Professor and the Pupil

The Politics and Friendship of W.E.B. Du Bois and Paul Robeson

May 1, 2008

Murali Balaji (Nation Books)

As a brown-skinned person in America, I've always been fascinated by black history and felt it to be an integral part of my education as an American. During this frenzied presidential election year, I've read some editorials saying that the popularity and electability of Barack Obama marks the end of the civil rights era. Yet, I look at the targeting of South Asians and Muslims and know that the end is nowhere in sight. So reading about the McCarthy era alienation of two of America's greatest black intellectuals in journalist and novelist Murali Balaji's in-depth The Professor and the Pupil: The Politics and Friendship of W.E.B. Du Bois and Paul Robeson seems almost necessary at this time of rapid change. Way better than a straightforward biography of Du Bois, Balaji's book analyzes not so much the achievements of Du Bois and Robeson-a lawyer turned actor and singer-but how their fall came from their radicalization. Though not overtly stated in the text, Balaji's book subtly parallels what happens to Du Bois and Robeson-both of whom fled the persecution in America-to America's current post-9/11 policies and rhetoric. Professor and Pupil manages to be an inspirational look at independent thinkers and a horrifying insight into how the American government destroys people. 

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