Document Type


Date of Award



College of Liberal Arts and Behavioral Sciences (COLABS)

Degree Name

MA in English

First Advisor

Dr. Shirley Walker Moore


1. Objective: To theoretically define, distinguish, and characterize-true African American art (mainly literature) through the ideologies and works of W. E. B. Du Bois and some of his counterparts. 2. Status of Question: In the "Criteria of Negro Art," W. E. B. Du Bois states, "I stand in utter shamelessness and say that art whatever I have for writing has been used for propaganda for gaining the right of black folk to love and to enjoy. I do not care a damn for any art that is not propaganda." This study proposes to expose how African American writers have used the works of W. E. B. Du Bois to define their art (literature). Likewise, careful attention will be focused on the works of African American writers whose art was contradictory to the ideas and framework of W. E. B. Du Bois. Primary Resources: . Leitch, Vincent. Ed. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. 2001. ("Poetics" by Aristotle, "Poetica" by Horace, "Critique of Judgment" by Immanuel Kant, and "The Criteria of Negro Art" by W. E. B. Du Bois) 2 Although these essays with the exception of 'The Criteria of Negro Art" do not specifically address black art they will serve as a theoretical framework for the definition and structure for all art as it relates to literature. W. E. B. Du Bois. The Souls of Black Folk. New York: Fine Creative Media, Inc. 2003. This novel serves as reference to Du Bois' concept of double consciousness, which describes how African Americans see themselves through the eyes of the European/white America. Du Bois expresses how African Americans have no true self identity. Lack of self identity allows to African Americans to be portrayed in any light this lends itself to . no true portrayal of African Americans or to unrecognizing the beauty of the people. Secondary Resources Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. and Nellie McKay. The NortonAnthology of African American Literature. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. 2004. Crouch, Stanley and Playthell Benjamin. Reconsidering the Souls of Black Folk: Thoughts on the Groundbreaking Classic Work of W. E. B. DuBois. Philedelphia: Running Press. Lewis, David Levering. W. E. B. Du Bois, A Reader. New York: Henry Holt & Company, Inc. 1995. 3. Proposed Procedure: This research will first define art in general using the theories and criticism established by Arostotle, Horace, Kant, and Du Bois. Being that Du Bois was a historian and a student of psychology, his approach to literature and literary analysis (especially African American literature was quite different. He did not believe in art for the sake of art; rather, he believed that art had a purpose. It is propaganda, and if there was no purpose to art, then clearly it was not art. Therefore, the previously 3 mentioned works will take a theoretical, societal, and psychological approach to defining and identifying art's purpose and its relation to its audience. 4. Discussion: This study will expose black art's beginnings and its societal influences, as well as Du Bois' position on African American art/literature. It will also cover a certain literary movement (i.e. Harlem Renaissance) where writers accepted and rejected Du Bois' theories about what African American literature truly is and what it should represent. The conclusion of this study will aim to address the idea of whether or not African American literature should be art for the sake of art or art with a purpose, reflecting problems and solutions, the total beauty of and in African American people and not the one-sidedness of black people;