SAAP Annual Meeting 2014

Papers Proceedings »

Du Bois' Dubious Feminism

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For a variety of reasons, W.E.B. Du Bois is often heralded as a (pro)feminist or womanist figure, and his work is taken up accordingly. This essay is an attempt to more critically engage this claim through one set of his lesser-known works, The Black Flame trilogy, and make the argument that these late works of historical fiction – and the role of women therein- discredits Du Bois' feminism. Instead, The Black Flame exposes the masculinist symbolic structure of his vision for racial uplift wherein black femininity becomes associated with suffering in the private realm, and, furthermore, that black women's agency is fully mediated by men. From this structure, I derive the conclusion that it is not only disadvantageous, but dangerous to take Du Bois as embodying an exemplary anti-racist feminism.


Celena Simpson    
University of Oregon
United States


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