Dark Princess

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This article is about the novel. For the Russian rock band, see Dark Princess (band).
First edition (publ. Harcourt Brace)

Dark Princess, written by W. E. B. Du Bois in 1928, is one of his few fiction novels. One of Du Bois's favorite pieces,[1] the novel explores the beauty of people of darker races around the world, an attempt on the author's part to further legitimize points he strived to make his entire life: that black people, especially in America, are no less citizens than whites and that the richness and beauty of their culture is one celebrated around the world. The novel was not well received upon its publication [2] Criticized for its use of eroticism, the novel was also considered by some to represent a failed attempt at social realism.


The book is divided into four chapters: "The Exile," "The Pullman Porter," "The Chicago Politician," and "The Maharaja of Bwodphur". The sections deal with different stages in the protagonist's life, moving from his self-imposed exile in Germany to his employment as a porter[clarification needed] based in New York, then to his career as a politician in Chicago, and his return to Virginia, the land of his birth. While the sections trace the protagonist's growth into a revolutionary figure, they are otherwise largely unconnected.


The plot follows a character named Matthew Towns, a college student in his junior year at the University of Manhattan studying to be an obstetrician. Early on in the novel, Towns is told that not only is he barred from pursuing his career aspirations; he is not allowed to finish his academic studies. His status as a black American does enough to disqualify him from transcendence into the public world of medicine and from gaining access to caring for white female patients.

Towns is devastated until he makes the acquaintance of Princess Kautilya of Bwodpur, India, a beautiful black woman who reassures Towns of the importance of the history of black people in the world and the importance of their presence and impact of their beauty worldwide. The Princess takes him from his dreary world revolving around a stark color line between races and walks him through a vibrant world of prominent world leaders of color as well as those with negative impacts on the progress of blacks in America – evident by Du Bois’ illustration of Marcus Garvey through his character Perigua.[citation needed]

Their relationship is culminated when they bear a child who by birthright is the Maharajah of Bwodpur, a direct connection to royalty which Matthew Towns had never dreamed achievable for a black American man.[3]

Major themes[edit]

Du Bois's concerns in this novel seem to be an interest in internationalism, international racial solidarity, and corruptness and violent radicalism in the black American community.

Historical contexts[edit]

Some critics believe that the book was inspired by the 1911 First Universal Races Congress in London, which Du Bois attended.[4] In developing the character of Kautilya, Du Bois has been discussed as possibly drawing inspiration from a few historical figures, including an unnamed Indian princess at the Universal Races Congress, the Indian independence activist Bhikaji Cama,[5] and the Pan-African Congress organizer Ida Gibbs Hunt,[6] wife of William Henry Hunt.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Dark Princess (Banner Books)". Amazon.com. Retrieved February 24, 2011. 
  2. ^ Du Bois, William E. B. (1995). Dark Princess. University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 0-87805-764-1. 
  3. ^ "Race Discrimination". The New York Times. May 13, 1928. Retrieved June 16, 2014. 
  4. ^ Anonymous (September 1911). "The First Universal Race Congress in London, England". The American Missionary 45 (9): 323–324.  at "Webdubois.org". Retrieved February 24, 2011. 
  5. ^ Bhabha, Homi K. (2004). "The Black Savant and the Dark Princess". Esquire 50 (1st-3rd): 141-143. 
  6. ^ Roberts, Brian Russell (2013). Artistic Ambassadors: Literary and International Representation of the New Negro Era. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press. pp. 121–145.