Imperialism and Racism in Dark Princess by Du Bois Essay

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (1868 –1963), the celebrated sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, and intellectual leader in the United States, has been one of the most important champions of anti-racism and anti-imperialism. All through his tumultuous career, Du Bois worked earnestly to bring about an effective solution to the problem of racism and imperialism in the twentieth-century world. As Du Bois was extremely gifted in writing, he utilized his strengths as a writer to propagate his ideas against imperialism and racism, and his novel Dark Princess (1928) is celebrated for addressing the contemporary (1920s) global problems of western imperialism and racism. One of his few fiction novels, Dark Princess effectively deals with the beauty of people of darker races around the world and this work remains one convincing illustration of the author’s stand against imperialism and racism. Judged according to the values of an eroticized revolutionary art instead of social realism, Dark Princess is celebrated as a visionary work which offered Du Bois an opportunity to fulfill in fiction his greatest ambitions, dreams, and longings of world devoid of imperialism and racism, and this work is an evident illustration of “his tremendous intellectual energy to fighting racism (and imperialism) with the printed word… Here he prophesies an end of Western imperialism through the agency of a royal heir…” Therefore, it is indubitable that Du Bois’s Dark Princess explores the prevalence of global problems of western imperialism and racism in the world. This paper makes a profound investigation of how effectively W. E. B. Du Bois makes use of ‘the printed word’ as a means of addressing these issues, and it also explores what, according to the author, is a necessary means to combat imperialism and racism – violent resistance or political will/activism.

One of the central concerns of W. E. B. Du Bois in his favorite piece Dark Princess is how deeply western imperialism and racism were rooted in his contemporary world. Significantly, this novel is noted for the author’s interest in internationalism and international racial solidarity. Along with these overriding themes, the author also deals with the corruptness and aggressive radicalism in the black American community of his time. Most interestingly, the author was charmed by the promise of the second world movement of the Communist International on the questions of racial oppression and anti-colonialism, and the novel credits the Communist International of 1922 with the effects on the struggles of African-Americans. Through this novel, Du Bois takes part in the third world movement to fight the issues of western imperialism and racism. “The council of darker peoples in Dark Princess, with all its flaws, can be viewed as taking part in a third world movement: the council is both a fictional embodiment of the various Pan-Africanist movements and a critique of them.” Therefore, the major concerns of the novelist in Dark Princess have been to reveal his sentiments for the cause of anti-racial and anti-colonialist movements in the contemporary world.

In a profound investigation of the anti-racial and anti-colonialist sentiments of Du Bois in Dark Princess, it becomes evident that the author presents the problem of the color line as the innermost issue of the twentieth century world. One of the ever-present polemical themes of the writings by this civil rights activist and Pan-Africanist has been the problem of ‘the color line’, which is at the core of this novel as well. Through this theme, Du Bois attempts to pursue his quest for racial justice and civil rights and his reference to the problem of ‘the color line’ in the novel reveals this attempt. “Suddenly now there loomed plain and clear the shadow of a color line within a color line, a prejudice with prejudice, and he and his again the sacrifice.” Significantly, the growing despair of intractable ‘color line’ in the novel sums up the author’s concerns for the cause of the anti-racial movements, apart from bringing out his ‘ecstatic optimism’ about the race problem in his contemporary world. The most fundamental theme concerning the race problem of the world emphasizes the fact that the black people, especially in the United States of America, are as equally valuable citizens of the world as the whites, and their culture, with its richness and beauty, is celebrated all over the world.

The erotic fantasy or racial propaganda of the novel has been highly recognized by various critics of Dark Princess and the pageantry at the end of the novel entreats the readers to keep the faith in the erotic fantasy. Significantly, the pageantry at the end of the novel has been regarded by critics as a masque as well as a mask of optimism, by which the author attempts to relieve the race problem in the world. As Gillman and Weinbaum (2007) maintain, “Dark Princess’s pageantry implores the reader to keep the faith, not by pragmatically addressing the race problem, but by escaping it with divine approbation, messianic proclamation, and erotic fantasy.” Significantly, Du Bois’s ‘ecstatic optimism’ has central value in his attempt to address contemporary global problems of western racism in his novel. Relying on the displacements of time, place, and agency, Dark Princess presents the major issues concerned with the race problem and the resolution of this problem lies in the providential future of the world. It is fundamental to comprehend that Du Bois depends vaguely on human rather than divine agency to resolve the race problem. “Instead of awaiting for Omnipotence to solve the race problem, Du Bois places that responsibility on a royal infant who claims divinity through Kautilya’s lineage, an infant who is both a tribute to Du Bois’s own dead son Burghardt and a projection of his own egotistical desire…”

One fundamental question concerning how Du Bois addresses contemporary global problems of western imperialism and racism in his novel Dark Princess is which approach he adopts to combat imperialism and racism – violent resistance or political will/activism. A profound understanding of the major themes and concerns of the novel confirms that the novelist prefers the second method, i.e. political will/activism, rather than violent resistance, as a means to combat imperialism and racism. It is the power of social activism and political efforts that attracts the author in achieving his goals in countering western imperialism and racism. In conclusion, it is essential to establish that Du Bois effectively addresses the existing global problems of western imperialism and racism in his novel Dark Princess and he resorts to the path of political will/activism, rather than violent resistance, to combat these evils of the modern society.


Du Bois, William Edward Burghardt. Dark Princess: A Romance. University Press of Mississippi, 1928.

Gillman, Susan Kay., and Alys Eve Weinbaum. Next to the color line: gender, sexuality, and W.E.B. Du Bois. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007.

Luis-Brown, David. Waves of Decolonization: Discourses of Race and Hemispheric Citizenship in Cuba, Mexico, and the United States. Duke University Press, 2008.

Tate, Claudia. “Introduction.” Dark Princess: A Romance. William Edward Burghardt Du Bois. University Press of Mississippi, 1928.