Cheer the Lonesome Traveler Essay - Critical Essays

Leslie Alexander Lacy


Perhaps because of his regard for Du Bois, whom he met in Ghana in 1963 just before Du Bois’ death, Lacy offers a warm and sympathetic portrait of an individual not always admired in his own country. As the author points out, Du Bois became enamored of the ideals of socialism through his studies and travels abroad and was treated as an outcast by mainstream and conservative civil rights organizations in the United States. Near the end of his life, Du Bois was suspected of being a communist sympathizer and for years was denied a passport for travel abroad. Finally, Lacy notes, the controversy surrounding the man and his opinions was heightened when Du Bois fully embraced the ideals of communism.

In this biography, Lacy does not judge or criticize. Instead, he depicts the life and accomplishments of an individual made entirely human by the rich and varied details of his life. Du Bois, who was of French, Haitian, Dutch, and African descent, enjoyed an idyllic boyhood in New England. Young Willie, as he was called, fully absorbed the values of his Yankee schoolmates. Well aware of his great intellect, the light-skinned young man was self-confident, even arrogant. Du Bois was largely sheltered from harsh discrimination and racial prejudice in his hometown of Great Barrington, Massachusetts. When an inconvenient episode of racism did arise to make him feel apart from his schoolmates, Du Bois reacted by “beating them at their schoolwork, demonstrating that he was their equal and most of the time their superior.”

When he reached college age, Du Bois naturally assumed that he would go off...

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