To Denigrate "Western Civilization" Is to Disinherit Our Children

April 1996By Lawrence D. Hogan

Lawrence D. Hogan is Professor of History at Union County College in Cranford, New Jersey. He is a specialist in African American History.

Something is amiss with today’s college undergraduate curriculum. For two decades we have been running away from who we are — and the price we pay for that running away is considerable.

“I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not,” wrote W.E.B. DuBois early in a 20th century of much wincing in reaction to men of his color. DuBois added:

Across the color line I walk arm and arm with Balzac and Dumas, where smiling men and welcoming women glide in gilded halls. From out the caves of evening that swing between the strong limbed earth and the tracery of the stars, I summon Aristotle and Aurelius and what soul I will, they all come graciously with no scorn or condescension. So, wed with Truth, I dwell above the veil.

DuBois posed the question of Black identity this way: “The Negro is…born within a veil…[and] ever feels his twoness — an American, a Negro…two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” But DuBois, in his connection to his Shakespeares and Aristotles and Balzacs, found pillars of Western culture which he apparently regarded as essential to the Black American’s achievement of spiritual integration and inner unity.

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