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The Wisdom of W.E.B. Du Bois by Aberjhani

The Wisdom of W.E.B. Du Bois (2003)

by Aberjhani

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I have friends who say I’m missing out on a treat because I haven’t read W.E.B. Du Bois’s novels yet, and I guess that could be true. But my favorite Du Bois read will probably always be The Souls of Black Folk and now my second favorite is this one with its excellent selection of quotations from his writings, plus a few complete short pieces, and intense intro essays by Aberjhani (coauthor of Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance).

Top credits have to go the Philosophical Library, founded way back around World War II days by Romanian philosopher Dagobert D. Runes for the purpose of promoting books by the great European intellectuals of his time. Eventually others were added until the library included world-class influential like: Gustave Jung, Leo Tolstoy, John Adams, Omar Khayyam, and Buddha. The 100th anniversary of The Souls of Black Folk in 2003 made Du Bois a perfect addition at the perfect time. Celebrations gearing up for the forthcoming centennial of the Harlem Renaissance make The Wisdom of W.E.B. Du Bois (one of the movement’s key players) a great book to hold on to.

Like the other titles in the Philosophical Library Series this one is not intended to be a research source book, though it does contain a thorough index and short bibliography, and a different edition could easily be expanded to make it fit the kind of academic style some might like. The main focus of the book as it is falls on the value of precise observations and statements.

Like this one: “Democracy is a method of realizing the broadest measure of justice to all human beings.” Or this: “God send us a world with woman’s freedom and married motherhood inextricably wed.” And also this: Sometime, somewhere, men will judge men by their souls and not by their skins.”
What is not too cool is the typographic layout of the quotes. They lack the kind of framing seen in some of the other Wisdom Series titles and run too closely together without any kind of dividers. It has to be said though that the Aberjhani intro essays more than make up for any debatable opinions about layout design. That’s especially obvious when checking out the CD edition narrated by Catherine Byers. ( )
  ChocBot300 | Jul 10, 2017 |
Regretfully, I`m going to have to damn this with faint praise.

On the positive side, I`ve always enjoyed books of quotations, and it was a great pleasure to read a lot of these selections - some familiar, some unfamiliar. It reminded me what drew me to Du Bois in the first place and was certainly a thought provoking collection. On that basis, I`ve got to give it a generous rating.

On the negative side, I do think certain standards have to be adhereed to, and I`m not sure Aberjhani was the man for the job.

Firstly, the quotations are grouped in sections by subject matter, each section introduced by the editor. At a number of points we seem to stray from the matter in hand to address the editor`s more spiritual concerns (`spiritual` is a word he uses quite a bit, I notice)."Love provided a pathway into hidden chambers of the spirit where nobility and compassion might be salvaged" the editor says at one point. "Blimey" says the reader "that`s a strange way to approach the works of W E B Du Bois !"

Secondly, a number of the quotes are rendered more or less meaningless by lack of context. "His revolt was against things unsuitable, ill adjusted and in bad taste..." Du Bois is quoted as saying. Who he was referring to remains a mystery. Some quotes,particularly the church-inspired rhetoric which appeared sometimes in early speeches and essays, seem to have been concluded just bcause they sound good - "The church is woman", "Thicken the thunder of God`s voice and lo ! a world awakes!" and so on. Doubtless these make sense in context, but what was he talking about ? What did he intend his audience to take away with them ? We don`t find out.

More seriously, on pacifism, religion and Marcus Garvey, quotes have been chosen which could mislead the reader as to Du Bois` actual views (though in fairness, the "I am a pacifist" quote is balanced by more characteristic quotes elsewhere in the book).

The annoying thing is, when Aberjhani wants to pull a rabbit out of the hat, he knows how to do it. His introduction to the section History and the World is masterful, and obviously a great deal of hard work has gone into compiling this volume. Many of the quotes are excellently chosen.

My main criticism has to be that this is, overall, a very good book. With only a little more self-discipline and attention to detail it could have been an excellent one. ( )
  nickhoonaloon | Oct 13, 2006 |
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"I am one who tells the truth and exposes evil and seeks with Beauty for Beauty to set the world right." -- W.E.B. Du Bois
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In the year that W.E.B. Du Bois, 1868, black elected officials in a South undergoing reconstruction used their newly gained legislative powers to begin a battle for the unimpeded civil rights and educational advancement of African Americans. That same year, the U.S. Congress...
"Surpassing the notion of an historical concept or social theory, civilization represented for W. E. B. Du Bois an obtainable spiritual ideal. Key to that ideal in the early 20th century was the ability and willingness of men and women from different races and cultural backgrounds to recognize the opportunity that history had place before them through a confluence of unique events, trends, and circumstances..." -- Aberjhani
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Thought-provoking collection of quotations, poems, and stories by W.E.B. Du Bois with original essays by Aberjhani, co-author of Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance.
Haiku summary
Du Bois's genius
plus Aberjhani's insights
make sublime reading.

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