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Happy Birthday, W.E.B. DuBois!

February 23, 2012

W.E.B. DuBois

Thank you to fabulous historian, Dr. Blair Kelley for reminding me that today is the birthday of W.E.B. DuBois! He was born on February 23 in 1868.

Sidebar: Please forgive me for posting so late in the day. In my defense, y’all, last night, I came down with Some Kind of The Yucky Ick. I’m aching from my fingertips to the soles of my feet.  But I still have five deadlines between now and next Tuesday, so send a Sister some good, energetic, healing mojo, please.

Anyway, I just LOVE me some William Edward Burghardt DuBois, y’all! I own both volumes of his biography, written by David Levering Lewis. He was a genius, an activist, and the Ultimate Race Man Extraordinaire. DuBois was the founder and secretary of the Niagara Movement and one of the founders of the NAACP. Not only that, most scholars agree that he is the father of modern African American studies, even though they didn’t call it that back then.

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W.E.B. DuBois in top hat. (I love this picture!)

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Click here to read a condensed biography of DuBois on Wikipedia.

His Harvard University dissertation, The Suppression of the African Slave-Trade to the United States of America, 1638-1870 , which was later published as a book, still stands as a major, germinal text on the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Click here to read the entire book for free online or download to Kindle.

Further, wherever you turn in African American Studies, you must encounter W.E.B. Dubois’s The Souls of Black Folk. Studying Social Work as it relates to Black folk? Have to read that book. Black politics? Gotta read it. And Black literature, Black psychology, Black history–even Black music. Here’s a link to read the entire text for free online:

But there are two texts by DuBois that I hold especially beloved. The first is his theory of Double Consciousness (contained in The Souls of Black Folk), which explains why Black folks have to remain both constantly aware of the dominant, European American culture and their own African American culture as well:

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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.

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And then, there is “Criteria of Negro Art.” Like The Souls of Black Folk, I come back to it time and again to discover how I really feel about Black cultural and artistic production. DuBois states:

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Thus all Art is propaganda and ever must be, despite the wailing of the purists. I stand in utter shamelessness and say that whatever art I have for writing has been used always for propaganda for gaining the right of black folk to love and enjoy. I do not care a damn for any art that is not used for propaganda. But I do care when propaganda is confined to one side while the other is stripped and silent.

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Sometimes, I agree with him. And sometimes, I really, really don’t. I go back and forth, arguing with Dr. DuBois in my mind–as if I could tangle with him intellectually, when no one can! But I do read this essay at least once a year. (Click here to read it for free online, and be changed forever, okay?)

Like I said, W.E.B. DuBois was and is The Man. That’s why there’s even a DuBois Institute at Harvard University named after him. You can click here to read more about it.

So, Happy Birthday, Dr. DuBois! And thank you so much. You remain fabulous–and relevant– throughout these one hundred and forty-four years.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Barbara Soloski Albin permalink
    February 23, 2012 8:26 pm

    Dear Miss Honoree, First let me say, I have not been on facebook as much lately because of something with my health, so I hope you feel better soon. I am o.k. now, but it just took awhile to recover. I never knew Mr. DuBois’ full name, so I have learned something new and along with you and everyone else who takes the time to read your article, Happy Birthday W.E.B. DuBois and for all you did for this country in a time when it must have been SO difficult, and let me add I wonder how shocked Mr. DuBois would be if he knew we were having some of the most ridiculous arguments today in the year 2012 over race, religion, woman’s health rights, and human dignity. I am waiting for the GOP to take away our right to vote next. Love and hugs to you, feel better, Barbara

    • February 24, 2012 11:43 am

      Miss Barbara:

      I am staying in strong meditation that our right to vote stays in place! So many women of all complexions dedicated their lives for us to have that vote.

      Love,
      Honorée

      PS I am indeed feeling better! I ate whole garlic cloves all day yesterday. I was stinky, but now I feel so much better.:-)

      • Barbara Soloski Albin permalink
        February 24, 2012 2:09 pm

        I am smiling!

  2. February 24, 2012 7:12 am

    Reblogged this on sistaoutsider and commented:
    I love Dr. Du Bois and own both volumes of Levering’s biography of him as well. Glad to know there’s more of us out there. :)

Trackbacks

  1. Happy Birthday, W.E.B. DuBois! | Mixed American Life | Scoop.it
  2. Happy Birthday, W.E.B. DuBois! « Mixed American Life

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