Â Â Â That omission, Hairston contends, is disturbing not least because of its longevityâÂ from an early period of overt stereotyping and institutionalized racism right up to theÂ contemporary and, one would hope, more cosmopolitan and enlightened era. ChallengingÂ and correcting that persistent shortsightedness, Hairston examines several prominent blackÂ writersâ and scholarsâ deep investment in the classics as individuals, as well as the broaderÂ cultural investment in the classics and the values of the ancient world. Beginning with theÂ late-eighteenth-century verse of Phillis Wheatley, whose classically inspired poemsÂ functioned as a kind of Trojan horse to defeat white oppression, Hairston goes on to considerÂ the oratory of Frederick Douglass, whose rhetoric and ideas of virtue were much influencedÂ by Cicero, and the writings of educator Anna Julia Cooper, whose classical training was aÂ key source of her vibrant feminism. Finally, he offers a fresh examination of W. E. B.Â DuBoisâs seminal The Souls of Black Folk (1903) and its debt to antiquity, which volumes ofÂ commentary have largely overlooked.
Â Â Â The first book to appear in a new series, Classicism in American Culture, The EbonyÂ Column passionately demonstrates how the myths, cultures, and ideals of antiquity helpedÂ African Americans reconceptualize their role in a Euro-American world determined to makeÂ them mere economic commodities and emblems of moral and intellectual decay. To figuresÂ such as Wheatley, Douglass, Cooper, and DuBois, classical literature offered striking moral,Â intellectual, and philosophical alternatives to a viciously exclusionary vision of humanity,Â Africanity, the life of the citizen, and the life of the mind.
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