Postlude

Returning to America in 1959 after my great journey, I was welcomedhome; not simply by my friends but by my government. In Swedenit was feared I might not as a member of the World Peace Councilbe allowed to land in England. But Pritt and Belfrage took holdand I received every courtesy. I had tea on the terrace of theHouse of Lords with a viscount, an earl, and two ladies; alsoon the terrace of the House of Commons, I had tea where I hadlast been entertained by Kier Hardie. I met several members ofParliament, and spent many Sunday afternoons with Donald OgdenStewart and Ella Winter. There I met James Aldrich and KatherineHepburn. I saw Paul Robeson and his splendid production of Othello.Lawrence Bradshaw, sculptor of the great head of Karl Marx, didmy head.

The cabin on the Liberte' as we returned was large andairy, and the voyage smooth and pleasant. But how would the UnitedStates receive us? We had openly spent ten weeks in China, andspoken widely and broadcast. There was some hasty last minutetelephoning from the boat, I am sure, but all went well. Our passportswere not seized, and the chief inspector of Customs passed ourbags quickly and welcomed us home. Our relatives and friendsswarmed to greet us. I was unable to understand why Scott Nearingand Waldo Frank should be forbidden to do what as yet I have beenunrebuked for doing openly and proudly. However, three monthslater when the Supreme Court agreed to consider the cases of WaldoFrank and William Worthy, [17] the State Department demanded ourpassports. We asked delay until the Supreme Court made its verdict. This was granted.

I am a little puzzled now about the ordering of my life. Severaltimes in the past I find that I have prepared for death and deathhas not come. Always on my desk lies a calendar of my own devisingwith daily and hourly tasks; with plans for the week and nextweek, the month and months ahead and the sentinel of my main taskfor the year. This year-part is now getting uncertain. Evenmonths are no longer absolutely mine, yet I am reasonably contentand although my strength warns me not to try to work as man hoursas once I did, yet I work and work regularly and with some efficiency,from day to day.

As I recall, I have long faced the inevitability of death andnot tried to dodge the thought. In early manhood I wrote:

"I saw a mother, black and seared and iron-haired, who hadwatched her boy through college, for men to jeer at and discourageand tempt until he sought women and whiskey and died. She crepton a winter's Sunday into a Cathedral of St. John The Divine andcrouched there where a comfortable red and yellow angel sat sunningher ample limbs 'To Keep the Memory of Obadiah James Green'--astock-gambler. And there she rested while the organ warbled theoverture to Der Feischutz, and the choir asserted 'My Jesus!As Thou wilt.' The priest intoned: 'Come unto Me all ye thatlabor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest! For my yokeis easy and my burden light.' And the window-angel moved a fatwing and murmured: 'except niggers!'

"In that dark day when all friends gathered round shall sigh: as he goes to that full dreadful home where earth shall moveaway and these dim eyes shall strain to scenes all glorious, shallthey see on that morning round the wide, white throne a glorifiedNegro Problem? If so, Father of Mercies, send me to Hell."

At 50, after a serious operation I wrote:

"Last year I looked death in the face and found its lineamentsnot unkind. But it was not my time. Yet in nature some timesoon and in the fullness of days I shall die, quietly, I trust,with my face turned South and eastward; and, dreaming or dreamlessI shall, I am sure, enjoy death as I have enjoyed life."

At 60 years of age I wrote again:

"For long years we of the world gone wild, have looked intothe face of death and smiled. Through all our bitter tears weknew how beautiful it was to die for that which our souls calledsufficient. Like all true beauty this thing of dying was so simple,so matter-of-fact. The boy clothed in his splendid youth stoodbefore us and laughed in his own jolly way--went and was gone. Suddenly the world was full of the fragrance of sacrifice. Weleft our digging and burden-bearing; we turned from our scrapingand twisting of things and words; we paused from our hurryinghither and thither and walking up and down, and asked in halfwhisper: 'Death--is this life? And is its beauty real or false?'

"Here, then, is beauty and ugliness, a wide vision of world-sacrifice,a fierce gleam of world-hate. Which is life and what is deathand how shall we face so tantalizing a contradiction? Any explanationmust necessarily be subtle and involved. No pert and easy wordof encouragement, no merely dark despair, can lay hold of theroots of these things. And first and before all, we cannot forgetthat this world is beautiful. Grant all its ugliness and sin--thepetty, horrible snarl of its putrid threads, which few have seenmore near or more often than I--notwithstanding all this, thebeauty of the world is not to be denied.

"And then--the Veil, the Veil of color. It drops as dropsthe night on southern seas--vast, sudden, unanswering. Thereis Hate behind it, and Cruelty and Tears. As one peers throughits intricate, unfathomable pattern of ancient, old, old design,one sees blood and guilt and misunderstanding. And yet it hangsthere, this Veil, between then and now, between Pale and Coloredand Black and White--between You and Me. Surely it is but a thought-thing,tenuous, intangible; yet just as surely is it true and terribleand not in our little day may you and I lift it. We may feverishlyunravel its edges and even climb slow with giant shears to whereits ringed and gilded top nestles close to the throne of Eternity. But as we work and climb we shall see through streaming eyesand hear with aching ears, lynching and murder, cheating and despising,degrading and lying, so flashed and flashed through this vasthanging darkness that the Doer never sees the Deed and the Victimknows no the Victor and Each hate All in wild and bitter ignorance. Listen, O Isles, to those voices from within the Veil, for theyportray the most human hurt of the Twentieth Cycle of that poorJesus who was called the Christ!

"At last to us all comes happiness, there in the Court ofPeace, where the dead lie so still and calm and good. If we werenot dead we would lie and listen to the flowers grow. We wouldhear the birds sing and see how the rain rises and blushes andburns and pales and dies in beauty. We would see spring, summer,and the red riot of autumn, and then in winter, beneath the softwhite snow, sleep and dream of dreams. But we know that beingdead, our Happiness is a fine and finished thing and that ten,a hundred, and a thousand years, we shall lie at rest, unhurtin the Court of Peace."

From then until now the wraith of Death has followed me, sleptwith me and awakened me and accompanied my day. Only now it ismore commonplace and reasonable. It is the end and without endsthere can be no beginnings. Its finality we must not falsify. It is our great debt to the Soviet Union that it alone of nationsdared stop that lying to children which so long disgraced ourschools. We filled little minds with fairy tales of religiousdogma which we ourselves never believed. We filled their thoughtswith pictures of barbarous revenge called God which contradictedall their inner sense of decency. We repeated folk tales of childrenwithout fathers, of death which was life, of sacrifice which wasshrewd investment and ridiculous pictures of an endless future. The Soviets have stopped this. They allow a child to grow upwithout religious lies and with mature mind make his own decisionabout the world without scaring him into Hell or rewarding himwith a silly Heaven.

We know that Death is the End of Life. Even when we profess todeny this we know that this hope is mere wishful thinking, pretensebroidered with abject and cowardly Fear. Our endless egotismcannot conceive a world without Us and yet we know that this willhappen and the world be happier for it.

I have lived a good and full life. I have finished my course. I do not want to live this life again. I have tasted its delightsand pleasures; I have known its pain, suffering and despair. I am tired, I am through. For the souls who follow me; for thatlittle boy born Christmas day before last, my great grandson andhis compeers, I bequeath all that waits to be done, and Holy Timewhat a task, forever!

I have seen miracles in my life. As a boy we did not have thepossibility of miracles emphasized in our schools. In the weeklySunday School, we studied the bible with its tales of the impossiblebut I remember distinctly that I questioned the validity of someof them, like that story of Jonah. In other words I was broughtup in the shadow of modern science where all that happens hada cause and there were many things unlikely to happen. For instance,then flying by man was not to be thought of and we talked of flyingas impossible and joked at man's attempts. Yet I read of thefirst successful flights; and myself in 1921 flew from Paris toLondon. I have flown tens of thousands of miles since, over landand sea. I visited the Paris World's Fair in 1900, and was astonishedto see automobiles on the streets; not many but perhaps a dozenin a day. I lived to see the jokes about the possibility of thesemotors displacing the horse fade away and automobiles fill thestreets and cover the nations.

I remember when first, in an American city, seeing the streetslighted by electricity; the lights blinked and sputtered but ina few years electric bulbs supplanted the gas lights of my boyhood. Then came the gas-filled balloons rising in the sky and men crossedthe Atlantic in Zeppelins. Soon came the horror of Hiroshimaand I began to feel the vast possibilities of man's brain andhis coming conquest of the air. But the most startling miracleof my time before the year 1958, was Sputnik. This went beyondthe internal combustion engine, the airplane and balloon; beyondthe electric light and the bursting atom. This was beyond mereutility into the realm of Knowledge and the triumph of Reason. It taught the United States the superiority of Communist thoughtand calculation. It stopped our sneers at Soviet education.

Then this year came the climax; the triumph of thought over powerand space that was the greatest miracle of which I ever dreamed. Not yet have I been able to comprehend its meaning, or to realizethat it is today actually possible to send a human being to thestars. A Frenchman once said: "I know but two beautifulthings on earth: the stars above us and the feeling of duty withinus." Now that we have pierced the heavens, we are more sureof making Mankind willing and eager to do right.

I have lived to an age of life which is increasingly distastefulto this nation. Unless by 60 a man has gained possession of enoughof money to support himself, he faces the distinct possibilityof starvation. He is liable to lose his job and to refusal ifhe seeks another. At 70 he is frowned upon by the church andif he is foolish enough to survive until 90, he is often regardedas a freak. This is because in the face of human experience theUnited States has discovered that Youth knows more than Age. When a man of 35 becomes president of a great institution of learningor United States Senator or head of a multi-million dollar corporation,a cry of triumph rings in the land. Why? To pretend that 15years bring of themselves more wisdom and understanding than 50is a contradiction in terms. Given a born fool, a hundred yearswill not make him wise; but given an idiot, he will not be wiseat 20. Youth is more courageous than age because it knows less. Age is wiser than youth because it knows more. This all mankindhas affirmed from Egypt and China five thousand years ago, toBritain and Germany today. Only the United States knows better. I would have been hailed with approval if I had died at 50. At 75 my death was practically requested. If living does notgive value, wisdom and meaning to life, then there is no sensein living at all. If immature and inexperienced men rule theearth, then the earth deserves what it gets: the repetition ofage-old mistakes, and wild welcome for what men knew a thousandyears ago was disaster.

I do not apologize for living long. High on the ramparts of thisblistering hell of life, as it must appear to most men, I sitand see the Truth. I look it full in the face, and I will notlie about it, neither to myself nor to the world. I see my countryas what Cedric Belfrage aptly characterizes as a "FrightenedGiant" afraid of the Truth, afraid of Peace. I see a landwhich is degenerating and faces decadence unless it has senseenough to turn about and start back. It is no sin to fail. Itis the habit of men. It is disaster to go on when you know youare going wrong. I judge this land not merely by statistics orreading lies agreed upon by historians. I judge by what I haveseen, heard, and lived through for near a century.

There was a day when the world rightly called Americans honesteven if crude; earning their living by hard work; telling thetruth no matter whom it hurt; and going to war only in what theybelieved a just cause after nothing else seemed possible. Todaywe are lying, stealing, and killing. We call all this by finernames: Advertising, Free Enterprise, and National Defense. Butnames in the end deceive no one; today we use science to helpus deceive our fellows; we take wealth that we never earned andwe are devoting all our energies to kill, maim and drive insane,men, women, and children who dare refuse to do what we want done. No nation threatens us. We threaten the world.

Our President says that Foster Dulles was the wisest man he knew. If Dulles was wise, God help our fools--the fools who rule usand are today running wild in order to shoot a football into thesky where Sputnik rolls in peace around the earth. And they knowwhy we fail, these military masters of men: we haven't taughtour children thematics and physics. No, it is because we havenot taught our children to read and write or to behave like humanbeings and not like hoodlums. Every child on my street is whoopingit up with toy guns and big boys with real pistols. When ElvisPresley goes through the motions of copulation on the public stageit takes the city police force to hold back teen-age childrenfrom hysteria. The highest ambition of an American boy todayis to be a millionaire. The highest ambition of an American girlis to be a movie star. Of the ethical actions which lie backof these ideals, little is said or learned. What are we doingabout it? Half the Christian churches of New York are tryingto ruin the free public schools in order to install religiousdogma in them; and the other half are too interested in Venezuelanoil to prevent the best center in Brooklyn from fighting youthfuldelinquency, or prevent a bishop from kicking William Howard Melishinto the street and closing his church. Which of the hundredsof churches sitting half empty protests about this? They hireBilly Graham to replace the circus in Madison Square Garden.

Howard Melish is one of the few Christian clergymen for whom Ihave the highest respect. Honest and conscientious, believingsincerely in much of the Christian dogma, which I reject, butworking honestly and without hypocrisy, for the guidance of theyoung, for the uplift of the poor and ignorant, and for the bettermentof his city and his country, he has been driven from his workand his career ruined by a vindictive bishop of his church, withno effective protest from most of the Christian ministry and membershipor of the people of the United States. The Melish case is perhapsat once the most typical and frightening illustration of presentAmerican religion and my reaction. Here is a young man of idealcharacter, of impeccable morals; a hard worker, especially amongthe poor and unfortunate, with fine family relations. His fatherhad helped build one of the most popular Episcopal churches inthe better part of Brooklyn. He himself had married a well-educatedwoman, and had three sons in school. The community about it waschanging from well-to-do people of English and Dutch descent,to white-collar and laboring folk of Italian, Negro and PuertoRican extraction. Trinity church, under the Melishes, adapteditself to changing needs, and invited neighborhood membership. It was not a large church, but it was doing the best work amongthe young and foreign-born of any institution in Brooklyn.

The young rector took one step for which the bishop, most of hisfellow clergymen and the well-to-do community, with its businessinterests, pilloried him. He joined and became an official ofthe National Council of American-Soviet Friendship. He was accusedimmediately of favoring communism, and to appease criticism hegave up his official position in this organization, but refusedto resign his membership. Allegedly for this reason the bishop,most of the clergy and the well-to-do community proceeded to forcehim out of the church. The real reason behind their fight wasanger because a rich, white, "respectable" church wasbeing surrendered to workers and Negroes. It became a renewedbattle between Episcopal authority and democratic rule. Thathis parish wanted to retain Melish as rector was unquestionable. Through the use of technicalities in the canon law and in accordwith the decision of Catholic judges who believed in Episcopalpower, Howard Melish lost his church, had his life work ruined,the church itself closed, and its local influence ended. Therewas vigorous protest against this by a few devoted colleagues,many of them Jews and liberals. But the great mass of the Episcopalchurch membership was silent and did nothing.

All this must not be mentioned even if you know it and see it. America must never be criticized even by honest and sincere men. America must always be praised and extravagently praised, oryou lose your job or are ostracized or land in jail. Criticismis treason, and treason or the hint of treason testified to byhired liars may be punished by shameful death. I saw Ethel Rosenberglying beautiful in her coffin beside her mate. I tried to stammerfutile words above her grave. But not over graves should we shoutthis failure of justice, but from the housetops of the world.

Honest men may and must criticize America. Describe how she hasruined her democracy, sold out her jury system, and led her seatsof justice astray. The only question that may arise is whetherthis criticism is based on truth, not whether it has been openlyexpressed

What is truth? What can it be when the President of the UnitedStates, guiding the nation, stands up in public and says: "Theworld also thinks of us as a land which has never enslaved anyone." Everyone who heard this knew it was not true. Yet here standsthe successor of George Washington who bought, owned, and soldslaves; the successor of Abraham Lincoln who freed four millionslaves after they had helped him win victory over the slaveholdingSouth. And so far as I have seen, not a single periodical, noteven a Negro weekly, has dared challenge or even criticize thatfalsehood.

Perhaps the most extraordinary characteristic of current Americais the attempt to reduce life to buying and selling. Life isnot love unless love is sex and bought and sold. Life is notknowledge save knowledge of technique, of science for destruction. Life is not beauty except beauty for sale. Life is not art unlessits price is high and it is sold for profit. All life is productionfor profit, and for what is profit but for buying and sellingagain?

Even today the contradictions of American civilization are tremendous. Freedom of political discussion is difficult; elections are notfree and fair. Democracy is for us to a large extent unworkable. In business there is a tremendous amount of cheating and stealing;gambling in card games, on television and on the stock exchangeis widely practiced. It is common custom for distinguished personsto sign books, articles, and speeches that they did not write;for men of brains to compose and sell opinions which they do notbelieve. Ghost writing is a profession. The greatest power inthe land is not thought or ethics, but wealth, and the personswho exercise the power of wealth are not necessarily its owners,but those who direct its use, and the truth about this directionis so far as possible kept a secret. We do not know who ownsour vast property and resources, so that most of our argumentconcerning wealth and its use must be based on guess work. Thoseresponsible for the misuse of wealth escape responsibility, andeven the owners of capital often do not know for what it is beingused and how. The criterion of industry and trade is the profitthat it accrues, not the good which it does either its ownersor the public. Present profit is valued higher than future need. We waste materials. We refuse to make repairs. We cheat anddeceive in manufacturing goods. We have succumbed to an increaseduse of lying and misrepresentation. In the last ten years atleast a thousand books have been published to prove that the fightto preserve Negro slavery in America was a great and noble cause,led by worthy men of eminence.

I know the United States. It is my country and the land of myfathers. It is still a land of magnificent possibilities. Itis still the home of noble souls and generous people. But itis selling its birthright. It is betraying its mighty destiny. I was born on its soil and educated in its schools. I have servedmy country to the best of my ability. I have never knowinglybroken its laws or unjustly attacked its reputation. At the sametime I have pointed out its injustices and crimes and blamed it,rightly as I believe, for its mistakes. It has given me educationand some of its honors, for which I am thankful.

Today the United States is the leading nation in the world, whichapparently believes that war is the only way to settle presentdisputes and difficulties. For this reason it is spending fantasticsums of money, and wasting wealth and energy on the preparationfor war, which is nothing less than criminal. Yet the UnitedStates dare not stop spending money for war. If she did her wholeeconomy, which is today based on preparation for war, might collapse. Therefore, we prepare for a Third World War; we spread our soldiersand arms over the earth and we bribe every nation we can to becomeour allies. We are taxing our citizens into poverty, crime andunemployment, and systematically distorting the truth about socialism. We have used the horror of germ warfare. Some of our leadersare ready to use it again.

The use of history for distortion and not for education has ledto another of our greatest present evils; and that is to makefear of socialism and communism so great that we have withdrawnour efforts toward the education of children, the war on disease,and the raising of the standards of living. We encourage theincrease of debt to finance present enjoyment; and above all weuse news gathering and opinion, radio and television, magazinesand books, to make most Americans believe that the threat of warespecially on the part of the Soviet Union against the UnitedStates, justifies heavy taxation and tremendous expenditure forwar preparation.

This propaganda began when our tremendous profits from the FirstWorld War encouraged American business to believe that the UnitedStates was about to replace Great Britain as ruler of most ofmankind. The rise and spread of socialism contradicted this ambition,and made the projected American century quail in fright beforethe century of communism. We determined therefore to overthrowcommunism by brute force. Gradually we discovered the impossibilityof this, unless we risked suicide. We saw communism increasingeducation, science and productivity. We now face the possibilityof co-existence with the communist world, and competition betweenthe methods of capitalism and the methods of socialism. It isat this crisis that I had the opportunity to live seven monthsin a world of socialism, which is striving toward communism asan ideal.

This is what I call decadence. It could not have happened 50years ago. In the day of our fiercest controversy we have notdared thus publicly to silence opinion. I have lived throughdisagreement, vilification, and war and war again. But in allthat time, I have never seen the right of human beings to thinkso challenged and denied as today.

The day after I was born, Andrew Johnson was impeached. He deservedpunishment as a traitor to the poor Southern whites and poorerfreedmen. Yet during his life, no one denied him the right todefend himself. A quarter of a century ago, I tried to stateand carry into realization unpopular ideas against a powerfulopposition--in the white South, in the reactionary North, andeven among my own people. I found my thought being misconstruedand I planned an organ of propaganda, The Crisis, whereI would be free to say what I believed. This was no easy sailing. My magazine reached but a fraction of the nation. It was bitterlyattacked and once the government suppressed it. But in the endI maintained a platform of radical thinking on the Negro questionwhich influenced many minds. War and depression ended my independenceof thought and forced me to return to teaching, but with the certaintythat I had at least started a new line of belief and action. Then they stopped my teaching.

As a result of my work and that of others, the Supreme Court beganto restore democracy in the South and finally outlawed discriminationin public services based on color. This caused rebellion in theSouth which the nation is afraid to meet. The Negro stands bewilderedand attempt is made by appointments to unimportant offices andtrips abroad to bribe him into silence. His art and literaturecease to function. Only the children like those at Little Rockstand and fight.

The Yale sophomore who replaced a periodical of brains by a bookof pictures concealed in advertisements, proposed that Americarule the world. This failed because we could not rule ourselves.But Texas to the rescue, as Johnson proposes that America takeover outer space. Somewhere beyond the Moon there must be sentientcreatures rolling in inextinguishable laughter at the antics ofour Earth.

We tax ourselves into poverty and crime so as to make the richricher and the poor poorer and more evil. We know the cause ofthis: it is to permit our rich business interests to stop socialismand to prevent the ideals of communism from ever triumphing onearth. The aim is impossible. Socialism progresses and willprogress. All we can do is to silence and jail its promotersand make world war on communism. I believe in socialism. I seeka world where the ideals of communism will triumph--to each accordingto his need, from each according to his ability. For this willwork as long as I live. And I still live.

I just live. I plan my work, but plan less for shorter periods. I live from year to year and day to day. I expect snatches ofpain and discomfort to come and go. And then reaching back tomy archives, I whisper to the great Majority: To the AlmightyDead, into whose pale approaching faces, I stand and stare; youwhose thoughts, deeds and dreams have made men wise with all wisdomand stupid with utter evil. In every name of God, bend out anddown, you who are the infinite majority of all mankind and withyour thoughts, deeds, dreams and memories, overwhelm outvote,and coerce this remnant of human life which lingers on, imaginingthemselves wisest of all who have lived just because they stillsurvive. Wither with wide revelation will they go with their stinkingpride and empty boasting, whose ever recurring lies only you theDead have known all too well? Teach living man to jeer at thislast civilization which seeks to build heaven on Want and Illof most men and vainly builds on color and hair rather than ondecency of hand and heart. Let your memories teach these wilfulfools all which you have forgotten and ruined and done to death.

You are not and yet you are: your thoughts, your deeds, aboveall your dreams still live. So too, your deeds and what you forgot--theselived as your bodies died. With these we also live and die, realizeand kill. Our dreams seek Heaven, our deeds plumb Hell. Helllies about us in our Age: blithely we push into its stench andflame. Suffer us not, Eternal Dead to stew in this Evil--theEvil of South Africa, the Evil of Mississippi; the Evil of Evilswhich is what we hope to hold in Asia and Africa, in the southernAmericas and islands of the Seven Seas. Reveal, Ancient of Days,the Present in the Past and prophesy the End in the Beginning. For this is a beautiful world; this is a wonderful America, whichthe founding fathers dreamed until their sons drowned it in theblood of slavery and devoured it in greed. Our children mustrebuild it. Let then the Dreams of the Dead rebuke the Blindwho think that what is will be forever and teach them that whatwas worth living for must live again and that which merited deathmust stay dead. Teach us, Forever Dead, there is no Dream butDeed, there is no Deed but Memory.


ENDNOTES

17. Late in 1958 Waldo Frank sued the State Department for validationof his passport for travel to China, where he had been invited,by the University of Peking, to deliver lectures on Walt Whitman. At about the same time, William Worthy, Jr., a correspondentfor the Afro-American newspaper chain, also sued demandingthe right to visit China in his capacity as a newspaperman. Bothcases went to the U.S. Supreme Court; that Court, in December1959, ruled against Frank and Worthy and in effect upheld theState Departmentís right in applying the ban.

From W.E.B. DuBois, The Autobiography of W.E.B. DuBois: A Soliloquy on Viewing My Life from the Last Decade of Its First Century.New York, NY: International Publishers Co. Inc., 1968, pp. 409-423.


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