ABSTRACT

The artistic and cultural work of Toni Morrison attests to the truth of W.E.B. Du Bois’s 1903 prophecy that the problem of the twentieth century would be the problem of the color line. Among the most important public intellectuals of the century, Morrison, like Du Bois, has emphasized the pri­ macy of the pedagogical in her literary and critical writings, drawing atten­ tion to the ways in which knowledge, power, and identities are produced under specific conditions of learning within the academy and outside of it. Central to the pedagogy of both Du Bois and Morrison are the cultural tra­ ditions of African Americans and their accessibility to future generations of black intellectuals. In 1946 Du Bois wrote:

Situated in the distinctive African American cultural traditions to which Du Bois once alluded, Morrison’s literary work valorizes the “discredited knowledges” of the folk: traditional African cosmology and the lore of African Americans, the centrality of community, and the importance of the African ancestors-values and value systems that challenge the hegemonic paradigms privileged by the academy (James 1995).