The Quest of the Silver Fleece: A Novel
LATEST LINK (for 1 September 2023)
The Quest of the Silver Fleece
was W.E.B. Du Bois' first novel. Published in 1911 by A.C. McClurg
& Co. of Chicago, the novel combined literary realism with some romanticism and political-economic analysis to provide a story of two Black protagonists, a man and a woman, who eventually work together to build an economic community -- a community that provided a way to overcome both the overt and the systemic racism of a fictional post-Reconstruction Alabama town and county. The silver fleece of the title referred to cotton, which was the valuable crop that, as Du Bois suggested in the novel, would help rural African Americans become self-sufficient.
Du Bois mentioned The Quest of the Silver Fleece
in a few of his later works. In his 1915 book The Negro
Du Bois included Quest
under the bibliographic heading "The Future of the Negro". In Dusk of Dawn
, Du Bois wrote "In 1911, I tried my hand at fiction and published "The Quest of the Silver Fleece" which was really an economic study of some merit." (1940: Ch.9 [1968 Schocken edition: p.269]).
This web page is organized into sections containing links to online resources that pertain to:
* the primary text
(and relavant items), including Internet-available copies of Quest
in various formats;
* book reviews
, notes, and notices written by contemporaries, anonymous or otherwise;
* related work
that pertains to some topic or issue raised in The Quest of the Silver Fleece
The web site creator and facilitator wrote a profile of Quest
for the online Literary Encyclopedia
(see the details below
in the section for Later Secondary Sources).
Robert W. Williams, Ph.D.  [Bio]
Audio Primary Source: Updated
updated link to an audio version of the text.
THE PRIMARY TEXT (AND RELEVANT MATERIAL)
The Quest of the Silver Fleece: A Novel
is freely available at several sites.
An audio rendition
of The Quest of the Silver Fleece: A Novel
is freely available in mp3 and ogg audio formats via Librivox. To quote from the Librivox
site: "LibriVox volunteers record chapters of books in the public domain and release the audio files back onto the net. Our goal is to make all public domain books available as free audio books."
At Youtube.com we find an audio version of Quest
, which was initially recorded by Librivox. It runs 10 hours 24 minutes in duration.
[Note: This link updates the defunct previous link (9-1-23 update).]
The Credo Online Repository
contains correspondence related to The Quest of the Silver Fleece
, including letters from the publisher. The Credo Online Repository is a database of the Du Bois Collection of primary and secondary materials that is housed at the University of Massachusetts Amherst library. Searching on Credo for the book title will yield useful results: "Quest of the Silver Fleece
I will note that only the metadata description can be searched (not the items themselves). One can find more details at my intra-site About
A.C. McClurg & Co.
, the publisher of The Quest of the Silver Fleece
, presented a brief description, or blurb, of Du Bois's novel in its A Classified Catalogue of Selected Standard Books Suitable for a Public Library
(1912). The entire note (on p.12) reads as follows:
DU BOIS, W. E. B.
The quest of the silver fleece..........n
et 1 35
The author deals with the negro school, and modern cotton manipulation in cotton exchanges, and presents incidentally the best account of the life of educated and successful negroes in Washington yet given.
A.C. McClurg & Co. A Classified Catalogue of Selected Standard Books Suitable for a Public Library Proportioned in Accordance with Approved Library Methods, Fourth Edition.
Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Co., 1912. [DuBois on p.12.]
The book title was not italicized and not placed in initial capital letters, with the exception of "The". The words "Negro" and "Negroes" were not capitalized in the original.
Line Drawing of Quest Protagonists
. The front cover of The Crisis
(v.2, n.6, October 1911) presented a line drawing that explicitly indicated that it was 'From the "Quest of the Silver Fleece"' but was not actually published in the book itself. It depicted the central protagonists Bles and Zora amidst a field of cotton, both partially entwined,with Zora's arm draped on Bles's shoulder. Both appeared to be holding cotton. The line drawing seems to be in the style of the illustrator of Quest
, H.S. De Lay, but no attribution was provided.
The illustration is viewable
at Google Books.
On page 257 of the same issue of The Crisis
is an illustration that was published in Quest
on the page following page 50 (and was captioned in Quest
as "They together, back in the swamp, shadowed by the foliage, began to fashion the wonderful garment.").
This line drawing is viewable
via Google Books.
published an advertisement for QSF
in its 12 October 1911 issue (V.62, No. 2397 at p.468). The Advance
was a periodical of the Congregational churches. The advert can be viewed [click for a jpeg screen-capture image
and press <BackSpace> to return here]. Therein, Quest
was described in majuscule letters as a "A BIG, VITAL NOVEL" by "One of the Leaders of the Colored Race." Du Bois's name, signature, and a line drawing of him were prominently displayed in the advertisement. The text of the body of the advertisement reads in its entirety and verbatim as follows:
Professor Du Bois is the author of "The Souls
of Black Folk," now in its eighth edition. His
new novel is a work of unusual power, of stern
realism, and of great beauty.
The story is laid in the South and in Washington,
and not only shows the struggles — often
against impossible odds — of the negro [sic] who desires
to develop his personality, but shows the economic
roots of many of the injustices which stand between
the negro [sic] and the open sky of real treedom.
From the standpoint ot his hero and heroine,
feeling their woes as only a brother in blood can,
and seeing the geneisis of those woes as only a
trained sociologist can, Dr. Du Bois, the admitted
prophet and idealist of his race, makes a plea for
them that cannot be evaded.
In The Crisis
of December 1912 we find an advertisement from the Dunbar Company, 26 Vesey Street, NY, that offered Christmas gift suggestions for siblings, husband and wife, sweethearts, and parents vis-à-vis "grown-ups". We read of two circumstances where the ad, titled "Holiday Gift Hints", suggested The Quest of the Silver Fleece
and The Souls of Black Folk
An exchange between sweethearts.
Silk suspenders, candy, hand bag, watch, toilet set, manicure set, and such books as "Quest of the Silver Fleece" and "Souls of Black Folk," by Du Bois, or "Lyrics of Lowly Life," by Dunbar. [p.93]
An exchange between brother and sister.
Hosiery, Hydegrade petticoat, willow plume, hand bag, manicure set, safety razor and such books at Du Bois' "Quest of the Silver Fleece" and "Souls of Black Folk," Miller's "Race Adjustment," Paynter's "Joining the Navy," Gibbon's "Flower o' the Peach," etc. [p.93]
Note that The Crisis
, was published by the NAACP at 26 Vesey Street, New York City.
BOOK REVIEWS, NOTES, AND NOTICES OF QUEST
An anonymous notice published in the Harvard Graduates' Magazine
(December 1911). The notice is presented here verbatim and in its entirety:
"The Quest of the Silver Fleece," by W. E. Burghardt Du Bois, '90, announced by A. C. McClurg, describes the struggles of the negro [sic
] who attempts to develop his personality."
Anonymous. "'The Quest of the Silver Fleece,' by W. E. Burghardt Du Bois." Harvard Graduates' Magazine
, Vol. 20, No. 78 (December 1911): 382.
In the Monthly Bulletin of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
we read the following short notice for Quest
in the "Additions--March 1912" section, presented here verbatim and in its entirety:
Du Bois, William Edward Burghardt.D859q
Quest of the silver fleece; a novel. McClurg.
The "silver fleece" is the cotton of the South Hero and heroine are both negroes, [sic] but the story is more than a study of the race problem.
Anonymous. "Du Bois, William Edward Burghardt. Quest of the Silver Fleece." Monthly Bulletin of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
, 17:3 (March 1912): 152.
The "D859q" is the library's call number for the book.
The Kindergarten-Primary Magazine
published an anonymously written, brief review of Quest
(September 1912). The full text of the review is presented below verbatim and in its entirety:
The Quest of the Silver Fleece. By W. E. B. DuBois. Cloth, 434 pages. Published by A. C. McClurg & Co., Chicago. Price $1.50.
The silver fleece is the cotton, and the beauty of the
cotton fields in all the stages of growth is pictured with
rare power by one who passionately loves them. Written
by a cultivated, college-bred scholar of the colored race,
the thoughtful reader is made still more thoughtful by
an illuminating glimpse into the racial problem as viewed
from the standpoint of the negro, a problem ever-present
with his people. Viewed as a story alone it
holds one to the end. There is much subtle character
drawing. The New England teacher, true to her Puritan
ideals through long weary years of isolation and struggle,
will appeal to the kindergartner who so often must carry
the missionary spirit into untried fields. We are let into
the secrets of the cruel manipulation of the cotton
market by the Northern financier, in a very powerful
chapter; and the trial scene presents an interesting
psychological study in its portrayal of the two leading
men, each true to his own code of honor, tho [sic
] it mean
loss to himself; each unable to understand the others [sic
standpoint in a certain particular; each quite unaware
of his own moral obliquity in the advantage he takes,
the one in the great financial markets of the world, the
other in the smaller local labor market. The book may
hurt, in a measure our self-esteem; but it should increase
our intelligent outlook upon the politics involved, the
economics, the ethics, of a serious problem. There are
evil tendencies, as there are noble possibilities, in the
colored folk, as in every other people; they are distinctly
human. The sooner we co-operate with them in their
struggle toward a noble self-realization, the less of a problem
we leave for posterity. Some years ago race-prejudice
wreaked a terrible injustice upon a French Jew.
The closing lines of Edwin Markham in his great
Dreyfus poem read thus,
"Tis no avail to bargain, sneer and nod,
And shrug the shoulder in reply to God."
Note 1 — Citation:
Anonymous. "The Quest of the Silver Fleece. By W. E. B. DuBois." Kindergarten-Primary Magazine
, 25:1 (September 1912): p.59.
"Negro" is not capitalized in the original text.
Edwin Markham's poem "Dreyfus" can be viewed online at Google Books here
CONTEMPORARY SECONDARY SOURCES ON QUEST
In "The Negro in American Fiction
" (1916) Benjamin Brawley discussed both Black and White authors as regards their portrayals of African Americans in works of literature. Wrote Brawley:
"Professor DuBois's "The Quest of the Silver Fleece" contains at least one strong dramatic situation; but the author is a sociologist and essayist rather than a novelist." (p.450)
Benjamin Brawley. "The Negro in American Fiction." The Dial
, v.60 (May 11, 1916): 445-450.
George Edmund Haynes in The Trend of the Races
(1922) praised Quest
The "Quest of the Silver Fleece", and the prose poems in "Souls of Black Folk" and "Darkwater" will win for W. E. B. DuBois a place as a writer long after the controversies over the "race problem" are ended. (p.76)
George Edmund Haynes. The Trend of the Races
. NY: Council of Women for Home Missions and Missionary Education Movement of the United States and Canada, 1922.
William Stanley Braithwaite
in his essay "The Negro in American Literature" (1925) surveys both the depiction of African Americans in U.S. fiction but also the creative works in multiple genres written by African American authors. In the following extended, verbatim quotation, Braithwaite lauds Du Bois—paying special attention to The Souls of Black Folk
—and then briefly describes and praises Quest
Let me refer briefly to a type of literature in which there have been many pens, but a single mind. Dr. Du Bois is the most variously gifted writer which the race has produced. Poet, novelist, sociologist, historian and essayist, he has produced books in all these fields with the exception, I believe, of a formal book of poems, and has given to each the distinction of his clear and exact thinking, and of his sensitive imagination and passionate vision. The Souls of Black Folk
was the book of an era; it was a painful book, a book of tortured dreams woven into the fabric of the sociologist's document. This book has more profoundly influenced the spiritual temper of the race than any other written in its generation. It is only through the intense, passionate idealism of such substance as makes The Souls of Black Folk
such a quivering rhapsody of wrongs endured and hopes to be fulfilled that the poets of the race with compelling artistry can lift the Negro into the only full and complete nationalism he knows—that of the American democracy. No other book has more clearly revealed to the nation at large the true idealism and high aspiration of the American Negro.
In this book, as well as in many of Dr. Du Bois's essays, it is often my personal feeling that I am witnessing the birth of a poet, phoenix-like, out of a scholar. Between The Souls of Black Folk
, published four years ago, Dr. Du Bois has written a number of books, none more notable, in my opinion, than his novel The Quest of the Silver Fleece
, in which he made Cotton the great protagonist of fate in the lives of the Southern people, both white and black. I only know of one other such attempt and accomplishment in American fiction—that of Frank Norris —and I am somehow
of the opinion that when the great epic novel of the South is written this book will prove to have been its forerunner. (pp.40-41)
Braithwaite, W.S. 1925. "The Negro in American Literature." Pp.29-44 in Alain Locke (Ed.), The New Negro: An Interpretation
(NY: Albert & Charles Boni, Inc.).
The New Negro
, edited by Alain Locke, is not in the public domain, but a web search on Bing
may often locate items as they become available online.
published "The Negro's Contribution to American Art and Literature" in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
, Vol. 140 (November 1928), pp. 234-247. He covered poetry, fiction, short stories, and music written by African Americans (with many authors mentioned by name), as well as White attitudes towards African American literature. Locke evaluated Quest
in two places within the article. In a section on dialect poetry, Locke wrote:
. . . DuBois was followed by the majority of the talented class and himself undertook a semi-propagandist school of social document fiction, of which "The Quest of the Silver Fleece " (1911) is representative, and sentimental belles-lettres of which "Darkwater" is the classic expression. This literature of assertion and protest did perform a valuable service, however, for it encouraged and vindicated cultural equality, and at the price of much melodramatic sentimentalism, did induce a recovery of morale for purely cultural pursuits and self-expression. [p.240-241]
A few pages later, Locke compared Du Bois' fiction with that of later African American authors:
More significantly still, sociologically, is the field of fiction. Here arrival at maturity represents more than emotional or technical control, resting as it does on the capacity for social analysis and criticism. Viewed in contrast with such masterfully objective and balanced portrayals of Harlem life as Rudolph Fisher's "The Walls of Jericho" and Claude McKay's "Home to Harlem," the Negro novel of ten or even five years back seems generations less mature. For the work of DuBois, "The Quest of the Silver Fleece ," and even his recent novel "Dark Princess," Jessie Fauset's "There is Confusion," and Walter White's "Fire in the Flint" and "Flight" are all essentially in the category of problem literature, and gain half or more of their value as "social documents." [pp.243-244]
Note: Because of its date of publication, this issue of the Annals
is not available in the public domain. However, a web search via Bing
might locate the essay when it becomes available online.
LATER SECONDARY SOURCES ON QUEST
Leslie Black wrote the New Negro Novelist and His Development
in 1949 as a Master's thesis for the Department of English at Kansas State College of Agriculture and Applied Science. The author discussed the writers of the Harlem Renaissance. Leslie Black provided a brief bio of Du Bois and also briefly sketched Du Bois's second published novel Dark Princess
(1928). As regards Quest
we read the following short description and assessment of the novel from the thesis:
The Quest of the Silver Fleece, probably influenced by Frank Morris's trilogy on wheat, has three main themes: the economic position of the Negro agricultural laborer, the subsidizing of certain Negro schools, and Negro life and society in the city of Washington. The tense racial relations in Toomsville, Alabama, the center of the cotton Industry are portrayed. DuBois also satirizes the black and white politicians in Washington and the Southern landowning aristocracy. He discloses divergent Northern attitudes toward Negro education.
The book surpasses earlier Negro novels because of its background of scholarly investigation and because it fore-shadows the social protest novels which were to come later. Plot and character are subordinated to the effect of the cotton industry on Negroes and poor whites alike in The Quest of the Silver Fleece. Poor whites and Negroes are pitted against each other in order to keep the white land barons in power and the caste system of the South is contrasted against the practicality of the Yankee. [p.31]
The Black Press and the Shaping of Protest in African American Literature, 1840-1935
(2009) by Anthony Carlisle [faculty page
] is a dissertation submitted in August 2009 to the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, The School of Graduate Studies and Research. Anthony Carlisle examines how Du Bois as well as Frederick Douglass, James Weldon Johnson and Pauline E. Hopkins utilized journalism to present their analysis and perspectives on racial, racial, and class injustices. Carlisle covers various works of Du Bois's, including The Souls of Black Folk
, and Dark Princess
. Regarding DuBois's Quest of the Silver Fleece
, he wrote:
Again although the issues of economics and equality have been written about often by Du Bois in his journalism work, his literature provides the emotional lift that his journalism can not. Du Bois, like [James Weldon] Johnson and [Pauline E.] Hopkins, is influenced by twentieth century journalism standards that focus on objectivity, fairness, and hard facts. Literature is not bound by those constraints. Nonetheless, what we see with the novel Quest
is an expose of the cotton sharecropping industry in the journalistic realm of investigative reporting and muckraking traditions. However, as Wienen and Kraft [citation
] pointed out Du Bois's use of literature removes the bluntness in the message with softer edges. Instead of reporting or arguing the need for poor exploited workers to unite as he did in the pages of the Crisis
, this argument is dramatized through the simple exchange between Zora and the white woman, who has in tow her crippled son, as a result of corporate greed and capitalism.
Carlisle concludes his study of Du Bois as follows:
We are better informed readers of Du Bois's literature because of his journalism. We have a greater understanding through his journalism as to Du Bois used art to protest social wrongs. Du Bois saw art as just another means to call attention to issues that needed public protest. Just like his spiritual godfather in Frederick Douglass, Du Bois understood that the strongest way to garner public attention was through the press. He, like Douglass before him, understood the power of the press, and he went about harnessing that power to address issues like equality that were important in the African American community. His journalism through the years provided a blueprint for his literature to follow. Du Bois's journalism protest was the catalyst for the protest writing seen and valued in his literature, making him both a strong newsman and a great propagandist.
"America Before 1950: Black Writers' Views
" (1969) by James A. Emanuel. In the article Emanuel analyzed various African American authors and their works. Regarding Quest
, he wrote:
"Du Bois's scholarly novel, The Quest of the Silver Fleece
(1911), brought a new factual political sophistication into the narration of racial struggle, for he explained how the cotton industry affected Washington politics, Northern industrialism, and Southern prejudice." (p.28)
James A. Emanuel. "America Before 1950: Black Writers' Views." Negro Digest
, 18:10 (August 1969): 26-34, 67-69.
"Negotiation of African American Identities in Rural America: A Cultural Contracts Approach
", written by Ronald L. Jackson II (website
) and James B. Stewart (faculty page
), was published in the Journal of Rural Community Psychology
(Vol. E4(1), 2001 [Special Issue]). The authors examine the rural identity development of African Americans via analyzing two psychological approaches to racial identity formation — the reformist and radical approaches — and then theorize a cultural contracts paradigm as the basis for further research. They define the reformist model:
In the reformist model the process of racial identity development is interwoven with the processes by which individuals develop the general capacity to function in the general social milieu. The development of a "Black identity" requires "transformation" of a pre-existing identity structure that occurs largely in reaction to a particularly traumatic event. Theorists in this tradition generally focus little attention on the extent to which earlier negative experiences either enhance or retard receptivity to transformation. The term "reformist" appropriately conveys the implicit assumption that an individual will continue to operate primarily within the same socio-environmental context both before and after the transformation process is initiated even though her/his mental processes are altered.
Jackson and Stewart define the radical approach as follows:
The radical school of Black psychology maintains that restoration of mental health requires reorientation, i.e. complete immersion in an authentic African definitional system, recognizing that different types of intervention may be required to address different types of misorientation. One dimension of such an African definitional system is a community-based system of African-centered lifestyle rituals that span the life cycle.
The authors then utilize Du Bois's Quest as a fictional example to illustrate some of the dynamics of African American rural identity formation:
Du Bois used the characters in his published and unpublished novels to explore variations in the psychological orientations of rural African Americans. In The Quest of the Silver Fleece
, Blessed Alwyn and Zora Cresswell represent the extremes of personality types within the Black population in the post-Civil War Southern United States. Zora, a wild, sensual, uneducated girl raised in the swamp, had been exposed neither to the socialization processes of the majority culture nor to the institutions indigenous to the Black plantation experience in the South. In contrast, Bles had been reared on a plantation, but reflecting Du Bois' own orientation, he had produced an intense commitment to formal education. However, Du Bois interestingly projects uncritical commitment to formal education as dysfunctional because the traditional content reinforced the status quo and inadequately prepared its recipients to address the realities of the subordination of Blacks. Thus elements of both the reformist and radical approaches are reflected in the implied optimal strategy for psychic liberation.
[. . . .]
All of Du Bois' characters [in his various fictional works] demonstrate this trait, even the Uncle Tom caricatures. This ability is in line with Du Bois' belief that all human beings are active agents shaping the direction of history. General knowledge of the larger society alone, however, is not sufficient to allow an effective accommodation to the pressures of psychic duality. This must be combined with a positive perception of the Black Experience. Du Bois appears to adopt the position that balance in the "double-consciousness" is more sustainable if an Afro-centric appreciation of racial differences occurs early rather than later in an individual's life. In general, his heroines have developed a positive view of the Black Experience at an earlier point in their socialization than the male protagonists. Some sort of precipitating event is more likely to be needed by males, perhaps because women may be closer to organic Black culture, for example the Black church. The role of the matriarch requires special scrutiny.
For Du Bois, then, double consciousness is indeed a universal phenomenon among Blacks. The resistance to pressures to submerge the essence of Black identity varies across personality types and individual circumstances, but all face the problem of "warring ideals."
The authors end the article by setting forth the assumptions and testable propositions of a cultural contacts approach that can be used to theorize the identity development of marginalized individuals in the midst of asymmetrical relations of societal power.
"Du Bois' The Quest of
The Silver Fleece: Sociology Through Fiction
", written by Rashad L. James, was
published online in Sociation Today
, the journal of the North Carolina Sociological
Association (v10:n2, Fall/Winter 2012). Rashad James related various sociological works and
analyses by Du Bois to the issues and themes of Quest
. Such sociological works included
, among others, various Atlanta University Studies, his essays in the The Negro in the
(1907), and his letters referring to the Calhoun School in Lowndes County, Alabama.
James addressed the specific aims of his essay:
The purpose of this essay was to demonstrate how Du Bois used fiction to portray sociological facts on race relations impacting an African American community at the beginning of the twentieth
century as portrayed by his novel The Quest of the Silver Fleece. It is argued that the
African American community depicted in The Quest of the Silver Fleece reflects
conditions that were present in Lowndes County, Alabama in 1906. Du Bois therefore utilized
fiction to display his sociological findings for the suppressed Lowndes County study.
The Ideology of the Greco-Roman World & its Effect on W.E.B. Du Bois: A Study of Subversive Themes in African-American History
was written by Katrina H.B. Keefer as her M.A. Thesis for Trent University (2009). She analyzed the Greek and Roman myths that Du Bois employed in The Souls of Black Folk
, The Quest of the Silver Fleece
, and other works. In her Abstract she summarized her argument:
This thesis explores how the traditional classical education of the European elite
acted to demonstrate to W.E.B. Du Bois another view of history, and further examines
how Du Bois used the material of the ancient world to convey his then-subversive
message of equality. By focusing on Du Bois' early life and accomplishments, then on the
ancient world both as it is understood today, and as it was understood and appreciated in
his time, we can compare his experience to the contemporary nineteenth century and early
twentieth century African-American ideology, and determine how Du Bois uniquely used
his mastery of the Classics to further his philosophy and goals. In a close study of Du Bois'
own published and unpublished texts and letters, we can see how he used Classical
references and language to highlight his erudition and to emphasize the agency of his
people within history; prior to Du Bois' time, the agency of Africans in empire-building
and ancient architecture was hotly debated, making Du Bois' prevalent Classical
metaphors a challenge to accepted views of his period. [p. ii]
Specifically, Keefer described the Greek myth of Jason and the Golden Fleece as well as Jason's interactions with the witch Medea (pp.108-113). Keefer argued that Zora in QSF
takes on various aspects of the Medea role in the myth, but with a crucial difference in Du Bois's novel. She wrote:
Zora goes to work as a maid with another white female character, and it is at this stage that Du Bois presents Zora educating herself with the assistance of Mrs. Vanderpool's library, experiencing Homer and Demosthenes in rich and vibrant detail. Made self-aware and connected to a non-white past as Du Bois himself was, Zora is empowered, and by the end of the novel, returns to the sharecropping region to succeed and buy land for cultivation in the swamp. In altering the familiar tragic mythology, Du Bois is here presenting his audience with his own ideology regarding how a modern and African-American Medea might elevate herself beyond the destructive hunger for revenge, through education and conscious awareness. [p.119]
"Du Bois the Novelist: White Influence, Black Spirit, and The Quest of the Silver Fleece
" (1999) by Maurice Lee [faculty page]
. He writes:
. . . Du Bois is anchored by "wonderful fact," an apt description for his use of genre in The Quest of the Silver Fleece
. On the one hand, he invokes the wonderful --
the power of love and human freedom. On the other, he is concerned with fact --
with the Realpolitik of power and difference that affected African Americans. Neither mode alone is sufficient, and so Du Bois deploys a type of twoness. With a realist's eye for social critique, he condemns Northern industry and Southern mythology. With a romancer's faith in possibility, he rejects social Darwinism's fatal universe and theories of scientific racism.
Maurice Lee. "Du Bois the Novelist: White Influence, Black Spirit, and The Quest of the Silver Fleece
." African American Review
, 33:3 (Fall 1999):
The article is no longer accessible at <academicroom.com> or <findarticles.com>.
"W.E.B. Du Bois, Higher Education, and the Black Intellectual
" is an essay written by Lavelle Porter [web site
] and published on 21 April 2018 in Black Perspectives
. Dr. Porter examines Du Bois's first published novel in terms of the difficulties faced by African Americans who sought education within a White-dominated society that feared educated Black workers. He concludes:
The Quest of the Silver Fleece is an example of how Du Bois used fictional narratives to aestheticize the Black educational experience and give it a heroic trajectory. For Du Bois and other Black writers of academic novels, the form is a means by which they articulate their subjectivity as intellectuals, as artists, and as producers of knowledge. It is a genre that allows the Black intellectual to interrogate their relationship to academic institutionalism, and to express the possibilities and potentials of an academic life.
W.E.B. Du Bois and the Use of Social Science and Fiction in the Fight against American Racism 1897-1911
was written by Bruce Edward Twyman as his M.A. Thesis for Clark Atlanta University in the Department of African American Studies (1991). In his Abstract, he provided this synopsis:
Between 1897 and 1911, W.E.B. Du Bois was vigorously involved in the fight against American racism. In this struggle he used both social scientific methodology and fiction. However, he decided that social science would be his primary tool. Du Bois thought racism was based on misconceptions, and he believed these could be overcome with scientific studies. This thesis will examine how DuBois developed his scientific beliefs, and the extent to which Booker T. Washington and his supporters obstructed DuBois's scientific plans. In this regard, the thesis will explore the special significance of his first novel, The Quest of the Silver Fleece, in his fight against racism.
In Chapter III, "Fiction as Weapon against Racism," he further specified his argument.
By 1911, W.E.B. Du Bois had departed from Atlanta University and his scientific study in Lowndes County had been destroyed. Both of these incidents had very significant impact on his decision to no longer make science his primary method for fighting racism in America. At that time Du Bois decided that his primary means for fighting racism would be propaganda. One important aspect of propaganda, which Du Bois would use, was fiction. Du Bois's use of fiction actually predates his scientific work. The manner in which Du Bois used fiction to fight racism will be examined. Special attention will be given to the similarities between his first novel, The Quest of the Silver Fleece and his suppressed Lowndes County study.  [p.69]
This thesis may be cited as:
Twyman, Bruce Edward. 1991. "W.E.B DuBois and the Use of Social Science and Fiction in the Fight against American Racism 1897-1911". ETD Collection for Robert W. Woodruff Library, Atlanta University Center. Paper 1131. http://digitalcommons.auctr.edu/dissertations/1131
"How the Socialism of W.E.B. Du Bois Still Matters: Black Socialism in The Quest of the Silver Fleece
" (2007) by Mark Van Wienen [faculty page]
and Julie Kraft. They write:
The fullest expression of Du Bois's early socialism comes not in his nonfiction prose but in his first novel his 1911 romance the Quest of the Silver Fleece
, which offers both a specifically socialist critique of US economics and an alternative economic model originating in cooperative, southern black folkways.
Citation: Mark Van Wienen & Julie Kraft. 2007. "How the Socialism of W.E.B. Du Bois Still Matters: Black Socialism in The Quest of the Silver Fleece—and Beyond." African American Review, 41:1 (2007): 67-85.
In their interpretation of Quest
Van Wienen & Julie Kraft delineate three points. In the following quotation the bold face text was added to the original so as to spotlight those three points on screen:
The . . . essay both describes the early development of Du Bois's socialism and analyzes the significance of that development. We find three ramifications especially for interpretations of Du Bois and, by extension, for an understanding of African American socialism. First, an early date prevents Du Bois's radical social democracy from being dismissed as an idiosyncracy of his elder years: instead of being the product of his marginalization by the civil rights establishment, Du Bois's socialism was cultivated and maintained during the period when he was the most visible and influential of black Americans, and it was articulated in the pages of the Crisis whereby it reached tens of thousands of NAACP members. An earlier emergence of Du Bois's socialism thus places social democracy closer to the center of African American politics than has usually been supposed. Second, an early date for Du Bois's socialism counteracts the impression that it was unduly influenced by models ill-suited to black America, particularly the supposedly "color-blind" socialism of the Second Internationale. Therefore, although American socialists of this period were seldom able to recognize fully the theoretical contributions being made by Du Bois and other black socialists, those contributions stand, in retrospect, as vital and original developments in American socialism. Moreover, our understanding of Du Boisian socialism has a third important implication, for it helps disentangle Du Bois's socialism from the influence of the Comintern, thereby facilitating a proper emphasis not only on the independence of Du Boisian black socialism but also on Du Bois's commitment to democratic and nonviolent means to achieve social democratic ends.
The article is NO longer accessible at <findarticles.com> because the site is defunct.
"Du Bois, W. E. B.: The Quest of the Silver Fleece
" by Robert W. Williams is a profile of the novel summarizing its plot, significance, and critical reception (December 2009). The Literary Encyclopedia
is an Internet-based reference work covering literarture, history, philosophy, and other intellectual topics. A yearly subscription is required to view more than an excerpt of the article.
The Calhoun School
, a rural private school located in Lowndes County, Alabama, was established in 1892 by two White female instructors originally teaching at Hampton Institute, Mabel Dillingham and Charlotte Thorn.
According to David Levering Lewis, the Calhoun School served as the exemplar for the fictional school headed by Susan Smith in The Quest of the Silver Fleece
(see Lewis' W.E.B. Du Bois, Vol.1
via Google Books).
The school created an African American community of farmers wherein Blacks received a basic education, including industrial-style training. Farming techniques were taught and practiced at the school farm. Moreover, the school provided a way by which families could receive loans to purchase plots of land, thus assisting them on the road to eventual property ownership.
The Rev. Pitt Dillingham became a principal at the school after the untimely death of his sister, Mabel Dillingham [see a brief Dillingham family genealogy
Booker T. Washington supported the school (see his eulogy
at the funeral of Ms. Dillingham in October 1894). In 1943 the Calhoun School became a public school under the supervision of the Lowndes County Board of Education.
Du Bois considered the work of the Calhoun School to be of particular importance for African Americans in the rural South:
My honest belief is that what has been done in Lowndes County under the Calhoun school and the sensible farseeing guardianship of John Lemon, Pitt Dillingham, and Charlotte Thorn, could be duplicated in every single black belt county of the south.
Du Bois, W.E.B. "The Economic Future of the Negro." Publications of the American Economic Association
, 3rd Series, v.7 (1906): 219-242, at p.236
The following links point to online sources describing the goals and significance of the Calhoun School as well as recounting varied, often personal, experiences of the school:
By Charlotte Thorn & Mabel Dillingham
(Founders of the Calhoun School)
* "Calhoun Colored School: Report of Work." Lend a Hand
, 13:1 (July 1894): 52-55.
at Google Books]
Works by Rev. Pitt Dillingham
(with reference to the Calhoun School)
* "Calhoun Colored School, I." Lend a Hand
, 15:3 (September 1895): 206-211.
at Google Books]
* "Calhoun Colored School, II." Lend a Hand
, 15:5 (November 1895): 369-376.
at Google Books]
* "Land Tenure Among the Negroes." The Yale Review
, v.5 (August 1896): 190-206.
at Google Books]
* "Testimony of Rev. Pitt Dillingham, Principal[,] Calhoun Colored School, Calhoun, Ala." 8 April
1898. U.S. Industrial Commission. Reports of the Industrial Commission, v.10: Agricultue and Agricultural Labor
. Washington, D.C.: G.P.O., 1901.
at Google Books]
* "The Settlement Idea in the Cotton Belt." The Outlook
, 70:15 (12 April 1902): 920-922.
at Google Books]
Other Contemporary Sources
(pertinent to the Calhoun School)
* Anonymous. "In Aid of Colored Men; Work That Is Carried on in the Calhoun School in Alabama. Good Effects of the Settlement Aim to Elevate the Race, Teach Ways of Earning a living, and Practical Christianity--Mr. Dillingham's Mission." New York Times
, 21 January 1896; p.9.
at the NY Times
archive; Free registration is required]
* Anonymous. "Calhoun Negro Settlement; Devoted to the Education and Material Advancement of the Freedman in Alabama's Black Belt. New York Times
, 28 April 1897; p.7.
at the NY Times
archive; Free registration is required]
* Davis, J.E. "Hampton in the Field: I. 'De Mornin' Star'; An account of the work of Hampton graduates now at the Calhoun Colored School, Alabama." The Southern Workman
, 43:8 (August 1914): 447-455.
at Google Books]
* Frissell, H.B. "Hampton Insitutue." Pp.117-152 in
From Servitude to Service
. Boston: American Unitarian Association, 1905. [Calhoun School: pp.145-148]
at Google Books]
* Henderson, Charles Richmond. Modern Methods of Charity
. NY: Macmillan Comp., 1904. [Rural Industrial Schools—Calhoun: p.500]
at Google Books]
* Richings, G.F. Evidences of Progress among Colored People
. Philadelphia: Geo. S. Ferguson Co., 1905. [Calhoun Colored School: pp.463-465]
at Google Books]
Later Secondary Sources
(on the Calhoun School)
* Digital History, University of Houston. "The Calhoun Industrial School Exhibit: Photograph Album with Cyanotypes."
at Digital History, University of Houston]
* Ellis, Rose Herlong. "The Calhoun School, Miss Charlotte Thorn's 'Lighthouse on the Hill' in Lowndes County, Alabama." The Alabama Review
, 37:3 (July 1984): 183-201.
at Digital History, University of Houston]
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