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W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois, in 1918
Born February 23, 1868(1868-02-23)
Great Barrington, Massachusetts, USA
Died August 27, 1963 (aged 95)
Accra, Ghana
Occupation Academic, Scholar, Activist, Journalist, Sociologist
Alma mater Fisk University, Harvard University
Spouse(s) Nina Gomer Du Bois, Shirley Graham Du Bois

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (pronounced /duːˈbɔɪs/ doo-BOYSS[1]) (February 23, 1868 – August 27, 1963) was an American civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, sociologist, historian, author, and editor. Historian David Levering Lewis wrote, "In the course of his long, turbulent career, W. E. B. Du Bois attempted virtually every possible solution to the problem of twentieth-century racism— scholarship, propaganda, integration, national self-determination, human rights, cultural and economic separatism, politics, international communism, expatriation, third world solidarity."[2]


Early life

Family history

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was born on February 23, 1868, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, to Alfred Du Bois and Mary Silvina Burghardt Du Bois. He grew up in Great Barrington, a predominately Anglo American town. Mary Silvina Burghardt's family was part of the very small free black population of Great Barrington, having long owned land in the state. Their family descended from Dutch and African ancestors, including Tom, a West African-born man who served as a private for Captain John Spoor's company in 1780, a service which likely won him his freedom. According to Du Bois, several of his maternal ancestors were notably involved in regional history.

Alfred Du Bois, from Haiti, was of French Huguenot and African descent. His grandfather was Dr. James Du Bois of Poughkeepsie, New York. Dr. Du Bois's family was rewarded extensive lands in the Bahamas for its support of King George III during the American Revolution. On Long Cay, Bahamas, James Du Bois fathered several children with slave mistresses. When he returned to New York in 1812, James brought with him John and Alexander, two of his sons, to be educated in Connecticut. After James Du Bois died, his black sons were disowned by his family and forced to give up schooling for work. Alexander became a merchant in New Haven and married Sarah Marsh Lewis, with whom he had several children. In the 1830s Alexander went to Haiti to try to salvage his inheritance. His son Alfred was born there in about 1833. Alexander returned to New Haven without the boy and his mother.

It is unknown how Alfred Du Bois and Mary Silvina Burghardt met, but they married on February 5, 1867, in Housatonic, Massachusetts. Alfred deserted Mary by the time their son William was two. The boy was very close to his mother. When he was young, Mary suffered a stroke which left her unable to work. The two of them moved frequently, surviving on money from family members and Du Bois's after-school jobs. Du Bois wanted to help his mother and believed he could improve their lives through education. Some of the neighborhood whites noticed him, and one rented Du Bois and his mother a house in Great Barrington. Growing up Du Bois attended the First Congregational Church of Great Barrington.

While living in Great Barrington, Du Bois performed chores and worked odd jobs. He did not feel separate because of his skin color while he was in school. He has suggested that the only times he felt out of place were when out-of-towners visited Great Barrington. One such incident occurred when a white girl who was new in school refused to take one of his "calling cards" during a game; the girl told him she would not accept it because he was black. Du Bois then realized that there would always be a barrier between some whites and non-whites.[3]

Du Bois faced some challenges growing up, as the precocious, intellectual, mixed-race son of an impoverished single mother. Nevertheless, he was very comfortable academically, as many of his teachers recognized his academic gifts and encouraged him to further his education with classical courses while in high school. His scholastic success led him to believe that he could use his knowledge to empower African Americans.[4]

University education

In 1888 Du Bois earned a degree from Fisk University, a historically black college in Nashville, Tennessee. During the summer following graduation from Fisk, Du Bois managed the Fisk Glee Club. The club was employed at a grand luxury summer resort on Lake Minnetonka in suburban Minneapolis, Minnesota. The resort was a favorite spot for vacationing wealthy American Southerners and European royalty. In addition to providing entertainment, Du Bois and the other club members worked as waiters and kitchen help at the hotel.[5] The drinking, crude behavior, and sexual promiscuity of the rich white guests at the hotel left a lasting impression on the young Du Bois.[6]

Du Bois entered Harvard College in the fall of 1888, having received a $250 scholarship. He earned a bachelor's degree cum laude from Harvard in 1890. In 1892, he received a fellowship from the John F. Slater Fund for the Education of Freedmen to attend the University of Berlin for graduate work. While a student in Berlin, he traveled extensively throughout Europe. He came of age intellectually in the German capital, while studying with some of that nation's most prominent social scientists, including Gustav von Schmoller, Adolph Wagner, and Heinrich von Treitschke.

In 1895, Du Bois became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University. After teaching at Wilberforce University in Ohio, he worked at the University of Pennsylvania. He taught while undertaking field research for his study The Philadelphia Negro. Next he moved to Georgia, where he established the Department of Social Work at Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University Whitney M. Young school of Social Work). He also taught at The New School in Greenwich Village, New York City.


Title page of the second edition of The Souls of Black Folk

Du Bois wrote many books, including three major autobiographies. Among his most significant works are The Philadelphia Negro (1899), The Souls of Black Folk (1903), John Brown (1909), Black Reconstruction (1935), and Black Folk, Then and Now (1939). His book The Negro (1915) influenced the work of several pioneer Africanist scholars, such as Drusilla Dunjee Houston[7] and William Leo Hansberry.[8][9]

In the New York Times review of The Souls of Black Folk, the anonymous book reviewer wrote, "For it is the Jim Crow car, and the fact that he may not smoke a cigar and drink a cup of tea with the white man in the South, that most galls William E. Burghardt Du Bois of the Atlanta College for Negroes."[10]

[I]t is the thought of a negro of Northern education who has lived long among his brethren of the South yet who can not fully feel the meaning of some things which these brethren know by instinct — and which the Southern-bred white knows by a similar instinct: certain things which are by both accepted as facts — not theories — fundamental attitudes of race to race which are the product of conditions extending over centuries, as are the somewhat parallel attitudes of the gentry to the peasantry in other countries.[10]

While prominent white scholars denied African-American cultural, political and social relevance to American history and civic life, in his epic work Black Reconstruction, Du Bois documented how black people were central figures in the American Civil War and Reconstruction, and also showed how they made alliances with white politicians. He provided evidence to disprove the Dunning School theories of Reconstruction, showing the coalition governments established public education in the South, as well as many needed social service programs. He demonstrated the ways in which Black emancipation — the crux of Reconstruction — promoted a radical restructuring of United States society, as well as how and why the country failed to continue support for civil rights for blacks in the aftermath of Reconstruction.[11] This theme was taken up later and expanded by Eric Foner and Leon F. Litwack, the two leading late twentieth century scholars of the Reconstruction era.

In 1940, at Atlanta University, Du Bois founded Phylon magazine. In 1946, he wrote The World and Africa: An Inquiry into the Part That Africa Has Played in World History. In 1945, he helped organize the historic Fifth Pan-African Conference in Manchester, Great Britain.[12] In total, Du Bois wrote 22 books, including five novels. He helped establish four academic journals.


Du Bois began writing about the sociology of crime in 1897, shortly after receiving his Ph.D. from Harvard (Zuckerman, 2004, p. 2). His first work involving crime, A Program of Social Reform, was shortly followed by a second, The Study of the Negro Problems (Du Bois, 1897; Du Bois, 1898). The first work that involved in-depth criminological study and theorizing was The Philadelphia Negro, in which a large section of the sociological study was devoted to analysis of the black criminal population in Philadelphia (Du Bois, 1899).

Du Bois (1899) set forth three significant parts to his criminology theory. The first was that Negro crime was caused by the strain of the 'social revolution' experienced by black Americans as they began to adapt to their newfound freedom and position in the nation. This theory was similar to Durkheim's (1893) Anomie theory, but it applied specifically to the newly freed Negro. Du Bois (1900a, p. 3) credited Emancipation with causing the boom in crime in the black population. He explained, "[T]he appearance of crime among the southern Negroes is a symptom of wrong social conditions--of a stress of life greater than a large part of the community can bear." (Du Bois, 1901b, p. 745). He distinguished between the strains on southern Negroes and those on northern Negroes because the problems of city life in the North were different from those of the Southern rural sharecroppers.

Secondly, Du Bois (1904a) believed that black crime declined as the African-American population moved toward a more equal status with whites. This idea, referred to later as "stratification," was developed in a similar manner later in the twentieth century by Merton in his 1968 structure-strain theory of deviance. In The Philadelphia Negro and later statistical studies, Du Bois found direct correlations between low levels of employment and education and high levels of criminal activity.

Thirdly, Du Bois held that the Talented Tenth or the "exceptional men" of the black race would be the ones to lead the race and save it from its criminal problems (Du Bois, 1903, p. 33). Du Bois saw the evolution of a class system within black American society as necessary to carry out the improvements necessary to reduce crime (Du Bois, 1903). He set forth a number of solutions to crime that the Talented Tenth had to enact (Du Bois, 1903, p. 2).

He was perhaps the first criminologist to combine historical fact with social change and used the combination to postulate his theories. He attributed the crime increase after the Civil War to the "increased complexity of life," competition for jobs in industry (especially with the recent Irish immigrants), and the mass exodus of blacks from the farmland and immigration to cities (Du Bois, 1899). Du Bois (1899, p. 64) states in The Philadelphia Negro:

Naturally then, if men are suddenly transported from one environment to another, the result is lack of harmony with the new conditions; lack of harmony with the new physical surroundings leading to disease and death or modification of physique; lack of harmony with social surroundings leading to crime.

Civil rights activism

W. E. B. Du Bois in 1904

Du Bois was the most prominent intellectual leader and political activist on behalf of African Americans in the first half of the twentieth century. A contemporary of Booker T. Washington, he carried on a dialogue with the educator about segregation, political disfranchisement, and ways to improve African American life. He was labeled "The Father of Pan-Africanism."

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Along with Washington, Du Bois helped organize the "Negro exhibition" at the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris. It included Frances Benjamin Johnston's photos of Hampton Institute's black students.[13] The Negro exhibition focused on African Americans' positive contributions to American society.[13]

In 1905, Du Bois, along with Minnesota attorney Fredrick L. McGhee[14] and others, helped found the Niagara Movement with William Monroe Trotter. The Movement championed freedom of speech and criticism, the recognition of the highest and best human training as the monopoly of no caste or race, full male suffrage, a belief in the dignity of labor, and a united effort to realize such ideals under sound leadership.

The alliance between Du Bois and Trotter was, however, short-lived, as they had a dispute over whether or not white people should be included in the organization and in the struggle for civil rights. Believing that they should, in 1909 Du Bois with a group of like-minded supporters founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

In 1910, Du Bois left Atlanta University to work full-time as Publications Director at the NAACP. He also wrote columns published weekly in many newspapers, including the Hearst-owned San Francisco Chronicle as well as the African American Chicago Defender, the Pittsburgh Courier and the New York Amsterdam News. For 25 years, Du Bois worked as editor-in-chief of the NAACP publication, The Crisis, then subtitled A Record of the Darker Races. He commented freely and widely on current events and set the agenda for the fledgling NAACP. The journal's circulation soared from 1,000 in 1910 to more than 100,000 by 1920.[15]

W. E. B. Du Bois and Mary White Ovington, co-founders of NAACP

Du Bois published Harlem Renaissance writers Langston Hughes and Jean Toomer. He encouraged black fiction, poetry and dramas. As a journal of black thought, the Crisis was initially a monopoly, David Levering Lewis observed. In 1913, Du Bois wrote The Star of Ethiopia, a historical pageant, to promote African-American history and civil rights.

Du Bois thought blacks should seek higher education, preferably liberal arts. He also believed blacks should challenge and question whites on all grounds. Booker T. Washington believed assimilating and fitting into the "American" culture was the best way for blacks to move up in society. While Washington stated that he did not receive any racist insults until his later years, Du Bois said blacks have a "Double-Conscious" mind in which they have to know when to act "white" and when to act "black". Booker T. Washington believed that teaching was a duty, but Du Bois believed it was a calling.

Du Bois became increasingly estranged from Walter Francis White, the executive secretary of the NAACP. He began to question the organization's opposition to all racial segregation. Du Bois thought that this policy undermined those black institutions that did exist. He believed that such institutions should be defended and improved rather than attacked as inferior.

Du Bois seated with college members of the Beta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha at Howard University in 1932

By the 1930s, the NAACP had become more institutional and Du Bois increasingly radical, sometimes at odds with leaders such as Walter White and Roy Wilkins. In 1934, Du Bois left the magazine to return to teaching at Atlanta University, after writing two essays published in the Crisis suggesting that black separatism could be a useful economic strategy.

During the 1920s, Du Bois engaged in a bitter feud with Marcus Garvey. They disagreed over whether African Americans could be assimilated as equals into American society (the view held by Du Bois). Their dispute descended to personal attacks, sometimes based on ancestry. Du Bois wrote, "Garvey is, without doubt, the most dangerous enemy of the Negro race in America and in the world. He is either a lunatic or a traitor."[16] Garvey described Du Bois as "purely and simply a white man's nigger" and "a little Dutch, a little French, a little Negro ... a mulatto ... a monstrosity."[17]

Du Bois became an early member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established by African Americans, and one that had a civil rights focus.


Du Bois circa 1911

W. E. B. Du Bois was involved in religion, studied Baptist churches, and contributed to the sociological study of religion.[18] He believed that the capacity of religion could be either good or evil. In the context of the black community, Du Bois suggested that religion gives people strength and pride; African Americans could derive comfort from one another by sharing their common struggles and experiences. On the other hand, Du Bois contended that religion maintained the status quo of America in regards to racial injustice and class disparity.

Du Bois believed that religious organizations serve as communal centers. In The Philadelphia Negro, Du Bois argued that blacks who attended church went for a social gathering first and religion second. Du Bois said that church “introduces the stranger to the community, it serves as a lyceum, library, and lecture bureau—it is, in fine, the central organ of the organized life of the American Negro.”[18]

Susan Jacoby writes that Du Bois was "raised as a liberal New England Congregationalist...contrary to the majority of blacks, who were brought up in the Baptist evangelical tradition" [19] He "became a self-described freethinker in Europe." [20] Returning to the United States in 1894 to teach at the Wilberforce University in Ohio, Du Bois' polemical stance on prayer in school and his critical views on the church set him at odds with contemporary Booker T. Washington.[21]

American Historical Association

In 1909, W. E. B. Du Bois addressed the American Historical Association (AHA) at its annual conference, the first African American to do so. According to David Levering Lewis, "His would be the first and last appearance of an African American on the program until 1940."[22]

In a review of the second volume of Lewis's biography of Du Bois, Michael R. Winston observed that, in understanding American history, one must question "how black Americans developed the psychological stamina and collective social capacity to cope with the sophisticated system of racial domination that white Americans had anchored deeply in law and custom."[23] Winston continued, "Although any reasonable answer is extraordinarily complex, no adequate one can ignore the man (Du Bois) whose genius was for 70 years at the intellectual epicenter of the struggle to destroy white supremacy as public policy and social fact in the United States."[23]

Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany

Du Bois became impressed by the growing strength of Imperial Japan following the Japanese victory in the Russo-Japanese War. He saw the victory of Japan over Tsarist Russia as an example of "colored pride." Hikida Yasuichi ran Japan's "Negro Propaganda Operations." After traveling to the United States to speak with students at Howard University, Scripps College, and Tuskegee University, Yasuichi influenced Du Bois's opinions of Imperial Japan. In 1936, Yasuichi and the Japanese ambassador arranged a trip to Japan for Du Bois and a small group of academics.[24] The trip was to include stops in Japan, China, and the Soviet Union. The Soviet stop was canceled after Karl Radek, Du Bois's diplomatic contact, was swept up in Stalin's purges. While on the Chinese leg of the trip, Du Bois commented that the source of Chinese-Japanese enmity was China's "submission to white aggression and Japan's resistance." He asked the Chinese people to welcome the Japanese as liberators. Du Bois joined a large group of African-American academics who cited the Mukden Incident to justify Japan's occupation and annexation of the formerly European-held southern Manchuria.

During 1936 Du Bois also visited Nazi Germany. He later noted that he had received more respect from German academics than he had from white American colleagues. On his return to the United States, he voiced his ambivalence about the Nazi regime. While admiring how the Nazis had improved the German economy, he was horrified by their treatment of the Jews, which he described as "an attack on civilization, comparable only to such horrors as the Spanish Inquisition and the African slave trade".[25]

On scientific racism and eugenics

Du Bois was an outspoken opponent of scientific racism.[26] Along with cultural anthropologist Franz Boas, and in the pages of Crisis magazine, and in debates with advocates of a biological basis for white superiority Du Bois opposed the notion that African-Americans are biologically inferior to whites.[27][28][29][30][31]

Du Bois opposed scientific justifications for racism and he spoke out against the eugenics experiments at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory; he advocated the use of birth control in conjunction with what has been called his "elitist" encouragement of a "talented tenth" among gifted African-Americans.[32][33]

In 1904, Du Bois wrote that black people show no physical variation from Europeans sufficient to base any theory of essential human difference.[34] In 1910, Du Bois challenged eugenicist opposition to racial mixing and lent his support to racial intermarriage; he said gradations exist within all races: “I believe that there are human stocks with whom it is physically unwise to intermarry, but to think that these stocks are all colored or that there are no such white stocks is unscientific and false.”[35]

In his 1932 essay on birth control in Margaret Sanger’s Birth Control Review, Du Bois accepted the conventional wisdom that “the more intelligent class” uses birth control; he wrote that “The mass of ignorant Negroes still breed carelessly and disastrously, so that the increase among Negroes, even more than the increase among whites, is from that part of the population least intelligent and fit, and least able to rear their children properly.” He suggested that African Americans “learn that among human races and groups, as among vegetables, quality and not mere quantity really counts.”[36]

Later life

Du Bois in 1946, photo by Carl Van Vechten

Communism and activism

Du Bois was one of a number of African-American leaders investigated by the FBI, which claimed in May 1942 that "his writing indicates him to be a socialist".[37] He was chairman of the Peace Information Center at the start of the Korean War, and among the signers of the Stockholm Peace Pledge, which opposed the use of nuclear weapons.

In 1950, at the age of 82, Du Bois ran for U.S. Senator from New York on the American Labor Party ticket and polled a little over 200,000 votes, about 4% of the total. Although he lost, Du Bois remained committed to the progressive labor cause. In 1958, he would join with Trotskyites, ex-Communists and independent radicals in proposing the creation of a united left-wing coalition to challenge for seats in elections for the New York State Senate and Assembly.

In March 16, 1953, upon the death of Joseph Stalin, Du Bois controversially wrote of him in The National Guardian:

Joseph Stalin was a great man; few other men of the 20th century approach his stature. He was simple, calm and courageous. He seldom lost his poise; pondered his problems slowly, made his decisions clearly and firmly; never yielded to ostentation nor coyly refrained from holding his rightful place with dignity. He was the son of a serf but stood calmly before the great without hesitation or nerves. But also - and this was the highest proof of his greatness - he knew the common man, felt his problems, followed his fate.[38]

While Stalin had fallen into disfavor among most of the American left of that era, and Communism had come to be regarded as "the god that failed" in the eyes of such African-American luminaries as Ralph Ellison and Richard Wright, Du Bois, apparently not believing reports of Stalin's purges and dismissing them as propaganda, persisted in his admiration for Stalin.[39] He was frequently challenged for his support of Stalin, particularly after Khrushchev's 1956 "Cult of Personality" speech which seemed to further evidence Stalin's purges. Having once, after a 1920s visit to Russia, observed that "Russia is the victim of a determined propaganda of lies", he remained persistently skeptical of American media reports regarding the USSR; when challenged as to his beliefs on Stalin in 1956, in one instance he conceded that "[Stalin] was probably too cruel; but... he conquered Hitler."[39]

In regards to Soviet intervention in Hungary in 1956, the 88-year-old Du Bois defended the USSR, suggesting that the Hungarian Revolution was a plot of "landlords and fascists".[40] For this he has been criticized by some historians for allegedly succumbing to dogmatism; while he was "one of the great pioneers of anti-colonialist scholarship", he was "a headstrong idealist: he idealized Stalinism... He saw what he wished and needed to see, and thus he replicated the hard, domineering consciousness he condemned."[40]

Du Bois visited Communist China during the Great Leap Forward. He was questioned before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) about his alleged communist sympathies. He was indicted in the United States under the Foreign Agents Registration Act and acquitted for lack of evidence.[citation needed] In 1959 Du Bois received the Lenin Peace Prize. In 1961, at the age of 93, he joined the Communist Party USA, at a time when it was long past its peak of support.

Just forty days before he was assassinated, Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at an event marking the hundredth anniversary of Du Bois' birth, at Carnegie Hall in New York City:[41]

We cannot talk of Dr. Du Bois without recognizing that he was a radical all of his life. Some people would like to ignore the fact that he was a Communist in his later years. It is worth noting that Abraham Lincoln warmly welcomed the support of Karl Marx during the Civil War and corresponded with him freely. In contemporary life, the English speaking world has no difficulty with the fact that Sean O'Casey was a literary giant of the twentieth century and a Communist, or that Pablo Neruda is generally considered the greatest living poet though he also served in the Chilean Senate as a Communist. It is time to cease muting the fact that Dr. Du Bois was a genius and chose to be a Communist. Our irrational obsessive anti-communism has led us into too many quagmires to be retained as if it were a mode of scientific thinking. …Dr. Du Bois' greatest virtue was his committed empathy with all the oppressed and his divine dissatisfaction with all forms of injustice.[42]


Du Bois was invited to Ghana in 1961 by President Kwame Nkrumah to direct the Encyclopedia Africana, a government production, and a long-held dream of his. When, in 1963, he was refused a new U.S. passport, he and his wife, Shirley Graham Du Bois, became citizens of Ghana. Contrary to some opinions (including David Levering Lewis's Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Du Bois), he never renounced his US citizenship, even when denied a passport to travel to Ghana. Du Bois' health had declined in 1962, and on August 27, 1963, he died in Accra, Ghana at the age of ninety-five, one day before Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.[43] At the March on Washington, Roy Wilkins informed the hundreds of thousands of marchers and called for a moment of silence.[44]

Du Bois is buried at Christiansborg Castle Grounds in Accra.

Personal life

Du Bois was married twice: first to Nina Gomer Du Bois (m. 1896, d. 1950) with whom he had two children, Burghardt (who died as a baby) and Yolande; then to the author, playwright, composer, and activist Shirley Graham Du Bois (m. 1951, d. 1977) with whom he emigrated to Ghana. The second volume of David Levering Lewis's Pulitzer-winning biography controversially presented evidence for extramarital relationships, describing Du Bois as "a priapic adulterer",[45] though a subsequent biography, Dubois and His Rivals by Raymond Wolters, cast doubt on this, based on the lack of direct corroboration from Du Bois's alleged lovers.[46]

Pronunciation and spelling

Du Bois's name is sometimes misspelled "DuBois," "du Bois," or "duBois"; the correct spelling separates the two syllables and capitalizes each.[1]

Although the name is of French origin, Du Bois himself pronounced it /duːˈbɔɪs/, unlike the French [dybwa].[1]

Works published

Pan-African topics
African American
Black people
African philosophy
Black conservatism
Black leftism
Black nationalism
Black orientalism
African Topics
African art
George Padmore
Walter Rodney
Patrice Lumumba
Thomas Sankara
Frantz Fanon
Chinweizu Ibekwe
Molefi Kete Asante
Ahmed Sékou Touré
Kwame Nkrumah
Marcus Garvey
Nnamdi Azikiwe
Malcolm X
W. E. B. Du Bois
C. L. R. James
Cheikh Anta Diop

Du Bois wrote and published more than 4,000 articles, essays, and books over the course of his 95-year life. Most of these are out of print and hard to find even in their original publications. No edition of his complete works has yet been published. In 1977, Paul G. Partington published a bibliography of Du Bois's published works, titled W. E. B. Du Bois: A Bibliography of His Published Writings. (Whittier, CA: c.1977, 1979 (rev. ed.)) (privately published). ISBN 0960253815. A supplement was published in 1984, titled W. E. B. Du Bois: A Bibliography of His Published Writings—Supplement. (Whittier, CA: c. 1984), 20 pages. The supplement represented Partington's research in the Du Bois papers owned by the University of Massachusetts Amherst.


  • Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880 by W. E. Burghardt Du Bois, with introduction by Du Bois biographer David Levering Lewis, 768 pages. (Free Press: 1995, reissued from 1935 original) ISBN 0684856573.
  • The Suppression of the African Slave Trade to the United States of America: 1638–1870 Ph.D. dissertation, 1896, (Harvard Historical Studies, Longmans, Green, and Co.: New York) Full Text
  • The Study of the Negro Problems (1898)
  • The Philadelphia Negro (1899)
  • The Negro in Business (1899)
  • The Evolution of Negro Leadership. The Dial, 31 (July 16, 1901).
  • The Souls of Black Folk. 1999 [[[1903 in literature|1903]]]. ISBN 0-393-97393-X. 
  • The Talented Tenth, second chapter of The Negro Problem, a collection of articles by African Americans (September 1903).
  • Voice of the Negro II (September 1905)
  • John Brown: A Biography (1909)
  • Efforts for Social Betterment among Negro Americans (1909)
  • Atlanta University's Studies of the Negro Problem (1897–1910)
  • The Quest of the Silver Fleece 1911
  • The Negro (1915) (entire text)
  • Darkwater: Voices From Within the Veil (1920)
  • The Gift of Black Folk (1924)
  • Dark Princess: A Romance (1928)
  • Africa, Its Geography, People and Products (1930)
  • Africa: Its Place in Modern History (1930)
  • Black Reconstruction: An Essay toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860-1880 (1935)
  • What the Negro Has Done for the United States and Texas (1936)
  • Black Folk, Then and Now (1939)
  • Dusk of Dawn: An Essay Toward an Autobiography of a Race Concept (1940)
  • Color and Democracy: Colonies and Peace (1945)
  • The Encyclopedia of the Negro (1946)
  • The World and Africa (1946)
  • Peace Is Dangerous (1951)
  • I Take My Stand for Peace (1951)
  • In Battle for Peace (1952)
  • The Black Flame: A Trilogy
  • The Ordeal of Mansart (1957)
  • Mansart Builds a School (1959)
  • Africa in Battle Against Colonialism, Racialism, Imperialism (1960)
  • Worlds of Color (1961)
  • An ABC of Color: Selections from Over a Half Century of the Writings of W. E. B. Du Bois (1963)
  • The World and Africa, an Inquiry into the Part Which Africa Has Played in World History (1965)
  • The Autobiography of W. E. Burghardt Du Bois (International publishers, 1968)



W.E.B. Du Bois "Credo"

Du Bois is viewed by many as a modern day prophet [47]. This is highlighted by his "Credo" - a prose-poem written in 1900 when he was just 23 and first published in The Independent in 1904. It was written in style similar to a Christian creed and was his statement of faith and vision for change (his "I Have A Dream" essay). [1]. Credo was widely read and recited and revered by many during his time—and still is today, over 100 years later.

I believe in God who made of one blood all races that dwell on earth. I believe that all men, black and brown and white, are brothers, varying, through Time and Opportunity, in form and gift and feature, but differing in no essential particular, and alike in soul and in the possibility of infinite development.
Especially do I believe in the Negro Race; in the beauty of its genius, the sweetness of its soul, and its strength in that meekness which shall yet inherit this turbulent earth.
I believe in pride of race and lineage and self; in pride of self so deep as to scorn injustice to other selves; in pride of lineage so great as to despise no man's father; in pride of race so chivalrous as neither to offer bastardy to the weak nor beg wedlock of the strong, knowing that men may be brothers in Christ, even though they be not brothers-in-law.
I believe in Service -- humble reverent service, from the blackening of boots to the whitening of souls; for Work is Heaven, Idleness Hell, and Wage is the "Well done!" of the Master who summoned all that labor and are heavy laden, making no distinction between the black sweating cotton-hands of Georgia and the First Families of Virginia, since all distinction not based on deed is devilish and not divine.
I believe in the Devil and his angels, who want only work to narrow the opportunity of struggling human beings, especially if they be black; who spit in the faces of the fallen, strike them that cannot strike again, believe the worst and work to prove it, hating the image which their Maker stamped on a brother's soul.
I believe in the Prince of Peace. I believe that War is Murder. I believe that armies and navies are at bottom the tinsel and braggadocio of oppression and wrong; and I believe that the wicked conquest of weaker and darker nations by nations whiter and stronger but foreshadows the death of that strength.
I believe in Liberty for all men; the space to stretch their arms and their souls; the right to breathe and the right to vote, the freedom to choose their friends, enjoy the sunshine and ride on the railroads, uncursed by color; thinking, dreaming, working as they will in a kingdom of God and love.
I believe in the training of children black even as white; the leading out of little souls into the green pastures and beside the still waters, not for pelf or peace, but for Life lit by some large vision of beauty and goodness and truth; lest we forget, and the sons of the fathers, like Esau, for mere meat barter their birthright in a mighty nation.
Finally, I believe in Patience -- patience with the weakness of the Weak and the strength of the Strong, the prejudice of the ignorant and the ignorance of the Blind; patience with the tardy triumph of Joy and the mad chastening of Sorrow -- patience with God.

Published as

  • Writings: The Suppression of the African Slave-Trade, The Souls of Black Folk, Dusk of Dawn (Nathan I. Huggins, ed.) (Library of America, 1986) ISBN 978-0-94045033-2


  • David Levering Lewis, W. E. B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868-1919, (Owl Books 1994). Winner of the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for Biography [2], the 1994 Bancroft Prize and the 1994 Francis Parkman Prize.
  • David Levering Lewis, W. E. B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century 1919-1963, (Owl Books 2001). Covers the second half of the life of W. E. B. Du Bois, charting 44 years of the culture and politics of race in the United States. Winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Biography [3]
  • Eugene Victor Wolfenstein, A Gift of the Spirit: Reading THE SOULS OF BLACK FOLK, NY: Cornell University Press, 2007.
  • Emma Gelders Sterne, His Was The Voice, The Life of W. E. B. Du Bois, New York: Crowell-Collier Press, 1971
  • Sarah Ann McGill, W. E. B. Du Bois
  • Keith Johnson and Elwood Watson, "The W. E. B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington Debate:Effects upon African American Roles in Engineering and Engineering Technology"', Journal of Technology Studies, Fall 2004
  • Brown, Theodore M., Fee, and Elizabeth; "William Edward Burghardt-Historian, Social Critic, Activist", American Journal of Public Health, Feb 2003.
  • Edward J. Blum. W. E. B. Du Bois, American Prophet. Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007, 288 pp. (Politics and Culture in Modern America).

Honors and Legacy

In 1958 Du Bois was awarded an honorary doctoral degree from the University of Prague. His honorary dissertation was entitled The Negro and Communism.[48]

In 1959 the USSR awarded him the International Lenin Peace Prize.

After his death in 1963, the Ghanaian government honored Du Bois with a state funeral, and his coffin was carried on a gun carriage in a ceremony held in Accra. His remains were kept at Christiansborg Castle until 1985, when Ghana's then-leader, J.J. Rawlings, opened Du Bois's former residence as a memorial center, and he was re-interred with the remains of his second wife, Shirley Graham Du Bois. The W.E.B. Du Bois Memorial Centre is located in the Cantonments district of Accra, and visitors can see personal effects and photographs of Du Bois and visit his memorial grave.

In 1992, the United States Postal Service honored W. E. B. Du Bois with his portrait on a postage stamp.

On October 5, 1994, the main library at the University of Massachusetts - Amherst was named after him.

The Du Bois center at the Northern Arizona University is named after him as well.[49]

In 1973 there was a residence hall constructed on the campus of Morehouse College named after Du Bois. It is now The W.E.B Du Bois International house.

A dormitory was named after Du Bois at the University of Pennsylvania, where he conducted field research for his sociological study "The Philadelphia Negro."

Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African-American Experience was inspired by and dedicated to W. E. B. Du Bois by its editors Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Du Bois lectures are held monthly at Humboldt-University Berlin.

In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed W. E. B. Du Bois on his list of the 100 Greatest African Americans.[50]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Du Bois - How to Spell It, How to Say It". W. E. B. Du Bois Global Resource Collection. Berkshire Publishing Group. Retrieved 2007-11-13. "My name is pronounced in the clear English fashion: Du with u as in Sue; Bois, as oi in voice. The accent is on the second syllable." 
  2. ^ W. E. B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century 1919-1963
  3. ^ The Souls of Black Folk, pg.2
  4. ^ Moore, Jaqueline (2003). M. Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, and the Struggle for Racial Uplift. Wilmington: Scholarly Resources.
  5. ^ A play about Du Bois' summer of 1888 in Minnesota was written and performed in 2002 in St. Paul, Minnesota, titled Summer in the Shadows, (2002) by Kim Hines. See
  6. ^ James Neyland, W. E. B. Du Bois, p. 60 (Melrose Square Publishing Company, June 1993) ISBN 0870675885
  7. ^ Peggy Brooks-Bertram. "Houston, Drusilla Dunjee (1876-1941)". Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Oklahoma Historical Society via Electronic Publishing Center (at Oklahoma State University). Retrieved 2008-05-18. 
  8. ^ "Biographical Profile of William Leo Hansberry". 1965-11-03. Retrieved 2009-06-23. 
  9. ^ "William Leo Hansberry". Retrieved 2009-06-23. 
  10. ^ a b "The Negro Question: Essays and Sketches Touching Upon It by a Colored Writer". New York Times: p. BR7. April 25, 1903. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ ""Dr. William Edward Burghardt Du Bois", African American Literature Book Club, accessed 12 Nov 2008". Retrieved 2009-06-23. 
  13. ^ a b Anne Maxell, "Montrer l'Autre: Franz Boas et les soeurs Gerhard", in Zoos humains. De la Vénus hottentote aux reality shows, Nicolas Bancel, Pascal Blanchard, Gilles Boëtsch, Eric Deroo, Sandrine Lemaire, edition La Découverte (2002), p.331-339, in part. p.338
  14. ^ See Paul D. Nelson and David Levering Lewis, Fredrick L. McGhee: A Life on the Color Line, 1861-1912 (Minnesota Historical Society 2002).
  15. ^ "A New and Changed NAACP Magazine"', 'The Baltimore Sun, June 8, 1997
  16. ^ Dubois, "A Lunatic or a Traitor", The Crisis, Vol. 28 (May 1924), pp. 8-9.
  17. ^ Colin Grant, Negro with a Hat: The Rise and Fall of Marcus Garvey and His Dream of Mother Africa, Oxford University Press, 2008.
  18. ^ a b Zuckerman "Du Bois on Religion"
  19. ^ Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. 191
  20. ^ 191
  21. ^ 193
  22. ^
  23. ^ a b November 5, 2000, The Washington Post
  24. ^ Gallicchio, Marc S.. The African American encounter with Japan and China : Black internationalism in Asia, 1895-1945. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. p. 104. ISBN 9780807825594. OCLC 43334134.,M1. Retrieved 2008-05-29. 
  25. ^ Ishmael Reed, "Eminent Contrarian", Voice Literary Supplement, October-November 2000.
  26. ^ Derryn E. Moten. "Racial Integrity or 'Race Suicide': Virginia's Eugenic Movement, W. E. B. Du Bois, and the Work of Walter A. Plecker." Negro History Bulletin, April-September 1999.
  27. ^ Matthew Pratt Guterl. The Color of Race in America, 1900-1940. 2001 Harvard University Press.
  28. ^ Carl N. Degler. In Search of Human Nature: The Decline and Revival of Darwinism in American Social Thought. (New York: Oxford University), 1991.
  29. ^ Carol M. Taylor "W.E.B. DuBois's Challenge to Scientific Racism." Journal of Black Studies. Vol. 11, No. 4 (Jun., 1981):449-460.
  30. ^ Laura Doyle. Bordering on the Body: The Racial Matrix of Modern Fiction and Culture. (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1994), 10.
  31. ^ Julia E. Liss. "Diasporic Identities: The Science and Politics of Race in the Work of Franz Boas and W. E. B. Du Bois, 1894-1919". Cultural Anthropology. Vol. 13 Issue 2 Page 127 May 1998.
  32. ^ Daylanne English. Unnatural Selections: Eugenics in American Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.
  33. ^ David Levering Lewis. W.E.B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868-1919 (Owl Books 1994).
  34. ^ W. E. B. Du Bois, “Heredity and the Public Schools,” in Aptheker, Pamphlets and Leaflets, 50.
  35. ^ W. E. B. Du Bois, “The Marrying of Black Folk,” The Independent 69 (October 13, 1910): 812-813; reprinted in Herbert Aptheker, ed., Writings by W. E. B. Du Bois in Periodicals Edited by Others vol. 2 (1910-1934), (Kraus-Thomson Organization Limited, 1982), 33.
  36. ^ W. E. B. Du Bois, “Black Folk and Birth Control,” Birth Control Review 16 (June 1932): 166-167.
  37. ^ Du Bois, W. E. B (April 19, 1999) [1903]. Gates, Henry Louis and Oliver, Terri Hume. ed. The Souls of Black Folk (New ed.). New York City: W. W. Norton. ISBN 039397393X. 
  38. ^ "DuBois on Stalin". 1953-03-16. Retrieved 2009-06-23. 
  39. ^ a b Blum, Edward J. W. E. B. Du Bois. 2007, page 196
  40. ^ a b Kaplan, Amy, and Pease, Donald E. Cultures of United States Imperialism, 1993, p471
  41. ^ Jackson, Esther Cooper, Editor (2001). Freedomways Reader: Prophets in Their Own Country. Basic Books. ISBN 9780813367699. 
  42. ^ Freedomways Reader: Prophets in Their Own Country pp. 36-37, 38
  43. ^ "W. E. B. Du Bois Dies in Ghana; Negro Leader and Author, 95". New York Times. August 28, 1963. Retrieved 2007-07-21. "W. E. B. Du Bois, the American Negro philosopher and writer, who settled in Ghana a few years ago, died last night, the Government announced. He was 95 years old." 
  44. ^ Aptheker, Herbert (December 1993). "On Du Bois's move to Africa - W.E.B. Du Bois". Monthly Review. Retrieved 2008-01-25. 
  45. ^ Soul on Fire (review of The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919-1963), Richard Lingeman, New York Times November 5, 2000.
  46. ^ "Raymond Wolters. Du Bois and His Rivals", Mitchell, Verner D., African-American Review, June 22, 2006 online at
  47. ^ Edward J. Blum. W. E. B. Du Bois, American Prophet. Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007, 288 pp
  48. ^
  49. ^
  50. ^ Asante, Molefi Kete (2002). 100 Greatest African Americans: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Amherst, New York. Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-57392-963-8.

Further reading

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to W. E. B. Du Bois article)

From Wikiquote

The theory of democratic government is not that the will of the people is always right, but rather that normal human beings of average intelligence will, if given a chance, learn the right and best course by bitter experience.

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (1868-02-231963-08-27) was an American civil rights activist, sociologist, educator, historian, author, editor, and scholar.



What shall Virtue do to meet Brute Force? There are so many answers and so contradictory; and such differences for those on the one hand who meet questions similar to this once a year or once a decade, and those who face them hourly and daily.
Believe in life! Always human beings will progress to greater, broader, and fuller life.
  • The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line.
    • To the Nations of the World, address to Pan-African conference, London (1900). These words are also found in The Souls of Black Folk (1903), ch. II: Of the Dawn of Freedom
  • I insist that the object of all true education is not to make men carpenters, it is to make carpenters men.
    • The Talented Tenth, published as the second chapter of The Negro Problem, a collection of articles by African Americans (New York: James Pott and Company, 1903)
  • The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression.
    • John Brown: A Biography (1909): "The Legacy of John Brown"
  • Liberty trains for liberty. Responsibility is the first step in responsibility.
    • John Brown: A Biography (1909): "The Legacy of John Brown"
  • I believe that there are human stocks with whom it is physically unwise to intermarry, but to think that these stocks are all colored or that there are no such white stocks is unscientific and false.
    • As quoted in Fighting Fire with Fire: African Americans and Hereditarian Thinking, 1900-1942 by Gregory Michael Dorr (RTF document). Dorr dates this quote to 1910.
  • The cause of war is preparation for war.
    • Darkwater (1920), Ch. II: The Souls of White Folk
  • How shall Integrity face Oppression? What shall Honesty do in the face of Deception, Decency in the face of Insult, Self-Defense before Blows? How shall Desert and Accomplishment meet Despising, Detraction, and Lies? What shall Virtue do to meet Brute Force? There are so many answers and so contradictory; and such differences for those on the one hand who meet questions similar to this once a year or once a decade, and those who face them hourly and daily.
    • The Ordeal of Mansart (1957) [Kraus-Thomson, 1976, ISBN 0-527-25270-0], p. 275
  • The return from your work must be the satisfaction which that work brings you and the world's need of that work. With this, life is heaven, or as near heaven as you can get. Without this — with work which you despise, which bores you, and which the world does not need — this life is hell.
    • To His Newborn Great-Grandson, address on his ninetieth birthday (1958)
  • In my own country for nearly a century I have been nothing but a nigger.
    • Radio broadcast, Beijing, 1959 [1]
  • Believe in life! Always human beings will progress to greater, broader, and fuller life.
    • Last message to the world (written 1957). Read at his funeral (1963)
  • The most ordinary Negro is a distinct gentleman, but it takes extraordinary training and opportunity to make the average white man anything but a hog.
    • The Atlantic Monthly, interview with Ralph McGill (pub. November 1965)
  • The Soviet Union does not allow any church of any kind to interfere with education, and religion is not taught in public schools. It seems to me that this is the greatest gift of the Russian Revolution to the modern world. Most educated modern men no longer believe in religious dogma. If questioned they will usually resort to double-talk before admitting the fact. But who today actually believes that this world is ruled and directed by a benevolent person of great power who, on humble appeal, will change the course of events at our request? Who believes in miracles? Many folk follow religious ceremonies and services and allow their children to learn fairy tales and so-called religious truth, which in time the children come to recognize as conventional lies told by their parents and teachers for the children's good. One can hardly exaggerate the moral disaster of the custom. We have to thank the Soviet Union for the courage to stop it.
    • The Autobiography of W.E. Burghardt Du Bois (International publishers, 1968), ch. IV: The Soviet Union
    • Also in the Autobiography, ch. XVI: My Character: "I think the greatest gift of the Soviet Union to modern civilization was the dethronement of the clergy and the refusal to let religion be taught in the public schools."

The Souls of Black Folk (1903)

Herein lies the tragedy of the age: not that men are poor, — all men know something of poverty; not that men are wicked — who is good? not that men are ignorant, — what is Truth? Nay, but that men know so little of men.
  • After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world, — a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness, — an American, a Negro; two warring souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.

    The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife, — this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self.

    • Ch. I: Of Our Spiritual Strivings
  • To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships.
    • Ch. I: Of Our Spiritual Strivings
  • And yet this very singleness of vision and thorough oneness with his age is a mark of the successful man. It is as though Nature needs must make men narrow in order to give them force.
  • The function of the university is not simply to teach bread-winning, or to furnish teachers for the public schools or to be a centre of polite society; it is, above all, to be the organ of that fine adjustment between real life and the growing knowledge of life, an adjustment which forms the secret of civilization.
    • Ch. V: Of the Wings of Atalanta
  • The worker must work for the glory of his handiwork, not simply for pay; the thinker must think for truth, not for fame.
    • Ch. V: Of the Wings of Atalanta
  • I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not. Across the color-line I move arm in arm with Balzac and Dumas, where smiling men and welcoming women glide in gilded halls. From out the caves of the evening that swing between the strong-limbed earth and the tracery of the stars, I summon Aristotle and Aurelius and what soul I will, and they come all graciously with no scorn nor condescension. So, wed with Truth, I dwell above the Veil. Is this the life you grudge us, O knightly America? Is this the life you long to change into the dull red hideousness of Georgia? Are you so afraid lest peering from this high Pisgah, between Philistine and Amalekite, we sight the Promised Land?
    • Ch. VI: Of the Training of Black Men
  • It is, then, the strife of all honorable men and women of the twentieth century to see that in the future competition of the races the survival of the fittest shall mean the triumph of the good, the beautiful, and the true; that we may be able to preserve for future civilization all that is really fine and noble and strong, and not continue to put a premium on greed and imprudence and cruelty.
    • Ch. IX: Of the Sons of Master and Man
  • Daily the Negro is coming more and more to look upon law and justice, not as protecting safeguards, but as sources of humiliation and oppression. The laws are made by men who have little interest in him; they are executed by men who have absolutely no motive for treating the black people with courtesy and consideration; and, finally, the accused law-breaker is tried, not by his peers, but too often by men who would rather punish ten innocent Negroes than let one guilty one escape.
    • Ch. IX: Of the Sons of Master and Man
  • The Negro cannot stand the present reactionary tendencies and unreasoning drawing of the color line indefinitely without discouragement and retrogression. And the condition of the Negro is ever the cause for further discrimination.
    • Ch. IX: Of the Sons of Master and Man
  • Why was his hair tinted with gold? An evil omen was golden hair in my life. Why had not the brown of his eyes crushed out and killed the blue? — for brown were his father’s eyes, and his father’s father’s. And thus in the Land of the Color-line I saw, as it fell across my baby, the shadow of the Veil.
    • Ch. XI: Of the Passing of the First-Born
  • Within the Veil was he born, said I; and there within shall he live, — a Negro and a Negro's son. Holding in that little head — ah, bitterly! — the unbowed pride of a hunted race, clinging with that tiny dimpled hand — ah, wearily! — to a hope not hopeless but unhopeful, and seeing with those bright wondering eyes that peer into my soul a land whose freedom is to us a mockery and whose liberty is a lie.
    • Ch. XI: Of the Passing of the First-Born
  • Herein lies the tragedy of the age: not that men are poor, — all men know something of poverty; not that men are wicked — who is good? not that men are ignorant, — what is Truth? Nay, but that men know so little of men.
    • Ch. XII: Of Alexander Crummell
  • It was a bright September afternoon, and the streets of New York were brilliant with moving men.... He was pushed toward the ticket-office with the others, and felt in his pocket for the new five-dollar bill he had hoarded.... When at last he realized that he had paid five dollars to enter he knew not what, he stood stock-still amazed.... John... sat in a half-maze minding the scene about him; the delicate beauty of the hall, the faint perfume, the moving myriad of men, the rich clothing and low hum of talking seemed all a part of a world so different from his, so strangely more beautiful than anything he had known, that he sat in dreamland, and started when, after a hush, rose high and clear the music of Lohengrin's swan. The infinite beauty of the wail lingered and swept through every muscle of his frame, and put it all a-tune. He closed his eyes and grasped the elbows of the chair, touching unwittingly the lady's arm. And the lady drew away. A deep longing swelled in all his heart to rise with that clear music out of the dirt and dust of that low life that held him prisoned and befouled. If he could only live up in the free air where birds sang and setting suns had no touch of blood! Who had called him to be the slave and butt of all?... If he but had some master-work, some life-service, hard, aye, bitter hard, but without the cringing and sickening servility.... When at last a soft sorrow crept across the violins, there came to him the vision of a far-off home — the great eyes of his sister, and the dark drawn face of his mother.... It left John sitting so silent and rapt that he did not for some time notice the usher tapping him lightly on the shoulder and saying politely, 'will you step this way please sir?'... The manager was sorry, very very sorry — but he explained that some mistake had been made in selling the gentleman a seat already disposed of; he would refund the money, of course... before he had finished John was gone, walking hurriedly across the square... and as he passed the park he buttoned his coat and said, 'John Jones you're a natural-born fool.' Then he went to his lodgings and wrote a letter, and tore it up; he wrote another, and threw it in the fire....
    • Ch. XIII: Of the Coming of John

The Negro (1915)

  • Present-day students are often puzzled at the apparent contradictions of Southern slavery. One hears, on the one hand, of the staid and gentle patriarchy, the wide and sleepy plantations with lord and retainers, ease and happiness; on the other hand one hears of barbarous cruelty and unbridled power and wide oppression of men. Which is the true picture? The answer is simple: both are true. They are not opposite sides of the same shield; they are different shields.
    • Ch. XI: The Negro in the United States
  • The theory of democratic government is not that the will of the people is always right, but rather that normal human beings of average intelligence will, if given a chance, learn the right and best course by bitter experience.
    • Ch. XI: The Negro in the United States
  • Unfortunately there was one thing that the white South feared more than Negro dishonesty, ignorance, and incompetency, and that was Negro honesty, knowledge, and efficiency.
    • Ch. XI: The Negro in the United States

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