Sunday, February 10, 2013

BLACK HISTORY MONTH No. 9: 12 Things to Know About W.E.B. Du Bois

"One ever feels his twoness – 
an American, a Negro; 
two souls, two thoughts, 
two unreconciled strivings; 
two warring ideals in one dark body, 
whose dogged strength alone 
keeps it from being torn asunder."

"To be a poor man is hard, 
but to be a poor race in a land of dollars 
is the very bottom of hardships...
"But what of black women?
...I most sincerely doubt 
if any other race of women 
could have brought its fineness 
up through so devilish a fire." 

W.E.B. Du Bois 1868 ~ 1963

1. The initials in his name stood for William Edward Burghardt and his last name (derived from the French language) is pronounced Du Boyz.

2. He came into the world at the time/space intersection 23 Feb 1868/Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

3. Behind that wonderful, thoughtful face, pictured here was a brilliant mind. William's friends, fellow church members, and neighbors recognized that early on. In fact they pooled their resources to help him go to college, to Fisk University, in Nashville, TN.  It was created after the Civil War, as a school for African Americans, and by the time Wm. went there in the 1880s, Fisk was famous all around the world, thanks to its far-traveling Jubilee Singers. 

 I don't know that I even want to think about what it must have been like for this gifted young Bay Stater traveling southward and experiencing the  deeply wounded, still recovering, furiously racist South. Color barriers. the Klan. Jim Crow. Etc, etc. 

Dr. Du Bois
4. W.E.B.DuB. continued his studies in social sciences at Harvard, eventually becoming, in fact, the FIRST African American to earn a  Ph.D. there (in 1895). He studied in Berlin, Germany, too.  Toward the end of the 19th century, at just about the time that Geo. Wash. Carver was making his way from Iowa University to his professorship at Booker T. Washington's   Tuskegee Institute, Dr. Du Bois became a history and economics professor at Atlanta University.  

 And you know what else; Dr. Du Bois created and published The Philadelphia Negro, a sociological study, a serious work of scholarship about a group of black folks living there.

Booker T. Washington

5. At the beginning of the 20th Century, two of the strongest African American voices were those of Booker T. Washington of Tuskegee and Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois.  As to perceptions of their people and as to the poverty and seemingly bottomless bigotry facing their race, these two powerful men were in deep disagreement.

6. Booker T. W., who was 8 yrs. older than Dr. Du B., had come the hard way to a go along to get along acceptance of white supremacy It was a hard, but immovable fact. The best that blacks could do for themselves was keep their heads down and get whatever vocational training they could to get and stay hired. He'd come to national prominence  with an 1895 speech in which he said, in part, "The wisest of my race understand that the agitation of questions of social equality is the extremest folly."
The Founders:  Niagara Movement, 1905
7. Dr. Du B's response was his book The Souls of Black Folk.   Equal rights were to be fought for and leadership skills were to be taught and developed. Moreover, Du Bois and the other founders of the NIAGARA MOVEMENT declared that blacks 'should not submit to being humiliated, degraded, and remanded to an inferior place."

8.  In 1910, Dr. Du B. was in at the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. 
And you know, "Colored" rather than "Black"  was Dr. Du B's idea, the idea that ALL dark-skinned people, all round the world, should work together to conquer the scourge of prejudice.
9.  As the new NAACP's Publicity and Research Director, W.E.B. Du Bois founded and edited the organization's successful and significant monthly journal, The CRISIS.   In its pages he spoke out against the continuing assaults, lynchings, riots, massacres, on African Americans, against the world wars, the old colonial empires...

10. Over the years Dr. Du Bois wrote book upon book (including, even, a romance), the chief of which, his magnum opus was considered to be his history, Black Reconstruction in America, 1860~1880.  

11.  And over the years, this cruel old world never ceased to offer outrage.

12. Dr. Du Bois, 95, was in Ghana, working on the ENCYCLOPEDIA AFRICANA, when his long life came to an end, on 27 Aug, 1963.  The very next day, a world away, thousands attending the March on Washington, stood silent upon hearing that the scholarly warrior for equality had passed away.

No comments:

Post a Comment