Ghana's Regions - Accra Region

Du Bois Memorial Center

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, February 23, 1868 – August 27, 1963) was an intellectual leader in the United States as sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author, and editor. 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.”
Born in Massachusetts, Du Bois graduated from Harvard, where he earned his Ph.D in History, the first African-American to earn a doctorate at Harvard. Later he became a professor of history and economics at Atlanta University. As head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1910, he was founder and editor of the NAACP's journal The Crisis. Du Bois rose to national attention in his opposition of Booker T. Washington's alleged ideas of accommodation with Jim Crow separation between whites and blacks and disfranchisement of blacks in the South, campaigning instead for increased political representation for blacks in order to guarantee civil rights, and the formation of a Black elite who would work for the progress of the African-American race.

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was born on February 23, 1868, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, to Alfred Du Bois and Mary Silvina Burghardt Du Bois. He grew up in Great Barrington, a predominately Anglo-American town. Mary Silvina Burghardt's family was part of the very small free black population of Great Barrington, having long owned land in the state. Their family descended from Dutch and African ancestors. Tom Burghardt, a slave (born in West Africa around 1730) earned his freedom by service (1780) during the American Revolution as a private soldier in Captain John Spoor's company. According to Du Bois, several of his maternal ancestors were notably involved in regional history.
Alfred Du Bois, from Haiti, was of French Huguenot and African descent. His grandfather was Dr. James Du Bois of Poughkeepsie, New York. Dr. Du Bois's family was rewarded extensive lands in the Bahamas for its support of King George III during the American Revolution. On Long Cay, Bahamas, James Du Bois fathered several children with slave mistresses. When he returned to New York in 1812, Du Bois brought with him John and Alexander, two of his mixed-race sons, to be educated in Connecticut. After James Du Bois died, his black sons were disowned by his family and forced to give up schooling for work. Alexander became a merchant in New Haven and married Sarah Marsh Lewis, with whom he had several children. In the 1830s Alexander went to Haiti to try to salvage his inheritance. His son Alfred was born there in about 1833. Alexander returned to New Haven without the boy and his mother.
Alfred Du Bois and Mary Silvina Burghardt married on February 5, 1867, in Housatonic, Massachusetts. Alfred deserted Mary by the time their son William was two. The boy was very close to his mother. When he was young, Mary suffered a stroke which left her unable to work. The two of them moved frequently, surviving on money from family members and Du Bois's after-school jobs. Du Bois believed he could improve their lives through education. Some of the neighborhood whites noticed him, and one rented Du Bois and his mother a house in Great Barrington. During these years, Du Bois attended the First Congregational Church of Great Barrington.Du Bois performed chores and worked odd jobs. He did not feel separate because of his skin color while he was in school. He has suggested that the only times he felt out of place were when out-of-towners visited Great Barrington. One such incident occurred when a white girl who was new in school refused to take one of his "calling cards" during a game; the girl told him she would not accept it because he was black. Du Bois then realized that there would always be a barrier between some whites and non-whites.
Du Bois faced some challenges as the precocious, intellectual, mixed-race son of an impoverished single mother. His intellectual gifts were recognized by many of his teachers, who encouraged him to further his education with classical courses while in high school. His scholastic success led him to believe that he could use his knowledge to empower African Americans.

In 1888 Du Bois earned a degree from Fisk University, a historically black college in Nashville, Tennessee. During the following summer, he managed the Fisk Glee Club, which was employed at a luxury summer resort on Lake Minnetonka in suburban Minneapolis, Minnesota. The resort was a favorite of vacationing wealthy American Southerners and European royalty. In addition to providing entertainment, Du Bois and the other club members worked as waiters and kitchen help at the hotel. In 1895, Du Bois became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University. After teaching at Wilberforce University in Ohio, he worked at the University of Pennsylvania. He taught while undertaking field research for his study The Philadelphia Negro. Next he moved to Georgia, where he established the Department of Social Work at Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University Whitney M. Young school of Social Work). He also taught at The New School in Greenwich Village, New York City. The young Du Bois was put off by the drinking, crude behavior, and sexual promiscuity of the rich white guests at the hotel.
Du Bois entered Harvard College in the fall of 1888, having received a $300 scholarship. He earned a bachelor's degree cum laude from Harvard in 1890. In 1892, he received a fellowship from the John F. Slater Fund for the Education of Freedmen to attend the University of Berlin for graduate work. While a student in Berlin, he traveled extensively throughout Europe. He came of age intellectually in the German capital, while studying with some of that nation's most prominent social scientists, including Gustav von Schmoller, Adolph Wagner, and Heinrich von Treitschke.

Du Bois was the most prominent intellectual leader and political activist on behalf of African Americans in the first half of the twentieth century. A contemporary of Booker T. Washington, he carried on a dialogue with the educator about segregation, political disfranchisement, and ways to improve African American life. He was labeled "The Father of Pan-Africanism." Along with Washington, Du Bois helped organize the "Negro exhibition" at the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris. It included Frances Benjamin Johnston's photos of Hampton Institute's black students. The Negro exhibition focused on African Americans' positive contributions to American society.
Du Bois is viewed by many as a modern day prophet. This is highlighted by his "Credo", a prose-poem first published in The Independent in 1904. It was reprinted in Darkwater in 1920. It was written in style similar to a Christian creed and was his statement of faith and vision for change. Credo was widely read and recited. In 1905, Du Bois, along with Minnesota attorney Fredrick L. McGhee and others, helped found the Niagara Movement with William Monroe Trotter. The Movement championed freedom of speech and criticism, the recognition of the highest and best human training as the monopoly of no caste or race, full male suffrage, a belief in the dignity of labor, and a united effort to realize such ideals under sound leadership.
The alliance between Du Bois and Trotter was, however, short-lived, as they had a dispute over whether or not white people should be included in the organization and in the struggle for civil rights. Believing that they should, in 1909 Du Bois with a group of like-minded supporters founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1910, Du Bois left Atlanta University to work full-time as Publications Director at the NAACP. He also wrote columns published weekly in many newspapers, including the Hearst-owned San Francisco Chronicle as well as the African American Chicago Defender, the Pittsburgh Courier and the New York Amsterdam News. For 25 years, Du Bois worked as editor-in-chief of the NAACP publication, The Crisis, then subtitled A Record of the Darker Races. He commented freely and widely on current events and set the agenda for the fledgling NAACP. The journal's circulation soared from 1,000 in 1910 to more than 100,000 by 1920.
Du Bois published Harlem Renaissance writers Langston Hughes and Jean Toomer. He encouraged black fiction, poetry and dramas. As a journal of black thought, the Crisis was initially a monopoly, David Levering Lewis observed. In 1913, Du Bois wrote The Star of Ethiopia, a historical pageant, to promote African-American history and civil rights. Du Bois thought blacks should seek higher education, preferably liberal arts. He also believed blacks should challenge and question whites on all grounds. Booker T. Washington believed assimilating and fitting into the "American" culture was the best way for blacks to move up in society. While Washington stated that he did not receive any racist insults until his later years, Du Bois said blacks have a "Double-Conscious" mind in which they have to know when to act "white" and when to act "black". Booker T. Washington believed that teaching was a duty, but Du Bois believed it was a calling.
Du Bois became increasingly estranged from Walter Francis White, the executive secretary of the NAACP. He began to question the organization's opposition to all racial segregation. Du Bois thought that this policy undermined those black institutions that did exist. He believed that such institutions should be defended and improved rather than attacked as inferior. Du Bois seated with college members of the Beta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha at Howard University in 1932By the 1930s, the NAACP had become more institutional and Du Bois increasingly radical, sometimes at odds with leaders such as Walter White and Roy Wilkins. In 1934, Du Bois left the magazine to return to teaching at Atlanta University, after writing two essays published in the Crisis suggesting that black separatism could be a useful economic strategy.
As a member of the Princeton chapter of the NAACP, Albert Einstein corresponded with Du Bois, and in 1946 Einstein called racism "America's worst disease". During the 1920s, Du Bois engaged in a bitter feud with Marcus Garvey. They disagreed over whether African Americans could be assimilated as equals into American society (the view held by Du Bois). Their dispute descended to personal attacks, sometimes based on ancestry. Du Bois wrote, "Garvey is, without doubt, the most dangerous enemy of the Negro race in America and in the world. He is either a lunatic or a traitor." Garvey described Du Bois as "purely and simply a white man's nigger" and "a little Dutch, a little French, a little Negro ... a mulatto ... a monstrosity." Du Bois became an early member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established by African Americans, and one that had a civil rights focus.

Du Bois was invited to Ghana in 1961 by President Kwame Nkrumah to direct the Encyclopedia Africana, a government production, and a long-held dream of his. When, in 1963, he was refused a new U.S. passport, he and his wife, Shirley Graham Du Bois, became citizens of Ghana. Contrary to some opinions (including David Levering Lewis's Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Du Bois), he never renounced his US citizenship, even when denied a passport to travel to Ghana. Du Bois' health had declined in 1962, and on August 27, 1963, he died in Accra, Ghana at the age of ninety-five, one day before Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. At the March on Washington, Roy Wilkins informed the hundreds of thousands of marchers and called for a moment of silence. Du Bois is buried at the Du Bois Memorial Centre in Accra.

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