by: RUNOKO RASHIDI
Among the greatest scholars in American history stands Dr. W.E.B. DuBois. A towering figure, a brilliant scholar and a prolific writer, William Edward Burghardt DuBois was born February 23, 1868 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. In 1890 he graduated cum laude from Harvard University and attended the University of Berlin in 1892. In 1896 DuBois became the first Black person to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard University. After teaching at Wilberforce University in Ohio and the University of Pennsylvania, he went on to establish the first department of sociology in the United States at Atlanta University.
Dr. DuBois was the author of scores of significant books, including three major autobiographies. Among his most important works were The Philadelphia Negro in 1896, Souls of Black Folk in 1903, John Brown in 1909, Black Reconstruction in 1935, and Black Folk, Then and Now in 1939. His book, The Negro (first published in 1915), significantly influenced the lives of such pioneer Africanist scholars as Drusilla Dunjee Houston and William Leo Hansberry. In 1940 DuBois founded Phylon–a magazine published out of Atlanta University. Dr. DuBois also authored The World and Africa: An Inquiry Into the Part that Africa has Played in World History, a very important work first published in 1946. In 1945 he played a major role at the historic Fifth Pan-African Conference held in Manchester, England.
In addition to his literary activities and profound scholarship, at one time or another during the course of his long life, DuBois could be characterized politically as an integrationist, Pan-Africanist, Socialist and Communist. He was a founding member of both the Niagara Movement and the NAACP, and editor of the Crisis–the NAACP literary organ. In 1961, during the twilight of his life, DuBois was honored by an invitation from President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana to head a secretariat for an Encyclopedia Africana. Dr. W.E.B. DuBois died in Accra, Ghana August 27, 1963 as a Ghanaian citizen.
“Back of the problem of race and color lies a greater problem and that is the fact that so many civilized person’s are willing to live in comfort even if the price of this is poverty, ignorance, and disease of the majority of their fellowmen, [and] that to maintain this privilege men have waged war until today war tends to become universal and continuous.”