Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

"Broad Sympathy:": Howard University's DuBoisian Approach to Blackness & The Humanities

Prof Dana A. Williams.

"Now the training of men is a difficult task. Its technique is a matter for educational experts, but its object is for the vision of seers. If we make money the object of man-training, we shall develop money-makers but not necessarily men; if we make technical skill the object of education, we may possess artisans, but not, in nature men. Men we shall have only as we make manhood the object of the work of the schools—intelligence, broad sympathy, knowledge of the world that was and is, and of the relation of men to it—this is the curriculum of the Higher Education which must underlie true life" (W. E. B. DuBois “The Talented Tenth” par. 1; italics added)

This essay investigates the viability of Howard University's Division of Humanites' approach to world literature and the Division's attempt to create for its students a feeling of "at homeness" with peoples of the world. "Broad Sympathy: Humanities I & II" has been established as a two-semester course which encourages students to learn to situate their personal and communal experiences within the broader context of both American and global cultures. As a matter of function, the course highlights connections between distinctly Black or diasporic experiences and more universal occurrences ranging from the days of Homer and Sophocles to contemporary America, all the while particularizing these experiences’ affinity with and differences from both communal Africana existences and individualized African American identities. What this essay seeks to do is to investigate the courses' effectiveness in highlighting the connectedness of all varied peoples of the world.


Prof Dana A. Williams  (United States)
Assistant Professor of African American Literature
Department of English
Howard University

  • Blackness
  • Broad Sympathy
  • World Literature
Person as Subject
  • W.E.B. DuBois Eleanor W. Traylor

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)