15 - Rescuing Heroes from Their Admirers: Heroic Proportions Imply Brobdingnagian Blemishes  pp. 287-294

Rescuing Heroes from Their Admirers: Heroic Proportions Imply Brobdingnagian Blemishes

By Wilson Jeremiah Moses

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Three criteria were applied in selecting the historical figures included in this volume. First, their intellectual activity and influence must have been observable between 1885 and 1923, the dates of the Douglass-Crummell confrontation at Harper's Ferry and the Du Bois-Garvey conflict in Harlem, although in all cases the conflicts implicitly extend beyond those years. Second, there had to be mutual antagonism between them and their contemporaries, and the results of these antagonisms must have been observable and persistent into the years when this book was being drafted. Third, every author considered must have left behind a body of writings, and these writings had to illustrate the presence of internal conflicts within their own ideologies and manifest the thought processes whereby they rationalized or attempted to reconcile them.

The five personalities that dominate these pages illustrate the dynamic and generative powers of contradiction and the energizing effects of struggle in all serious thought, but particularly African American thought during the so-called “progressive era.” The friction generated by the personality and ideology conflicts chronicled in these pages have led to the popular conceptions of these figures as saints, villains, or charlatans, conceptions that most college teachers discover in the remarks of their students. This is not surprising, since all were activists who sought to seize the fire of power through turbulent struggles in both the African American arena and in the larger arena of world history. The intellectual struggles and conflicts of these figures constitute the material that pervades these pages.