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The Love Songs of WEB Du Bois

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois Summary

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois: An Oprah’s Book Club Novel, The great scholar, W. E. B. Du Bois once wrote about the Problem of race in America, and what he called “Double Consciousness,” a sensitivity that every African American possesses in order to survive. Since childhood, Ailey Pearl Garfield has understood Du Bois’s words all too well. Bearing the names of two formidable Black Americans—the revered choreographer Alvin Ailey and her great grandmother Pearl, the descendant of enslaved Georgians and tenant farmers—Ailey carries Du Bois’s Problem on her shoulders.

Ailey is reared in the north in the City but spends summers in the small Georgia town of Chicasetta, where her mother’s family has lived since their ancestors arrived from Africa in bondage. From an early age, Ailey fights a battle for belonging that’s made all the more difficult by a hovering trauma, as well as the whispers of women—her mother, Belle, her sister, Lydia, and a maternal line reaching back two centuries—that urge Ailey to succeed in their stead.

To come to terms with her own identity, Ailey embarks on a journey through her family’s past, uncovering the shocking tales of generations of ancestors—Indigenous, Black, and white—in the deep South. In doing so Ailey must learn to embrace her full heritage, a legacy of oppression and resistance, bondage and independence, cruelty and resilience that is the story—and the song—of America itself.

About the Author

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers is a fiction writer, poet, and essayist. She is the author of five poetry collections, including the 2020 collection The Age of Phillis, which won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in Poetry and the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, was longlisted for the National Book Award for Poetry, and was a finalist for the PEN/Voelcker Award, the George Washington Prize, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She was a contributor to The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race, edited by Jesmyn Ward, and has been published in The Kenyon Review, Iowa Review, and other literary publications.

Jeffers was elected into the American Antiquarian Society, whose members include fourteen U.S. presidents, and is Critic at Large for Kenyon Review. She teaches creative writing and literature at the University of Oklahoma. The Love Songs of W. E. B. Du Bois is her first novel and was a New York Times bestseller, longlisted for the National Book Award, shortlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, a Finalist for the Kirkus Prize for Fiction, longlisted for the Aspen Words Literary Prize, and an Oprah Book Club Pick.

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois Introduction

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

We are the earth, the land. The tongue that speaks and trips on the names of the dead as it dares to tell these stories of a woman’s line. Her people and her dirt, her trees, her water.

We knew this woman before she became a woman. We knew her before she was born: we sang to her in her mother’s womb. We sang then and we sing now.

We called this woman back through the years to our early place, to our bright shoots rising with the seasons. We know her mingled people. How they started off as sacred, hummed verses. And now, we go back through the centuries to the beginning of her line, to a village called The-Place-in-the-Middle-of-the-Tall-Trees. And we start with a boy, the child who will change everything on our land.


We know you have questions, such as, if we tell the story of a woman’s line, why would we begin with a boy? And to your wonder we counter we could have begun with a bird’s call or with a stalk of corn. With a cone from a tree or a tendril of green. All these things lead back to this woman’s line, whether we mention them or not.

Yet since our story does not follow a straight path—we travel to places here and across the water—we must keep to the guidance of time. To the one who first walked past a tall, grass-covered mound in a particular place in the woods—and we have questions as well, for, despite our authority, we cannot know everything.

And so we ask if a child cannot remember his mother’s face, does he still taste her milk? Does he remember the waters inside her? Can you answer those questions? No, and neither can we. Yet, we remind you that many children commence within women, and thus, this is why it is completely fine that we begin with a boy.

And so we proceed.

The Boy Named Micco

The boy lived on our land. Here, in a Creek village that was between the wider lands straddling the rivers of the Okmulgee and Ogeechee, near the Oconee River, which crawled through the middle. Though Micco had playmates among the children of his village, he was an unhappy little boy, for he felt the tugging of three sets of hands. Whenever this tugging began, he felt confused and miserable.

There were the hands of his father, a Scottish deer skin trader named Dylan Cornell. There were the hands of his mother, Nila, a Creek woman who belonged to a clan of the highest status in their village, the Wind clan. The little boy’s parents were yet alive, but the hands that pulled at him the strongest were of a man who probably was dead, though no one knew for sure. They were the hands of his mother’s father, a man who appeared one day in the village.

This was in the years after 1733 and the arrival of James Oglethorpe and his ship of petty English criminals, what he called his “worthy poor.” They were those who had been sentenced to death or hard labor for the stealing of an apple or a loaf of bread or some other trifling thing.

When Oglethorpe came to our land, he thought he found a comrade in Tomochichi, the leader of the Yamacraw people, another tribe of our land.

Yet Oglethorpe had not made a friend. Tomochichi had not made a friend, either. He’d only encountered a pragmatic white man determined to set anchor and build a colony for his English king. Tomochichi had seen white men before, so he was interested in trade, which was long-standing commerce.

There had been Englishmen moving along the paths, going north and south and east and west, for more than a hundred years. Though Tomochichi was a wise leader and probably smelled greed on Oglethorpe, he had no idea of what would follow: sin.

For the original transgression of this land was not slavery. It was greed, and it could not be contained. More white men would come and begin to covet. And they would drag along the Africans they had enslaved. The white men would sow their misery among those who shook their chains. These white men would whip and work and demean these Africans.

They would sell their children and split up families. And these white men brought by Oglethorpe, these men who had been oppressed in their own land by their own king, forgot the misery that they had left behind, the poverty, the uncertainty. And they resurrected this misery and passed it on to the Africans.

And now we reach back even further.

The Grandfather of the Boy

The young man who would become the grandfather of Micco was perhaps eighteen or nineteen when he appeared next to the tall mound that marked the entrance of The-Place-in-the-Middle-of-the-Tall-Trees.

The young man was barefoot, and his soles were thickened and rough. His gray-colored shirt and pants were wrinkled, and even to those who were standing far away his garments gave off the smell of mildew—which made sense, because when someone asked him in English how he had arrived at their village he only told them that he had been walking when he’d arrived at a river.

Then he’d found that he was hungry, so he had tried to seize a catfish at the edge of the water but had fallen into the river. He talked with his hands, making wide gestures and animated facial expressions—even more so when he described falling into the river—and the villagers laughed. Yet he did not want to offend. He laughed along with them.

“Where do you come from?” an elder of the village asked.

“Over there.” The young man pointed vaguely. He smiled some more, and when the elder asked another question—where was he headed—the young man said he meant to go south.

“Truly?” The elder looked back wisely at the rest of his cohort, and the other men held this elder’s gaze.

Then there was more talking and more asking. But when the young man told them a very small man the size of a child had pulled him from the river and led him through the woods to the mound at the edge of the village, then the small man suddenly had disappeared, the elder gave his cohort a new, surprised look. Now this? This was a different matter altogether.

And so the elder and his cohort clustered, whispering in their own language while the young man smiled and nodded as if he understood the snatches of words that he was hearing. He did not understand at all. The elders were whispering about what the young man meant when he had said that he was headed “south.”

They did this because the young man who had found his way to the village was a Negro.

Thus, the elders assumed he was headed to the lands that the Spanish called “Florida,” and that the young man was looking for certain Seminoles. The people who lived in The-Place-in-the-Middle-of-the-Tall-Trees knew much about the Seminoles, because the Seminoles had once been a part of the Creek people before they had broken off to form their own nation. And the Seminoles gave sanctuary to Negroes, taking them into their villages. They mated with Negroes, too.

And so if this young man with mildew-smelling clothes was seeking the Seminoles, that meant that he was not free.

Though slavery wasn’t legal yet in the territory Oglethorpe had settled—that would come years later—there were ways that the English or Scottish got around the law. And one of those finagling men owned this young Negro, which meant that somebody might come looking for him and that somebody might try to cause some trouble.

Ordinarily, that would mean the people in The-Place-in-the-Middle-of-the-Tall-Trees should take hold of the young man, carry him back east, over the Oconee River, and collect a reward from the English or Scottish person who owned him. Yet the young man had mentioned that a very small man had pulled him out of the river.

Could this mean the young man had encountered one of the “little people”? These were supernatural beings and when they chose to show themselves it was a serious matter indeed. The small man would not be happy if this chosen young man was betrayed.

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The Love Songs of WEB Du Bois

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois PDF

Product details:

EditionInternational Edition
ISBN006294293X, 978-0062942937
Posted onAugust 24, 2021
Page Count816 pages
AuthorHonorée Fanonne Jeffers

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois PDF Free Download - Epicpdf

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois: An Oprah's Book Club Novel, The great scholar, W. E. B. Du Bois once wrote about the Problem of race in America, and what he called “Double Consciousness,” a sensitivity that every African American possesses in order to survive. Since childhood, Ailey Pearl Garfield has understood Du Bois’s words all too well. Bearing the names of two formidable Black Americans—the revered choreographer Alvin Ailey and her great grandmother Pearl, the descendant of enslaved Georgians and tenant farmers—Ailey carries Du Bois’s Problem on her shoulders.


Author: Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

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