Details of Duat: W.E.B. DuBois and Black Pageants


For Daniel Alexander Jones, inspiration for Duat has come from many different aspects of culture and history. We asked Daniel to give us a list of some of the things that inspired his work and are presenting them here in a series we call Details of Duat.

A prominent African-American mind of the 19th and 20th centuries, W.E.B. DuBois receives recognition for many aspects of his career. He was a prolific author, a civil rights leader and one of the co-founders of the NAACP. However, an often overlooked portion of his career is his work in the theater, where he helmed one of the largest black pageants of all time, The Star of Ethiopia.

DuBois once wrote an essay called The Drama Among Black Folk that stated –

The Negro is essentially dramatic. His greatest gift to the world has been and will be a gift of art, of appreciation and realization of beauty.”

It is from that thought that he was inspired to create The Star of Ethiopia, which was a piece for over 1,000 performers that depicted the history of black people starting in 50,000 B.C. and ending in the early 20th century. The pageant only went up on four separate occasions due to its massive scale. However, during those four productions over 30,000 people saw the pageant performed!

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Between the 1916 production in Philadelphia and the 1925 production in Los Angeles, the poet Lucien B. Watkins wrote a poem dedicated to the pageant in DuBois’ magazine The Crisis. The poem is also titled “The Star of Ethiopia.”

Out in the Night thou art the sun
Toward which thy soul-charmed children run,
The faith-high height whereon they see
The glory of their Day To Be–
The peace at last when all is done.

The night is dark but, one by one,
Thy signals, ever and anon,
Smile beacon answers to their plea,
Out in the Night.

Ah, Life! thy storms these cannot shun;
Give them a hope to rest upon,
A dream to dream eternally,
The strength of men who would be free
And win the battle race begun,
Out in the Night.

Such pageantry is instrumental to Duat, just as is W.E.B DuBois himself.


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