Katherine Fusco is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Nevada, Reno. Her books include Silent Film and U.S. Naturalist Literature: Time, Narrative, and Modernity and Kelly Reichardt (with Nicole Seymour). She is currently completing a project focused on celebrity and identification in the 1920s and 1930s. More information about Katherine's work is at www.katherinefusco.com.
To encounter black modernity via W. E. B. Du Bois is to tangle with questions of exemplarity and exceptionality. For my students in a large lecture class on the “American Experience,” many of whom are the first in their family to receive a college degree, many of whom are first- or second-generation immigrants, Booker T. Washington’s message of casting one’s bucket down can resonate more strongly than what they sometimes read as the elitism of Du Bois’s talented tenth. As a member of that tenth, Du Bois does not always speak to them—yeah, well, that guy went to Harvard, but that’s not most people; that’s not me.