Cover: Lines of Descent: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Emergence of Identity, from Harvard University PressCover: Lines of Descent in HARDCOVER

Lines of Descent

W. E. B. Du Bois and the Emergence of Identity

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Product Details


$18.95 • £15.95 • €17.00

ISBN 9780674724914

Publication Date: 02/27/2014


240 pages

4-3/8 x 7-1/8 inches

The W. E. B. Du Bois Lectures


Examines Du Bois’s evolving thought and probes the contradictions at the heart of his conception of black identity… [Du Bois] emerges as difficult to pin down yet impossible not to admire. Appiah gracefully renders Du Bois’s intellectual formation in a study that is a pleasure to traverse for both the scholar and the casual reader.—Lena Hill, Books & Culture

In this slim but splendid book, Appiah explores Du Bois’ works and the personal and philosophical struggle behind them as Du Bois used all the analytical tools of sociology yet lived the tortures of racism, even more so because his education and personal elegance did not exempt him from its indignities.—Vanessa Bush, Booklist (starred review)

In Lines of Descent, Appiah has penned one of the most exquisite accounts of W. E. B. Du Bois’s intellectual heritage. The most towering figure of modern black thought and protest literature is recast here as ‘a cosmopolitan through and through,’ drawing deeply from the wells of learning in the early twentieth century German academy. This is not just another book about the genius of Du Bois, his wide learning or global predilections. Lines of Descent reveals that some of America’s most enduring notions of race and racial identity—from the ‘problem of the color line’ to ‘two warring ideals in one dark body’—are based on Du Bois’s earliest synthesis of European romantic notions of race, culture, and nation. Appiah reminds us that over the course of his long life, Du Bois strove to reconcile blackness as one among many, a thread in a tapestry of global humanity.—Khalil Gibran Muhammad, author of The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America

That Kwame Anthony Appiah should turn his attention to W. E. B. Du Bois seems foreordained: the voyages of these two thinkers meet midstream, the one departing from Ghana and the other ending there. Beyond that neat symmetry, there is an uncanny feeling of major minds in mutually enriching conversation, as the intersection of Du Bois’s visionary passion with Appiah’s pragmatic intelligence yields page after page of insight. Lines of Descent is an experience of pure intellectual elevation.—Alex Ross, author of The Rest Is Noise and Listen to This

Awards & Accolades

  • Kwame Anthony Appiah Is a 2011 National Humanities Medal Winner
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