February 15th - W.E.B duBois: A Recorded Autobiography

To my great surprise February is half-open! I was worried that I would use up all of the albums I was really excited about too early, and now I'm worried that I won't have enough days!

This album is just as the title.says: a recorded autobiography of black writer and educator W.E.B. duBois, who speaks about his life in matter-of-fact, sonorous tones. DuBois speaks almost entirely about his activism and career, with only a few asides mostly concerned with his emotional reactions to events - he literally does not mention his family until he talks about supporting them later in life. He never mentions any of his writing in a specific sense. Even though, it is a very interesting tour of several different and interesting aspects of black institutional and academic life from the turn of the century ending with his trial in 1951.

DuBois actually has almost the exact same storytelling cadence as my grandfather, which made this an interesting listening experience! There are some incredible moments in here - duBois is completely clear about his successes and failures, likes and dislikes, and what he felt he had accomplished. There is an incredible part where he talks about his second tenure at the NAACP and specifically how much he disliked the president at that time, Walter White, and he absolutely does not hesitate to describe his failings. He speaks of his own surprise at the sudden emergence of the student civil rights movement, noting that he did nothing to encourage it - and the humor with which he speaks is so dry it's hard to tell how amused he is.

It's an incredible and encouraging listening experience - duBois is so understated about amazing events like William James telling him to get out of philosophy because the pay is terrible or duBois himself basically badgering Rutherford B. Hayes into giving him a scholarship that it all feels very predetermined and easy. But in the last two tracks he speaks not about the past but about the future - and his great intellect and strength are very much on display.

Click here to read liner notes and purchase this album from Smithsonian Folkways.