All Events

AG Events

Chance Meetings Session 5: Saidiya Hartman on W.E.B. Du Bois’s Darkwater

Thursday, September 5, 2024


12:30 pm Eastern


Saidiya Hartman on W.E.B. Du Bois’s Darkwater

“I venture to write again on themes on which great souls have already said greater words, in the hope that I may strike here and there a half-tone up from the heart of my problem and the problems of my people,” wrote W.E.B. Du Bois in Darkwater, a collection of writings published in 1920, two decades after The Souls of Black Folk.

Throughout his extraordinary career, Du Bois’s worked to illuminate America’s understanding of the “problem of the color line.” While many early texts were sociological investigations of the Black community, Du Bois increasingly incorporated autobiographical, poetic, and spiritual elements.

Join Saidiya Hartman, whose Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments reimagines a young W.E.B. Du Bois, for a discussion of Darkwater—“his assemblage of stories, essays, poems, prayers, songs, parables and hymns, and an inventory of violence,” writes Hartman. “Its tone oscillates between rage and despair—some might even describe it as an ur-text of afro pessimism—but its mood is more tragic. What else is to be expected after decades of terror and disappointment? Darkwater is a red record of modern whiteness in the twentieth century.”

Students are encouraged to read the featured text in advance of the session.

A Q&A will follow the presentation, and a recording will be made available for those who cannot attend live.

The event will take place via Zoom with automatic closed captioning. To request any other accessibility features, please email and we will make every effort to accommodate.


Saidiya Hartman, award-winning scholar and historian, is the author of Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments; for which she won the National Book Critics Circle Award; Lose Your Mother; and Scenes of Subjection. She has been a MacArthur Fellow, Guggenheim Fellow, Cullman Fellow, and Fulbright Scholar. She is a University Professor at Columbia University and lives in New York.

Chance Meetings: online literary seminars featuring writers talking about classics of American literature

Presented by the Authors Guild Foundation, this new online literary seminar is inspired by Rachel Cohen’s A Chance Meeting, a dazzling group biography that offers a striking vision of the making and remaking of the American mind and imagination from the Civil War to the Vietnam War.

Following the book’s spirit and shape, the monthly sessions feature talks on beloved and thought-provoking classics of American literature by contemporary writers with a personal connection to the works they are discussing. Cohen herself will lead two talks and circulate an e-newsletter to students in the weeks between sessions.

View all Chance Meetings events here.