The Second Amenia Conference
and Black Intellectual Genealogy
CHANGING FAITHS IN LABOR POLITICS,
SOCIAL SCIENCE, AND RACE LEADERSHIP
Surely there shall yet dawn some mighty morning to lift the Veil and set the prisoned free. Not for me—I shall die in my bonds—but for fresh young souls who have not known the night and waken to the morning; a morning when men ask of the workman, not “Is he white?” but “Can he work?” When men ask artists, not “Are they black?” but “Do they know?” Some morning this may be, long, long years to come. But now there wails, on that dark shore within the Veil, the same deep voice, Thou Shalt Forego!
—W. E. B. Du Bois
In The Souls of Black Folk, W. E. B. Du Bois created a metaphor to describe the systematic separation of the races. At the symbolic level, “the Veil” did more than speak to the simple fact of racial segregation, it was its own commentary on the nature of the segregation. But even as the veil worked to segregate, it was also translucent and, as such, it gave blacks the “gift” of seeing white America while simultaneously remaining invisible to white America. As often as not, this gift was a curse. Du Bois was convinced, however, that the veil could be lifted; and he was equally convinced that black intellectuals were those most suited for the task.
Although Du Bois looms as a critical figure in the history that follows,