Those About Him Remained Silent: The Battle over W. E. B. Du Bois

Those About Him Remained Silent: The Battle over W. E. B. Du Bois

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by Amy Bass
     
 

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On the eve of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 March on Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois died in exile in Ghana at the age of 95, more than a half century after cofounding the NAACP. Five years after his death, residents of Great Barrington, the small Massachusetts town where Du Bois was born in 1868, proposed recognizing his legacy through the creation of a

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Overview

On the eve of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 March on Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois died in exile in Ghana at the age of 95, more than a half century after cofounding the NAACP. Five years after his death, residents of Great Barrington, the small Massachusetts town where Du Bois was born in 1868, proposed recognizing his legacy through the creation of a memorial park on the site of his childhood home. Supported by the local newspaper and prominent national figures including Harry Belafonte and Sydney Poitier, the effort to honor Du Bois set off an acrimonious debate that bitterly divided the town. Led by the local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, opponents compared Du Bois to Hitler, vilifying him as an anti-American traitor for his communist sympathies, his critique of American race relations, and his pan-Africanist worldview.

In Those About Him Remained Silent, Amy Bass provides the first detailed account of the battle over Du Bois and his legacy, as well as a history of Du Bois’s early life in Massachusetts. Bass locates the roots of the hostility to memorialize Du Bois in a cold war worldview that reduced complicated politics to a vehement hatred of both communism and, more broadly, anti-Americanism. The town’s reaction was intensified, she argues, by the racism encoded within cold war patriotism.

Showing the potency of prevailing, often hidden, biases, Those About Him Remained Silent is an unexpected history of how racism, patriotism, and global politics played out in a New England community divided on how—or even if—to honor the memory of its greatest citizen.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Amy Bass’s excellent history of ‘un-American activities’ in a pleasant New England town is another cautionary illustration of the banality of evil: in this case, the long, willful distortion of the progressive legacy of their greatest native son, W. E. B. Du Bois, by the people of Great Barrington in the service of a perverted patriotism." —David Levering Lewis, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of W. E. B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919–1963

"As one who also once searched for remembrance of Du Bois in Great Barrington nearly in vain, I find this book a bracing revelation. Amy Bass tells her own compelling story of how her home region ignored its most famous son for decades because of politics and race. This is a startling and important tale of social denial, of erased historical memory, and a hidden past now coming to light." —David W. Blight, author of Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780816644964
Publisher:
University of Minnesota Press
Publication date:
09/04/2012
Pages:
232
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.70(h) x 0.60(d)

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