Quotable: W.E.B. Du Bois

The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line.

Du Bois coined the line for a speech he delivered in July 1900 at the first Pan-African Conference in London and it remains just as resonant today. Indeed, one might even say that the problem of the twenty-first century is the problem of the color line, all the more so because Du Bois evokes not only race prejudice in the U.S. but “the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea.”

Randal Kennedy, long “among the most incisive American commentators on race” according to The New York Times, has titled his “provocative and richly insightful” new book The Persistence of the Color Line: Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency.

Kennedy analyzes what he might well have called, after Du Bois, the “double-consciousness” of Barack Obama. He explores the burden and also the benefit of blackness to his candidacy in light of contemporary racial politics and persuasively establishes that: “Race still matters!”


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