It’s the 150th birthday of Massachusetts’ own Dr. W.E.B. DuBois. Dr. Du Bois was one of America’s greatest scholars, writers, and thinkers. In 1903, he wrote “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line,” by which he meant the problem of race in America. In 1949, after visiting the burned out ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto in Poland, he wrote about how his understanding of our racial divides and their often terrible results had shifted: it was “a matter of cultural patterns, perverted teaching and human hate and prejudice, which reached all sorts of people and caused endless evil to all men.”
Dr. Du Bois was a co-founder of the NAACP and edited the NAACP journal, The Crisis, for many years. A lifelong peace activist, he was prosecuted for his efforts against nuclear weapons by the Federal government in 1951; the case was dismissed when the judge was informed that “Dr. Albert Einstein has offered to appear as character witness for Dr. Du Bois.” He was an outspoken civil libertarian who joined the Communist Party in 1961 to protest the decision by the US Supreme Court to uphold the McCarran Act, which required communists to register with the government.
Dr. Du Bois was born and grew up in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. During his lifetime, he was not honored or celebrated in Massachusetts or just about anywhere else outside of the NAACP and the USSR. He died in 1963 in Ghana while working on what would have been his 25th book, an Encyclopedia Africana, which was to celebrate the African diaspora. He was 95. His 100th birthday was celebrated in Great Barrington with a plaque commemorating his life. For his 150th birthday, Great Barrington has created a festival dedicated to his life and work.
Happy Birthday, Dr. Du Bois! Your wisdom and your spirit still inspire and teach us today.
Image: By Cornelius Marion (C.M.) Battey (1873–1927) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons