Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Equality in the eye of art

In this excerpt from Crisis Magazine W.E.B. Du Bois yearns for equality among the arts and says that blacks will not truly be human until their art is seen as equal. As a proponent of "Negro Art", Du Bois became a prominent figure in the Harlem Renaissance, which saw a flowering of intellectuals, writers, painters and patrons in Harlem.  Du Bois believed that whites and blacks alike saw a prejudice when they analyzed art from blacks. He even points to some artists who superstitiously try to pass themselves off as white just to be taken on an "even" playing field. Du Bois, here is yearning for the Platonic truth. He says " The apostle of beauty thus becomes the apostle of truth and right not by choice but by inner and outer compulsion." If "negro art" is seen as inferior, then the truth for an entire race, in turn, is seen to be inferior.  As art is a tool for propaganda, du Bois argues, the black artist struggles to have their version of the truth heard.  Du Bois also calls for freedom from white dependence. If a black artist has to impress white publishers to be published the kinds of stories and portrayal of black in white dominant media are "Uncle Tom's", Du Bois argues. Blacks should be able to portray their own story and show their struggle in pure and honest portrayal of the truth, unadulterated by white prejudice.  When blacks can support and print the art of fellow blacks and this art is seen as equal and not then, not only will it be independent and self-sufficient but reflective of the true "humanity" of truth for these black artists. So the struggle isn't just against the white ideas, but of the own ingrained prejudice that blacks have being handed down "white ideas" about art and culture. He is, in essence, arguing for an independent culture, a black culture.

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