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Afterlife: Du Bois, Classical Humanism and the Matter of Black Lives

  • Patrice RankineEmail author
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In Ellison’s 1952 novel Invisible Man, the protagonist – i.e., Invisible Man – encounters an ex-doctor at the Golden Day, a bar full of discontents.1 The former doctor explains to the overwhelmed and confused Mr Norton, who is the white trustee of the Southern black college that Invisible Man attends, how he sees the protagonist. It is no accident that Ellison models the college in the novel after Tuskegee Normal Institute, the historical black college that Booker T. Washington founded in 1881.2 After the publication of his autobiography Up From Slavery in 1901, Washington would become W. E. B. Du Bois’s public nemesis, combatant in contradictory solutions to ‘the Negro Problem’.3 In Invisible Man, the protagonist models various approaches to being black – and to being a problem – in America in the middle of the twentieth century, from Du Boisian humanism, to Washingtonian separatism and self-help, all the while enduring the cruel joke of Jim Crow and segregation in America. He faces...

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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Arts and SciencesUniversity of RichmondRichmondUSA

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