Words matter. These are the best David Levering Lewis Quotes, and they’re great for sharing with your friends.
I have always been averse to theorizing about the art or craft of biography. Like Disraeli’s biographer, Lord Blake, who offers the cautionary analogy of the biographical centipede unsure of her next step because of too much cerebration, I have made it my practice to let the facts find the theory.
The education business is a little murky because by 1900, it has been pretty well decided that a certain amount of education was required to make the system of repression work. You had to have people who showed up punctually. You had to have people who took their orders obediently and understand them fully.
The commitment to literacy was constant on the part of African Americans. And the percentages of literacy by the end of the century, by 1900, basic literacy has galloped ahead. People believed that education, of course, was the turnstile for advancement.
A preoccupation with theory has been a defensive response by academic biographers in this country, I submit, to the condescension of traditional humanists and social scientists pervading higher education for many years.
I felt in my bones that Alfred Kazin was right to suggest that ‘the deepest side of being American is the sense of being like nothing before us in history’ – a historical conceit that privileged biography as the narrative of the exceptionalist experience.
I came into my teens unaware that most Americans, blacks as well as whites, were ignorant of the main facts of Negro history. And so it was the facts of other histories that I found most intriguing. I fell into a U.S. history major by chance late in my second year at Fisk University.
In 1900, as the immigrants come down the gangplank into Jersey City, they expect the streets to be paved with gold, and they were only paved with gold in Frank Baum’s ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ of course.
Harlem was the main chance for the east end of New York, for eastsiders, as that real estate boom that took place in the 1890s – and it was a preposterous one where people bought and sold, and everything appreciated with each sale – and eventually, of course, the house of cards would crumble.
The business of return migration is a phenomenon that historians have indeed begun to look at, but it is rather an ignored and underplayed story and one that we need to know more about.
Philosophically, Dubois may have had no problem with a great African American institution. On the other hand, he always believed ultimately in the co-mingling of groups and the interplay of talents and in the collaboration of groups.