The Problem of Purity: A Study in the Early Work of W. E. B. Du Bois

Dissertation, The University of Chicago (1997)

This dissertation proposes a reconsideration of the some of work of W. E. B. Du Bois from the period 1897 to 1915. The study reconstructs Du Bois's understanding of the so-called Negro question and considers his challenges to existing interpretations of this social problem. Methodologically the study proceeds by way of a close examination of three principal early texts of Du Bois's, "The Conservation of Races," "Strivings of the Negro People," and "The Study of the Negro Problems," all written or published in 1897. The principal orientation of the study is toward the elucidation of the conceptual infrastructure of Du Bois's thought and practice, political and intellectual. The argument at the core of the study is that Du Bois formulated an original understanding of the Negro as both an ontological being and a social subject, one that bears implications for the social sciences, the humanities, theology, philosophy and other related fields. On the basis of the re-thinking of Du Bois's work developed through this examination, the dissertation points toward a reconsideration of the status of Du Bois in the history of thought.
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