Vernon Louis Parrington (1871–1929)


For many contemporary historians, Vernon Louis Parrington, was the greatest literary historian in America. A two-time graduate from Harvard University, 1893 and in 1897 respectively. Upon graduating from Harvard, he was hired as an instructor of English and Modern Languages at the University of Oklahoma. Parrington is known for his Pultitzer winning magisterial work for history (1928), Main Currents in American Thought. In the three volume work, Parrington brought to the attention of the American people important political figures from Cotton Mather to Thomas Jefferson, and public concerns of the American political life; that is, ” Of American letters from colonial times, postulating a sharp divide between the elitist Hamiltonian current and its populist Jeffersonian opponents, and making clear Parrington’s own identification with the latter.” For example, he forcefully defended the doctrine of state sovereignty and successfully (?)disassociated the movement from the the cause of slavery in America. For, he contended that both movements (the state sovereignty and slavery in America) had not supported and advanced American democracy, instead proven “disastrous to American democracy.” (source)

“Ideas are not godlings that spring perfect-winged from the head of Jove; they are not flowers that bloom in a walled garden; they are weapons hammered out on the anvil of human needs.”
— Vernon Louis Parrington

For further reading-
Richard Hofstadter, The Progressive Historians (1968)
Robert Allen Skotheim, American Intellectual Histories and Historians (1966)
Alfred Kazin, On Native Ground (1942)
Lionel Trilling, The Liberal Imagination (1950)

Vernon Louis Parrington’s Main Currents in American Thought

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W.E. B. Dubois (1868 -1963)


Source: W.E.B.Dubois
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was born on Church Street on February 23, 1868, in Great Barrington, at the south-western edge of Massachusetts, to Alfred Du Bois and Mary Silvina Burghardt Du Bois, whose February 5, 1867, wedding had been announced in the Berkshire Courier. Alfred Du Bois had been born in Haiti. W. E. B. Du Bois detailed his French Haitian background in his autobiography:

Of grandfather’s life in Haiti from about 1821 to 1830, I know few details. From his 18th to his 27th year he formed acquaintanceships, earned a living, married and had a son, my father, Alfred, born in 1825. I do not know what work grandfather did, but probably he ran a plantation and engaged in the growing shipping trade to the United States. Who he married I do not know, nor her relatives. He may have married into the family of Elie Du Bois, the great Haitian educator. Also why he left Haiti in 1830 is not clear. It may have been because of the threat of war with France during the Revolution of 1830 and the fall of Charles X. (W. E. B. Du Bois, The Autobiography of W. E. B. Du Bois )

Dubois was the first African American to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard University. Dubois was a sociologist, scholar, author and civil rights leader. He was one of the most influential black leaders of the first half of the 20th Century. Dubois shared in the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP, in 1909. He served as its director of research and editor of its magazine, “Crisis,” until 1934.( Dubois)

Quotes by W.E. Dubois

One ever feels his twoness-an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.

The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line — the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea. It was a phase of this problem that caused the Civil War

One is astonished in the study of history at the recurrence of the idea that evil must be forgotten, distorted, skimmed over. We must not remember that Daniel Webster got drunk but only that he was a splendid constitutional lawyer. We must forget that George Washington was a slave owner . . . and simply remember the things we regard as creditable and inspiring. The difficulty, of course, with this philosophy is that history loses its value as an incentive and example; it paints perfect man and noble nations, but it does not tell the truth.

There is in this world no such force as the force of a person determined to rise. The human soul cannot be permanently chained.

Books by W. E. Dubois
The Souls of Black Folk
The Oxford W.E.B. Du Bois Reader
Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil
The Negro

Books about Dubois
A Gift of the Spirit: Reading the Souls of Black Folk by Eugene Victor Wolfenstein
W. E. B. Du Bois, 1868-1919: Biography of a Race by David Levering Lewis
W.E.B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century 1919-1963
by David Levering Lewis