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Those About Him Remained Silent

The Battle over W. E. B. Du Bois

2012
Author:

Amy Bass

Those About Him Remained Silent

Uncovers racism and red-baiting in the dynamic between the cold war and civil rights

Amy Bass provides the first detailed account of the battle over W. E. B. Du Bois and his legacy, as well as a history of Du Bois’s early life in Massachusetts. Showing the potency of prevailing, often hidden, biases, Those About Him Remained Silent is an unexpected history of how racism, patriotism, and global politics played out in a New England community divided on how—or even if—to honor the memory of its greatest citizen.

Amy Bass’s excellent history of ‘un-American activities’ in a pleasant New England town is another cautionary illustration of the banality of evil: in this case, the long, willful distortion of the progressive legacy of their greatest native son, W. E. B. Du Bois, by the people of Great Barrington in the service of a perverted patriotism.

David Levering Lewis, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of W. E. B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919–1963

On the eve of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 March on Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois died in exile in Ghana at the age of 95, more than a half century after cofounding the NAACP. Five years after his death, residents of Great Barrington, the small Massachusetts town where Du Bois was born in 1868, proposed recognizing his legacy through the creation of a memorial park on the site of his childhood home. Supported by the local newspaper and prominent national figures including Harry Belafonte and Sydney Poitier, the effort to honor Du Bois set off an acrimonious debate that bitterly divided the town. Led by the local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, opponents compared Du Bois to Hitler, vilifying him as an anti-American traitor for his communist sympathies, his critique of American race relations, and his pan-Africanist worldview.

In Those About Him Remained Silent, Amy Bass provides the first detailed account of the battle over Du Bois and his legacy, as well as a history of Du Bois’s early life in Massachusetts. Bass locates the roots of the hostility to memorialize Du Bois in a cold war worldview that reduced complicated politics to a vehement hatred of both communism and, more broadly, anti-Americanism. The town’s reaction was intensified, she argues, by the racism encoded within cold war patriotism.

Showing the potency of prevailing, often hidden, biases, Those About Him Remained Silent is an unexpected history of how racism, patriotism, and global politics played out in a New England community divided on how—or even if—to honor the memory of its greatest citizen.

Those About Him Remained Silent

Amy Bass is professor of history at The College of New Rochelle. She is author of Not the Triumph but the Struggle: The 1968 Olympics and the Making of the Black Athlete (Minnesota, 2002).

Those About Him Remained Silent

Amy Bass’s excellent history of ‘un-American activities’ in a pleasant New England town is another cautionary illustration of the banality of evil: in this case, the long, willful distortion of the progressive legacy of their greatest native son, W. E. B. Du Bois, by the people of Great Barrington in the service of a perverted patriotism.

David Levering Lewis, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of W. E. B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919–1963

As one who also once searched for remembrance of Du Bois in Great Barrington nearly in vain, I find this book a bracing revelation. Amy Bass tells her own compelling story of how her home region ignored its most famous son for decades because of politics and race. This is a startling and important tale of social denial, of erased historical memory, and a hidden past now coming to light.

David W. Blight, author of Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory

An excellent example of local history on a national canvas, this volume charts over three decades of conflict about the legacy of the ‘most famous native son’ ever to hale from the Berkshires.

ForeWord Reviews

Without question, this book belongs in all libraries.

Choice

Those About Him Remained Silent has enormous potential and undoubtedly raises many issues for future research. Debates over the nation’s history take place at the national and local levels, and individuals construct history one public debate at a time. This conclusion is essential in thinking about how social change and history are crafted by individuals in the local arena, often through public debate and discussion.

Journal of African American History

Those About Him Remained Silent joins the ranks of recent, noteworthy scholarship on Du Bois. . . But Bass’s book is unique in that it also aims to reinterpret—and challenge—the actions of those who could not remain untouched by the vision and daring of an unparalleled African American intellectual.

Callaloo

Readers may appreciate Bass’ book on many levels... This engaging book boasts few faults and many reasons to read.

Historical Journal of Massachusetts

Those About Him Remained Silent

Contents


Introduction: The Shadow of the Veil

1. Du Bois in Great Barrington and Beyond

2. Evolution of a Progressive Mind

3. Her Proudest Contribution to History

4. Where Willie Lived and Played

5. A Prophet without Honor

6. An Uncertain Legacy


Acknowledgments
Notes
Index

Those About Him Remained Silent

UMP blog series - London 2012: A Woman's Place is on the Field

 

Part 1

 

There are many reasons that I am a proud alum of Bates College – established by abolitionists, founded co-ed, sustainable campus, no Greek organizations – but reading about Keelin Godsey in the alumni magazine for the past several years has certainly been a highlight. In 2006, Bates reported on his second place finish in the shot put and his victory in the hammer throw at the NCAA Division III Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships. The meet marked his 15th and 16th All-America awards, making him the most decorated athlete in the college’s history.

Yes, I just used “his” and “him” to refer to an athlete competing in the women’s division: Godsey is a transgender athlete, and Bates reported it as straightforwardly as anyone could hope for.

 

Part 2


The rigidity of gender perceptions in sport became reinforced with the debut of “femininity control” – gender verification testing – at the British Commonwealth Games in 1966. The testing eradicated any notion that a male/female binary could be complicated despite past cases such as Stella Walsh (Stanislawa Walasiewicz), who won gold in 1932 and silver in 1936 in the 100-meters and was later found to have male sex organs, and German high jumper Dora Ratjen, a hermaphrodite who was banned from competition after a fourth place finish in 1936. Gender verification made its Olympic debut in 1968 in the Winter Games in Grenoble; the IOC then made it mandatory for every woman competing in Mexico City. The sports press had a field day with the absurdity of witnessing women submit to having their mouths swabbed to prove their womanhood, particularly when it came to the athletes that the writers found to personify femininity. The AP wrote of U.S. swimmers Linda Gustavson and Pam Kruse, for example, that “no person in his right mind could have any question of their sex.”

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UMP blog - They Came for John Fea

Martin Niemöller's oft-cited words, of which there are many versions, speak to political apathy in a time of complicated politics. Even the most politically passionate can be myopic, and Niemöller reminds us to not wait until something specifically targets us before we are moved to action. While many social movements have embraced this lesson in order to recruit more to a cause, the words can strike as relevant even in the most mundane of pursuits. One need not be on the frontlines of combative war or marching with signs on the steps of the Supreme Court to bear in mind that politics can appear at the doorstep for many reasons.

Read the full article.

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UMP blog - *They* Are … Penn State: "Qui tacet consentire videtur" ("Silence gives consent")

A moment of silence was the last thing they should've done. Well, actually, perhaps taking the field at all was the last thing, but bowing heads in prayer before the Penn State-Nebraska game on a lovely November day had to be a close second for the some 107,903 people gathered in Beaver Stadium.

Silence had already done so much damage.

Read the full article.

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UMP blog - Obama, Du Bois and Hitler: "Qui tacet consentire videtur" ("Silence gives consent")

9/18/2009
History is never about the past. It wasn’t then. It isn’t now. In the midst of a lot of people who don’t seem to understand this, Barney Frank does. His confrontation in August with Rachel Brown of the La Rouche Youth Movement demonstrated how the national debate on health care reform, which was increasingly getting crushed by Sarah Palin’s spurious claims of “death panels,” would take the high road. Comparing Obama’s stance on Medicare expenditures to Hitler’s Aktion T4 strategy in 1939, Brown asked Frank how he could “continue to support a Nazi policy.” Frank’s reply to her question – “On what planet do you spend most of your time?” – drew laughter. But it was his continued response that gave me hope for a brief and shining moment that sanity was going to prevail.
Read more ...