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A Political Companion to W. E. B. Du Bois$
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Nick Bromell

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780813174907

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813174907.001.0001

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The Cost of Liberty

The Cost of Liberty

Sacrifice and Survival in Du Bois’s John Brown

Chapter:
(p.207) 8 The Cost of Liberty
Source:
A Political Companion to W. E. B. Du Bois
Author(s):

Alexander Livingston

Publisher:
University Press of Kentucky
DOI:10.5810/kentucky/9780813174907.003.0009

This essay, by Alexander Livingston, analyzes Du Bois’s 1909 biography of the abolitionist John Brown as a work that reveals Du Bois’s beliefs about the meaning and limitations of sacrifice in politics. Published amid a national movement toward the “Lost Cause” narrative of the Civil War, John Brown was an indictment of this mentality, pushing readers to continue the fight for racial equality. As with many of Du Bois’s works, central to the book is the concept of sacrifice by all citizens for the good of the democracy. Using the death of John Brown as a symbol of the sacrificial burdens faced by people of color, Du Bois reframes the racialized economy of the Jim Crow era and recasts black Americans as sacrificial agents instead of victims.

Keywords:   W. E. B.Du Bois, sacrifice, politics, democracy, citizenship, self-respect, violence, John Brown

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