Du bois and the “new negro”

Carmiele Y. Wilkerson, Shamoon Zamir

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Within the body of work of W. E. B. Du Bois, a figure described by the editors of the Norton Anthology of African American Literature as "the most multifaceted, prolific, and influential writer that black America has ever produced," his fiction has long been overshadowed by other contributions and modes of writing. None of his five novels received a great amount of attention or acclaim at the time of publication and only relatively recently have the first two, The Quest of the Silver Fleece (1911) and Dark Princess (1928), started to be the subjects of critical analysis and debate. In much of Du Bois’s writing there are distinctive intersections between sociological, historical, autobiographical, philosophical, and psychological inquiries and interventions. Elements of creative writing, too, can be found in the nonfiction work; the short story "Of the Coming of John" plays its part in The Souls of Black Folk (1903), and Darkwater: Voices from within the Veil (1920) combines the lyrical with other forms of commentary. This fact, along with the author’s case, as laid out in the essay "Criteria of Negro Art" (1926), for art as political, offers a sense of Du Bois’s own understanding of the value, place, and purpose of imaginative writing. It positions his fictional and poetic compositions as a part of the same investigative, elucidatory, and highly committed project as the rest of his oeuvre and is suggestive in terms of approaching the novels which themselves traverse the genres of romance, historical fiction, life writing, and social realism. This chapter will focus on Du Bois’s novels, exploring their attempts to give voice and weight to experiences that have been "stripped and silent," pushed beyond the veil within American letters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to W. E. B. Du Bois
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781139001939
ISBN (Print)9780521871518
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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