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John As The Personification Of The Legacy Of Du Bo

2716 words - 11 pages

The Philosophical Legacy of W.E.B Du Bois was a class in which we explored just that, the legacy left by one of the great scholars of our race. When faced with the task of a semester essay based on reflexive analysis of the themes and works of Du Bois, I found that I had little need to look farther than the text provided for the class. I could think of no better topic than the tale of the coming and going of a fictional character named John. This tale is an intriguing chapter of The Souls of Black Folk because it is the only piece of fiction amid a series of essays. "Of the coming of John" is a significant piece of Du Bois' work because it personifies his views of The Talented Tenth, the Veil, and White America which are found elsewhere in his writings. When John was sent away to school he seemed to become a representation of the hopes of the black community. The people of Altamaha looked forward to "what parties were to be, and what speakings in the churches; what new furniture in the front room, -perhaps even a new front room; and there would be a new schoolhouse, with John as teacher; and then perhaps a big wedding; all this and more- when John comes". John's going represented the education he was to receive and his coming represented the benefits of that education, as the community perceived them. This perception of John by his community makes him a prime example of The Talented Tenth that "rises and pulls all that are worth saving up to their vantage ground". Du Bois believed that "all men cannot go to college but some men must… the talented few centers of training where men are not so mystified and befuddled by the hard and necessary toil of earning a living as to have no aims higher than their bellies, and no God higher than Gold. By saying this, I do not suggest that the people of Altamaha had a full understanding of their expectations, for "the vision of the rich meaning of life, which comes to … students, as men of culture, comes dimly or not at all to the plodding masses of men" The people of John's town had only a dim concept of the meaning of education, but on this concept they based all of their hopes of what would happen 'when John comes'. Du Bois had high expectations of the members of The Talented Tenth. These expectations are reflected in the attitudes of John's college instructors who watched as "Thus he grew in body and soul…and new dignity crept into his walk… We who saw daily a new thoughtfulness growing in his eyes began to expect something of this plodding boy". As John developed in his education, the expectations for him became higher. Such was Du Bois' concept of The Talented Tenth. College education was only the beginning in Du Bois' opinion, for "why should the sun rise if there is to be neither noon nor evening, and what is a life that is all beginning? And have not these…college days been all the happier for the promise and prophesy of a life to come?" He...

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