David Blight

David W. Blight, a professor of American history at Yale University, is the author of Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American
Memory
and Beyond the Battlefield: Race, Memory, and the American Civil War.

Recent Articles

John Brown: Triumphant Failure

"John Brown taught us that the cheapest price to pay for liberty is its cost today." --W.E.B. Du Bois In his 1928 epic poem John Brown's Body , Stephen Vincent Benét named the problem of John Brown in America's historical memory: The law's our hardstick, and it measures well, Or well enough when there are yards to measure. Measure a wave with it, measure a fire, Cut sorrow up in inches, weigh content. You can weigh John Brown's body well enough, But how and in what balance weigh John Brown? He had no gift for life, no gift to bring Life but his body and a cutting edge, But he knew how to die. In so many artistic probings of Brown's memory, the central metaphor is his martyrdom--his crucifixion--for the remission of a nation's sins. How indeed weigh John Brown's body at the turn of the twenty-first century, a time when our notions of violence in a righteous cause are troubled by a litany of terrorism committed by individuals, religious groups, and governments? Can John Brown remain an...

The Enduring Du Bois

W.E.B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919-1963 , David Levering Lewis. Henry Holt, 715 pages, $35.00. David Levering Lewis won the Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for W.E.B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868-1919 . The Du Bois portrayed in that volume is a brilliant youth and later a powerful idealist who wrote movingly about America's predicament with race in The Souls of Black Folk (1903) and then took on, through language and protest, Booker T. Washington's accommodationist ideas about black advancement in the Jim Crow era. Du Bois's early career earns him the right to be called the "father of the modern civil rights movement." In his new book, Lewis completes the story, treating Du Bois's mature and elderly years from 1919 to 1963, and building a monument of biographical literature. This volume is as powerful as the first, impressive in its depth and scope; yet this is a more difficult story to tell, complicated by Du Bois's late-life radicalism and the...