Robert Gooding-Williams, "Beauty as Propaganda: On the Political Aesthetics of W.E.B. Du Bois"

What has art or, more exactly, beautiful art, to contribute to a politics that would break the color bar and dismantle racial hierarchy? In this essay, Robert Gooding-Williams explores W.E.B. Du Bois’s answer to this question, which he adumbrates through a series of publications extending from the 1910 appearance of “The Souls of White Folk” to the well-known “Criteria of Negro Art,” an essay that initially appeared in the October 1926 issue of The Crisis. The substance of his answer, Gooding-Williams proposes, is that beautiful art, by casting moral goodness in an unfamiliar light, can help to undermine racial oppression.

Robert Gooding-Williams is M. Moran Weston/Black Alumni Council Professor of African-American Studies and Professor of Philosophy and of African American and African Diaspora Studies, and Director of the Center for Race, Philosophy, and Social Justice at Columbia University.

This Dewey Lecture in Law and Philosophy was presented on February 10, 2021.