Today marks the 48th anniversary of the death of scholar-activist W.E.B. Du Bois. He died at his home in Accra, Ghana at the age of 95 on the eve of the 1963 March On Washington. A pioneer in the Pan African liberation movement, and an indefatigable foe of racism, imperialism, and oppression, Du Bois always will be remembered for his intellectual rigour and unwavering commitment to the struggle for human rights worldwide.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote this about Du Bois: “history cannot ignore W.E.B. DuBois because history has to reflect truth and Dr. Du Bois 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.”
His biographer 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.”
Du Bois quotes:
“In my own country for nearly a century I have been nothing but a nigger.”
“Either America will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy 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. ”
“…in any land, in any country under modern free competition, to lay any class of weak and despised people, be they white, black, or blue, at the political mercy of their stronger, richer, and more resourceful fellows, is a temptation which human nature seldom has withstood and seldom will withstand.”
“What do nations care about the cost of war, if by spending a few hundred millions in steel and gunpowder they can gain a thousand millions in diamonds and cocoa?”
“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 two-ness,—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.”
“The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line — the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea. It was a phase of this problem that caused the Civil War.”
“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.”
“Children learn more from what you are than what you teach.”
“The most important thing to remember is this: To be ready at any moment to give up what you are for what you might become.”
Obituary from the NYT: W. E. B. DuBois Dies in Ghana; Negro Leader and Author, 95.
I took the following photos last month in Accra, Ghana: