Book Review: The Love Songs of W. E. B. Dubois

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The Love Songs of W.E.B. DuBois by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers

We all have family, some of us know our family and its history to some degree.  To contemplate what role our ancestors played in history’s major events is to face our morality, our purpose.  This book is, on its surface, a family history.

From the slavery and the Indian relocation, through reconstruction, the civil rights movement to the present day, we meet regular, extraordinary people just trying to live their lives.  Some are good, some bad, some successful, others with challenges, just like all families.

In homage to the first great historian of American Black history, W.E.B. DuBois, Jeffers begins each chapter with a DuBois quote.  As a partner to DuBois’ history, Love Songs gives us the real human counterpart.  I am certain DuBois would have appreciated this work.  It brings to life his historical masterpiece, The Souls of Black Folk.

Well written and compelling, we begin to care about these people, as we understand that history is not just about presidents, wars, proclamations and assassinations, but also about people living and shaping their lives.  From the enslaved and hunted to doctors and researchers, this country is the people who lived here.

DuBois understood that and he even wrote a novel, The Quest of the Silver Fleece.  In Quest, DuBois uses fiction to demonstrate that fifty years after emancipation, in the early twentieth century, racism, servitude and oppression are still strong in America.

In this tradition, Love Songs demonstrates that real understanding comes through experiences, so we share the experiences of generations of this very mixed-race family.

I was very moved to see how colonialism, segregation, and racism confronted by intellectual and moral courage shaped our country.  This is well worth reading, joining my top books list.

by David T.