W.E.B. DuBois (23 February 1868-27 August 1963)
This is the birthday of William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (1868-1963), one of the great public intellectuals, civil rights leaders, and political philosophers of all American history and one of the two or three greatest figures of American 20th C.
Pan-Africanist, sociologist, historian, author, editor, DuBois (pronounced “doo-Boyss” ) was the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. at Harvard University (1895), and one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). At the turn of the century, DuBois predicted correctly that “the color line [would be] the problem of the twentieth century.” Despite undeniable progress, it continues to be an issue into the 21st. In the words of the historian, David Levering, “In the course of his long, turbulent, career, W.E.B. DuBois 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.”
In the midst of the speeches at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, word was brought to Dr. King and the other speakers at the Lincoln Memorial that W.E.B. DuBois had just died in Ghana.
I will write a fuller biographical sketch at some other time on this blog, but I could not let this birthday pass without a mention.