From: C R Spinner <email@example.com>
Subject: DuBois: Our Heroes Live On (Long)
Date: Thu, 19 Jun 2003 11:42:05 -0700
Organization: Medlux InterNetNews site, Moscow, Russia
William Edward Burghardt DuBois, to his admirers, was by spirited devotion and scholarly dedication, an attacker of injustice and a defender of freedom.
A harbinger of Black nationalism and Pan-Africanism, he died in self-imposed exile in his home away from home with his ancestors of a glorious past—Africa.
Labeled as a
radical, he was ignored by those who hoped that
his massive contributions would be buried along side of him. But, as
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote,
history cannot ignore
W.E.B. DuBois because history has to reflect truth and Dr. DuBois was
a tireless explorer and a gifted discoverer of social truths. His
singular greatness lay in his quest for truth about his own
people. There were very few scholars who concerned themselves with
honest study of the black man and he sought to fill this immense
void. The degree to which he succeeded disclosed the great dimensions
of the man.
W.E.B. DuBois was born on February 23, 1868 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. At that time Great Barrington had perhaps 25, but not more than 50, Black people out of a population of about 5,000. Consequently, there were little signs of overt racism there. Nevertheless, its venom was distributed through a constant barrage of suggestive innuendoes and vindictive attitudes of its residents. This mutated the personality of young William from good natured and outgoing to sullen and withdrawn. This was later reinforced and strengthened by inner withdrawals in the face of real discriminations. His demeanor of introspection haunted him throughout his life.
While in high school DuBois showed a keen concern for the development of his race. At age fifteen he became the local correspondent for the New York Globe. And in this position he conceived it his duty to push his race forward by lectures and editorials reflecting upon the need of Black people to politicized themselves.
DuBois was naturally gifted intellectually and took pleasurable pride in surpassing his fellow students in academic and other pursuits. Upon graduation from high school, he, like many other New England students of his caliber, desired to attend Harvard. However, he lacked the financial resources to go to that institution. But with the aid of friends and family, and a scholarship he received to Fisk College (now University), he eagerly headed to Nashville, Tennessee to further his education.
This was DuBois’ first trip south. And in those three years at Fisk (1885–1888) his knowledge of the race problem became more definite. He saw discrimination in ways he never dreamed of, and developed a determination to expedite the emancipation of his people. Consequently, he became a writer, editor, and an impassioned orator. And in the process acquired a belligerent attitude toward the color bar.
Also, while at Fisk, DuBois spent two summers teaching at a county school in order to learn more about the South and his people. There he learned first hand of poverty, poor land, ignorance, and prejudice. But most importantly, he learned that his people had a deep desire for knowledge.
After graduation from Fisk, DuBois entered Harvard (via scholarships)
classified as a junior. As a student his education focused on
philosophy, centered in history. It then gradually began to turn
toward economics and social problems. As determined as he was to
attend and graduate from Harvard, he never felt himself a part of
it. Later in life he remarked
I was in Harvard but not of it.
He received his bachelor’s degree in 1890 and immediately began
working toward his master’s and doctor’s degree.
DuBois completed his master’s degree in the spring of 1891. However, shortly before that, ex-president Rutherford B. Hayes, the current head of a fund to educate Negroes, was quoted in the Boston Herald as claiming that they could not find one worthy to enough for advanced study abroad. DuBois’ anger inspired him to apply directly to Hayes. His credentials and references were impeccable. He not only received a grant, but a letter from Hayes saying that he was misquoted. DuBois chose to study at the University of Berlin in Germany. It was considered to be one of the world’s finest institutions of higher learning. And DuBois felt that a doctor’s degree from there would infer unquestionable preparation for ones life’s work.
During the two years DuBois spent in Berlin, he began to see the race problems in the Americas, Africa, and Asia, and the political development of Europe as one. This was the period of his life that united his studies of history, economics, and politics into a scientific approach of social research.
DuBois had completed a draft of his dissertation and needed another semester or so to finish his degree. But the men over his funding sources decided that the education he was receiving there was unsuitable for the type of work needed to help Negroes. They refused to extend him any more funds and encouraged him to obtain his degree from Harvard. Which of course he was obliged to do. His doctoral thesis, The Suppression of the African Slave Trade in America, remains the authoritative work on that subject, and is the first volume in Harvard’s Historical Series.
At the age of twenty-six, with twenty years of schooling behind him, DuBois felt that he was ready to begin his life’s work. He accepted a teaching job at Wilberforce in Ohio at the going rate of $800.00 per year. (He also had offers from Lincoln in Missouri and Tuskegee in Alabama.)
The year 1896 was the dawn of a new era for DuBois. With his doctorate degree and two undistinguished years at Wilberforce behind him, he readily accepted a special fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania to conduct a research project in Philadelphia’s seventh ward slums. This responsibility afforded him the opportunity to study Blacks as a social system.
DuBois plunged eagerly into his research. He was certain that the race
problem was one of ignorance. And he was determined to unearth as much
knowledge as he could, thereby providing the
cure for color
prejudice. His relentless studies led into historical investigation,
statistical and anthropological measurement, and sociological
The outcome of this exhaustive endeavor was published as The
It revealed the Negro group as a symptom, not a
cause; as a striving, palpitating group, and not an inert, sick body
of crime; as a long historic development and not a transient
This was the first time such a scientific approach to studying social phenomena was undertaken, and as a consequence DuBois is acknowledged as the father of Social Science. After the completion of the study, DuBois accepted a position at Atlanta University to further his teachings in sociology. For thirteen years there he wrote and studied Negro morality, urbanization, Negroes in business, college-bred Negroes, the Negro church, and Negro crime.
He also repudiated the widely held view of Africa as a vast cultural
cipher by presenting a historical version of complex, cultural
development throughout Africa. His studies left no stone unturned in
his efforts to encourage and help social reform.. It is said that
because of his outpouring of information
there was no study made of
the race problem in America which did not depend in some degree upon
the investigations made at Atlanta University.
During this period an ideological controversy grew between DuBois and
Booker T. Washington, which later grew into a bitter personal
battle. Washington from 1895, when he made his famous
Compromise speech, to 1910 was the most powerful black man in the
America. Whatever grant, job placement or any endeavor concerning
Blacks that influential whites received was sent to Washington for
endorsement or rejection. Hence, the
Tuskegee Machine became
the focal point for Black input/output. DuBois was not opposed to
Washington’s power, but rather, he was against his
ideology/methodology of handling the power. On one hand Washington
decried politicalactivities among Negroes, and on the other hand
dictated Negro political objectives from Tuskegee.
Washington argued the Black people should temporarily forego
political power, insistence on civil rights, and higher education
of Negro youth. They should concentrate all their energies on
industrial education. DuBois believed in the higher education of a
Talented Tenth who through their knowledge of modern culture
could guide the American Negro into a higher civilization. (See
Science and Empire in DuBois’ Dusk of Dawn.)
The culmination of the conflict came in 1903 when DuBois published his
now famous book, The Souls of Black Folks. The chapter entitled
Booker T. Washington and Others contains an analytical discourse
on the general philosophy of Washington. DuBois edited the chapter
himself to keep the most controversial and bitter remarks out of
it. Nevertheless, it still was more than enough to incur
Washington’s continued contempt for him.
In the early summer of 1905 Washington went to Boston to address a
rally. While speaking he was verbally assaulted by William Monroe
Trotter ( a Harvard college friend of DuBois). The subsequent jailing
of Trotter on trumped-up charges, apparently by Washingtonites, raised
the wrath of DuBois. This incident caused DuBois to solicit help from
for organized determination and aggressive action on the
part of men who believe in Negro freedom and growth. (Emphasis
mine) Twenty-nine men from fourteen states answered the call in
Buffalo, New York.
Five months later in January of 1906 the
Niagara Movement was
formed. So called after the cite of the meeting place–the
Canadian side of Niagara falls. (They were prevented from meeting on
the U.S. side.) Its objectives were to advocate civil justice and
abolish caste discrimination. The downfall of the group was attributed
to public accusations of fraud and deceit instigated and engineered
presumably by Washington advocates, and DuBois’ inexperience
with organizations and the internal strain from the dynamic
personality of Trotter.
In 1909 all members of the Niagara Movement save one (Trotter, who despised and distrusted whites and their objectives) merged with some white liberals and thus the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was born. DuBois was not altogether pleased with the group but agreed to stay on as Director of Publications and Research.
The main artery for distributing NAACP policy and news concerning Blacks was the Crisis magazine, which DuBois autocratically governed as its editor-in-chief for some twenty-five years. He was of no mind to follow pedantically the Associations views, and therefore wrote onlythat which he felt could lift the coffin lid off his people.
His hot, raking editorials oftentimes lead to battles within the ranks of the Association. Besides this, the NAACP was, at that time, under the leadership of whites, to which DuBois objected. He always felt that Blacks should lead and that if whites were to be included at all, it should be in a supportive role. The meteoric and sustained rise in the circulation of the Crisis, making it self-supporting, tranquilized the moderates within the Association. This afforded DuBois the ability to continue his assault on the injustices heaped upon the Blacks.
World War I had dramatic affects on the lives of Black folks.
Firstly, the Armed Forces refused Black inductees, but finally
relinquished and put the
colored folks in subservient roles.
Secondly, while the war was raging, Blacks in the southern states were
moving North where industry was desperately looking for
workers. Ignorant, frightened whites, led by capitalist instigators,
were fearful that Blacks would totally consume the job market. Thus,
lynching ran rampant. Finally, after the war, Black veterans returned
home to the same racist country they had fought so heroically to
Dr. DuBois, using the Crisis as his vehicle, hurled
thunderbolts of searing script, scorching the
dusty veil, and
revealing the innards of a country whose quivering heart beat
bigotry. So vitriolic and eloquent was his pen, that subsequent
reaction from his followers caused congressional action to: Inaugurate
the opening of Black officer training schools. Bring forth legal
action against lynchers. Set up a federal work plan for returning
His articles never quit. The countryside was inundated with DuBoisian
unmitigated protest. This period marked the height of DuBois’
popularity. The Crisis magazine subscription rate had
grown from 1000 in 1909 to over 10,000 in May of 1919. His
Returning Soldier editorial climaxed the period.
By the God of Heaven, we are cowards and jackasses if now that the war is over, we do not marshal every ounce of our brain and brawn to fight the forces of hell in our own land.
We return from fighting.
We return fighting!
Make way for Democracy! We saved it in France, and by the great Jehovah, we will save it in the United Stated of America, or know the reason why.
Shortly after the Armistice was signed, DuBois, sailed for France in 1919 to represent the NAACP as an observer at the Peace Conference. While there he decided it was an opportune time to organize a Pan-African conference to bring attention to the problems of Africans around the world. While this was not the first Pan-African Congress (the first one was held in 1900), he had long been interested in the movement.
While the concept was lauded by a few revolutionaries, it failed because of lack of interest by the more influential Black organizations.
DuBois realized that for Africans could be free anywhere, they must be
free everywhere. He therefore decided to hold another Pan-African
meeting in 1921. While this one was better organized, he was dealt
double trouble. First, following the war,
a political and social
revolution, economic upheaval and depression, national and racial
hatred made a setting in which any such movement was entirely out of
the Question. More importantly, however, was the encounter with
the astonishing Marcus Garvey.
Unlike DuBois, Garvey was able to gain mass support and had
tremendous appeal. He established the Universal Negro Improvement
Association (UNIA) for the purpose of uniting Africa and her
descendants. He instituted the visionary concept of buying ships for
overseas trade and travel; he issued forth uncompromising orations on
race relations and inspiration (
Up you mighty people. You can
accomplish what you will!); and held pageants and parades through
Harlems with red, black, and green liberation flags flying (The
colors symbolizes the skin, the blood, and the hopes and growth
potential of Black people. The green is also symbolic of the
earth.). His methodology was refreshing and inspiring. And it was in
direct contrast to the intellectual style of DuBois.
DuBois’ first efforts were to explain away the Garvey movement and ignore it. But it was a mass movement and could not be ignored.
Later, when Garvey began to collect money for his steamship line,
DuBois characterized him as
a hard-working idealist, but his
methods are bombastic, wasteful, illogical and almost illegal.
Marcus Garvey, choosing to ignore the critiques of DuBois, continued
with his undertakings until charges of fraud were brought forth
against him. He was imprisoned and upon his release, he was exiled
from the United States. He died in 1941. The conflict between the two
men was amplified by the white press. It also served to debilitate the
progress of the future planned Pan-African Congress. Nevertheless,
DuBois held his conference in 1923, and as expected the turnout was
small. When the conference was concluded, he set sail for Africa for
the first time. During the trip through
the eternal world of Black
folk he made a characteristic observation–
brightens as it darkens. His racial romanticism was given free
reign as he wrote–
The spell of Africa is upon me. . .
Returning home from his African experience, DuBois had a chance to
reflect upon his past. DuBois noted how America tactically
side-stepped the issues of color, and how his approach of
and agitate appeared to fall on deaf ears. He felt that his
ideological approach to the
problem of the twentieth century
had to be revised.
The Russian Revolution of 1917 illuminated and made clear the change
in his basic thought. The revolution concerned itself with the problem
Russia was trying to put into the hands of those people
who do the world’s work the power to guide and rule the state
for the best welfare of the masses. DuBois’ trip to Russia
in 1927, his learning about Marx and Engles, his seeing the beginning
of a new nation form with regard to class, prompted him to
My day in Russia was the day of communist beginnings.
He could no longer support integration as present tactics and
relegated it to a long range goal. Unable to trust white politicians,
white capitalists of white workers he invested everything in the
segregated socialized economy. (Shades of Washingtonianism?) His
ideology carried over to his editorials in the Crisis
By 1930 he had become thoroughly convinced that the basic policies and ideals of the NAACP must be modified and/or discarded. There were two alternatives: Change the board of directors of the NAACP (who were mostly white) so as to substitute a group which agreed with his program. LEAVE THE ORGANIZATION.
By 1933 DuBois decided his financial, organizational and ideological battles with the NAACP were unendurable, and he recommended that the Crisis suspend its operation. (The Crisis magazine, however, is still in existence today.) He resumed his duties at Atlanta University and there upon completed two major works. His book Black Reconstructiondealt with the socio-economic development of the nation after the Civil War. This masterpiece portrayed the contributions of the Black people to this period, whereas before, the Blacks were always portrayed as disorganized and chaotic. His second book of this period, Dusk of Dawn, was completed in 1940 and expounded his concepts and views on both the African’s and African American’s quest for freedom.
As in years past, DuBois never relented in attacks upon imperialism, especially in Africa. (His book entitled The World and Africawas written as a contradiction to the pseudo-historians who consistently omitted Africa from world history.) In 1945 he served as an associate consultant to the American delegation at the founding conference of the United Nations in San Francisco. He charged the world organization with planning to be dominated by imperialist nations and not intending to intervene on the behalf of colonized countries. He announced that the fifth Pan-African Congress would convene to determine what pressure could be applied to the world powers.
This conference was dotted with an all-star cast: Kwame Nkruma–dedicated revolutionary, father of Ghanian independence, and first president of Ghana.
George Padmore–an international revolutionary, often called the
Father of African Emancipation, who later became Kwame
Nkrumah’s advisor on African Affairs.
Jomo Kenyatta–called the
burning Spear, self-styled
leader of the Mau Mau uprising, and first president of independent
The congress elected DuBois International President and cast him a
Father of Pan-Africanism.
W.E.B. DuBois entered into his last phase as a protest
propagandist, committed beyond a single social group to a world
conception of proletarian liberation.
Always antagonizing and making guilty groups feel extremely
uncomfortable, he wrote in 1949:
We want to rule Russia and cannot
rule Alabama. As s member of the left-wing American Labor Party he
Drunk with power, we (the U.S.) are leading the world to
hell in a new colonialism with the same old human slavery, which once
ruined us, to a third world war, which will ruin the world.
As the chairman of the Peace Information Center, he demanded the
outlawing of atomic weapons. The Secretary of State denounced it as
Soviet propaganda. Jumping at the chance to quiet
that old man,
the U.S. Department of Justice ordered DuBois and others to register
as agents of a
foreign principal. DuBois refused and was
immediately indicted under the Foreign Agents Registration
Act. Sufficient evidence was lacking, therefore DuBois was acquitted.
The subversive activity initiated by the U.S. government acted as a
catalyst in the alienation DuBois already felt for the present
system. His feelings were heard around the world in 1959. While in
Peking he told a large audience–
In my own country for nearly
a century I have been nothing but a NIGGER. By the time the U.S.
press published the account, he was residing in Ghana; an expatriate
from the United States.
President Nkruma welcomed DuBois and asked him to direct the government-sponsored Encyclopedia Africana. The offer was accepted graciously and a year later, in the final months of his life, DuBois became a Ghanian citizen and an official member of the Communist party.
On August 27,1963, on the eve of the March On Washington, DuBois died in Accra, Ghana.
His role as a pioneering Pan-Africanist was memorialized by the few who understood the genius of the man and neglected by the many who were afraid that his loquacious espousals would unite the oppressed throughout the world into revolution.
Dusk of Dawn (W.E.B. DuBois)
W.E.B. DuBois: Propagandist of the Negro Protest (Elliott M. Rudwick)
Black Revolutionary (James R. Hooker)
The Souls of Black Folks (W.E.B. DuBois)
The Suppression of the African Slave Trade (W.E.B. DuBois)
W.E.B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race 1868–1963 (David Levering Lewis)
The World and Africa (W.E.B. DuBois)
The Philadelphia Negro (1896)
The Suppression of the African Slave Trade (Harvard Ph.D. thesis, 1896)
Atlanta University’s Studies of the Negro Problem (1897–1910)
Souls of Black Folks (1903)
John Brown (1909)
Quest of the Silver Fleece (1911)
The Negro (1915)
The Gift of Black Folk (1924)
Dark Princess (1924)
Black Reconstruction (1935)
Black Folk, Then and Now (1939)
Dusk of Dawn (1940)
Color and Democracy (1945)
The Encyclopedia of the Negro (1931–1946)
The World and Africa (1946)
The Black Flame (a trilogy)
______I. Ordeal of mansart (1957)
_____II. Mansart Builds a School (1959)
____III. Worlds of Color(1961) The Autobiography of W.E.B. DuBois (1968)
The Education of Black People: Ten Critiques, 1906–1960 (Edited by Herbert Aptheker–1973)