro artists to produce because white Americans are defining what it is to be Negro and denying the populace its right to self expression.
accepted. Then he began to write about the things he knew best about, that is, about his own people. He submitted a story to a magazine which said, "We are sorry, but we cannot take it." "I sat down and revised my story, changing the color of the characters and the locale and sent it under an assumed name with a change of address and it was accepted by the same magazine that had refused it, the editor promising to take anything else I might send in providing it was good enough."
Beauty: Negro Art (has a world to draw upon), and although there may be no intrinsic relation between Beauty, Truth, and Right, Du Bois—in practice—asserts that the search for “The Real and Perfect Beauty” is always bound with the pursuit of Beauty, Truth and Goodness
There is a danger in equating Negro success in the arts with a social climate of equality.
I will not say that already this chorus amounts to a conspiracy. Perhaps I am naturally too suspicious. But I will say that there are today a surprising number of white people who are getting great satisfaction out of these younger Negro writers because they think it is going to stop agitation of the Negro question. They say, "What is the use of your fighting and complaining; do the great thing and the reward is there." And many colored people are all too eager to follow this advice; especially those who weary of the eternal struggle along the color line, who are afraid to fight and to whom the money of philanthropists and the alluring publicity are subtle and deadly bribes. They say, "What is the use of fighting? Why not show simply what we deserve and let the reward come to us?" [...]
We have, to be sure, a few recognized and successful Negro artists; but they are not all those fit to survive or even a good minority. They are but the remnants of that ability and genius among us whom the accidents of education and opportunity have raised on the tidal waves of chance.
SOCRATES: But we said that truth is also inclined along with them in our mixture?
SOCRATES: Well, then, if we cannot capture the good in one form, we will have to take hold of it in a conjunction of three: beauty, proportion and truth. Let us affirm that these should by right be treated as a unity and be held responsible for what is in the mixture, for goodness is what makes the mixture good in itself.
(Philebus. 64d-65a)Plato: The of FormsThe idea of a unitary source (“The Really Real”) of truth, beauty, and goodness
The “Really Real”: Investigations in proportion, justice, and beauty
The conditions and nature of knowledge, pleasure, ethics, and art
The Negro artist has a special relationship to freedom that binds him to truth, justice, and their synthesis in the Beautiful. Thus his art, in seeking beauty, will always be propaganda and propaganda is the function of Negro Art because it is committed to the pursuit of Eternal Truth and Beauty
One can imagine a world where racism disappears when the humanness of all men (as recognized in their art) surpasses the importance of race, but until black art compels recognition, Negroes will not be rated as human
Negro Art has heretofore been hemmed-in by prevailing cultural norms and censorship because white America cannot “afford truth.” This is not the case for the Negro Artist who can. Thus he should not shy away from sex, should reject superstition, and all other conventions hemming in younger writers.