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Mark Lloyd: ‘Perhaps We Should Pay Some Heed to Both the Younger Hopeful Scholar and the Older Radical’

[I recently asked these four questions. Below is one reply, from Mark Lloyd. Please join the conversation either by tweeting @Digital_Du_Bois or by leaving a comment at the bottom of this or any other post on]

From Prologue to a Farce: Communication and Democracy in America, Mark Lloyd, Univ. of Illinois Press, 2007:

W.E.B. Du Bois, who had suffered through the disappointment of Wilson and Roosevelt, who was hounded during the communist hysteria years of Truman, had now heard President Eisenhower in 1958 urge blacks to be patient in pressing for full citizenship.  Du Bois would soon declare himself a Communist, a certain sign that this ardent Victorian democrat had given up all hope that America was capable of overcoming its racism or achieving democracy.  And one reason for this, he was now convinced, was the dominance of one faction over all other sectors in American society – big business.

The organized effort of American industry to usurp government surpasses anything in modern history. . . . From the use of psychology to spread truth has come the use of organized gathering of news to guide public opinion, then deliberately to mislead it by scientific advertising and propaganda . . . Mass capitalistic control of books and periodicals, news gathering and distribution, radio, cinema, and television has made the throttling of democracy possible and the distortion of education and failure of justice widespread.

If most black Americans would not join Du Bois and turn their backs on American capitalism, neither would they be patient . . . and with the help of a new medium, they would work to alter the racist regime of the American south forever.  And in their protests and litigation they would also come to alter communications policy.    

“The elder Du Bois, the hard-headed, if not always clear eyed, communist who split even from the organization he helped to found, despairing that the ‘color-line’would ever be resolved in America without the deliberate and unlikely effort of the power elite would have seen the prerogatives of that elite at work in the advance of ‘information technology.’ 

“He would warn us today, as he did then, of the ‘throttling of democracy’ and would have cited the inequality evident in the communications capability of women, minorities and the poor. 

“The younger Du Bois, the man who stood in opposition to Jim Crow and Booker T., the man whose research inspired Ralph Bunche to guide Gunner Myrdal, the man who urged ‘colored’ men to war to demonstrate their fitness to be called American in the magazine he called CRISIS … that Du Bois would have urged us to press on, to gather the facts, to be smarter about our analysis of the problems, and to use every tool available (from posters to Twitter) to spread the word that the forces that keep blacks in crisis in America will be exposed and conquered. 

“Perhaps we should pay some heed to both the younger hopeful scholar and the older radical.”

–Mark Lloyd
Associate General Counsel and Chief Diversity Officer of the Federal Communications Commission

**W.E.B. Du Bois, “Negroes and the Crisis of Capitalism in the United States,” Monthly Review 4 (April 1958) 478-85; also quoted in David Levering Lewis, W.E.B. Du Bois, The Fight for Equality and The American Century, 1919-1963 (New York: Henry Holt, 2000) p. 570.


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