Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings

By Charles Lemert | Go to book overview
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but together, not successively but together, each growing and aiding each, and all striv-
ing toward that vaster ideal that swims before the Negro people, the ideal of human
brotherhood, gained through the unifying ideal of Race; the ideal of fostering and de-
veloping the traits and talents of the Negro, not in opposition to or contempt for other
races, but rather in large conformity to the greater ideals of the American Republic, in
order that some day on American soil two world-races may give each to each those
characteristics both so sadly lack. We the darker ones come even now not altogether
empty-handed: there are to-day no truer exponents of the pure human spirit of the
Declaration of Independence than the American Negroes; there is no true American
music but the wild sweet melodies of the Negro slave; the American fairy tales and
folklore are Indian and African; and, all in all, we black men seem the sole oasis of sim-
ple faith and reverence in a dusty desert of dollars and smartness. Will America be
poorer if she replace her brutal dyspeptic blundering with light-hearted but deter-
mined Negro humility? or her coarse and cruel wit with loving jovial good-humor? or
her vulgar music with the soul of the Sorrow Songs?

Merely a concrete test of the underlying principles of the great republic is the Ne-
gro Problem, and the spiritual striving of the freedmen's sons is the travail of souls
whose burden is almost beyond the measure of their strength, but who bear it in the
name of an historic race, in the name of this the land of their fathers' fathers, and in
the name of human opportunity.❖

The Spirit of Modern Europe

W. E.B. Du Bois ( 1900)

What is the spirit of modern Europe?

Europe today represents in her civilization five leading ideas: Continuity of Orga-
nization, Authority of government, Justice between men, Individual Freedom and
Systematic Knowledge.

Continuity of Organization conserves the civilization of the past and makes mod-
ern civilization possible: for what is civilization but the gathering and conserving of
the ideas of different men and peoples? The great Graeco-Roman civilization bor-
rowed and developed the culture of Africa and India and Judae. The mass of bar-
barism that reeled down golden haired and drunk from the blue north did not bring
a new culture, did not quench the old, but doffing its ignorance and idolatry and
donning Christianity, and the civilization it had well nigh destroyed, gave to that old
Egyptian-Grecian-Roman civilization, through the Renaissance, a new birth into the
world, which modern Europe has nurtured to manhood. To conserve this culture it
was necessary that human society should never die and the eternal life of the organ-
ism of which you and I form a part is the vastest realization of modern times. Here is
an eternity that must be conserved, must be striven for, must be made broader and
around the idea of preserving intact the institutions of society from generation to
generation from century to century modern Europe has built its first wall.

The second idea of authority is an acknowledgement of the fact of human in-
equality and difference of capacity. There are men born to rule, born to think, born

Excerpt from Herbert Aptheker, ed., Against Racism. Unpublished Essays, Papers, Addresses, 1887-1961
( Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1985), pp. 60-64. Copyright 1985 by The University of Massachusetts Press.


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