"THE PRICE OF REPRESSION IS GREATER THAN THE COST OF LIBERTY": FIRST EDITION OF W.E.B. DU BOIS' JOHN BROWN, 1909, THE WORK "HE CONSIDERED HIS BEST BOOK"
DU BOIS, W. E. Burghhardt, Ph.D. John Brown. Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs, (1909). Octavo, original blue cloth, top edge gilt. $2700.
First edition of Du Bois' powerful biography of John Brown, a defining work in which "Du Bois clarified his own mission," published the same year the NAACP was born and 50 years after the Harpers Ferry raid, with frontispiece portrait, a handsome copy in original cloth.
"In the crucial years after the publication of Souls of Black Folk (1904) Du Bois meditated over Brown's legacy. He chose Harpers Ferry as the venue for the historic Second Niagara meeting (1906) where he announced, 'Here on the scene of John Brown's martyrdom, we reconsecrate ourselves, our honor, and our property to the final emancipation of the race which John Brown died to make free'… Du Bois often mentioned John Brown as his predecessor." In 1909, the same year the NAACP was born from that Second Niagara meeting, and 50 years after the Harpers Ferry raid, "Du Bois published what he considered his best book, John Brown" (Reynolds, John Brown, 494). In writing John Brown, "Du Bois clarified his own mission and strategy… In fact, Du Bois' identification with Brown permitted a reading of Brown's political and professional life no other biographer has dared. For Du Bois, John Brown is significant because he recognized that 'the price of repression is greater than the cost of liberty'" (Husband, in Afterlife of John Brown, 159).
For many, "the most crucial feature of Du Bois' book is… its 'daring and dangerous' celebration of the black masses as the principal agent in the struggle for liberation in 19th-century America." To historian William Cain, Du Bois "strikingly Africanizes American history… depicting Africa as the source for the best achievement of America and the land to which America's gifts will eventually return. 'Only in a marginal way,' Cain observes, 'is John Brown 'about a white man.' Rather it is a celebration of black achievement and aspiration" (Ronda, Reading the Old Man, 152-3; emphasis in original). Published as a volume in the series titled, The American Crisis Biographies, edited by Ellis Paxon Oberholtzer. Frontispiece of John Brown with facsimile signature below portrait. As issued without dust jacket. Trace of bookplate removal. Small owner address label.
Text very fresh with lightest rubbing mainly to spine ends of bright cloth. A very scarce about-fine copy.