concentrating on david walker and frederick douglass's american defiance. also: why w.e.b. dubois is overrated.
nice thumbnail! my insane look. let me elaborate on a couple of things. walker is a protestant individualist of the same sort as william lloyd garrison or lucretia mott is (or, in a secularized version, thoreau). what he asserts in the first passage i quote is that to claim to be the master of a human being is to usurp the prerogative of god: it is blasphemous among other things. he asserts that human beings have only one master, only one ruler. many of these figures held that the political state is a form of slavery, by the way.
on dubois. his best writing is in the souls of black folk. getting out into his literary material is really a slog through some terribly over-written stuff that doesn't really amount to a clear point of view. his early essay 'on the conservation of the races' takes race differences and race destinies extremely seriously in the 19th-century german mode, even if it emphasizes the positive aspects of blackness. douglass and many others are so much better in that they attack race itself as a self-serving ideology, not a basic human reality that cosmically drives history. dubois is characteristically back-and-forth and characteristically woolly at key junctures, often substituting mediocre poetry for definite assertion.
when garvey accused dubois of running the naacp at the behest of white liberals, he had a point, even if his statements were too emphatic. and there is an element of 'natural aristocracy' or enthusiasm for hierarchy (implicitly correlated with skin tone) in duboisian notions like 'the talented tenth,' which i regard as extremely unfortunate. his later pan-africanism and marxism took him in more radical directions, but didn't basically solve the intellectual problems or improve the writing.
however, his early sociological work, such as 'the philadelphia negro,' is excellent and important.