February 23rd

ignorance-du-bois

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was born on this day in 1868.

On February 23rd, 1868, W. E. B. Du Bois was born. Du Bois was a sociologist, historian, and civil rights activist born in Massachusetts, USA.

The first African-American to earn a doctorate from Harvard, Du Bois was the founder and leader of the Niagara movement from 1905. He was also the first editor of the NAACP’s monthly magazine, which he named The Crisis. By 1920, its circulation exceeded 100,000.

Between 1915 and 1916, some leaders of the NAACP tried to oust Du Bois from his editorial position of the magazine due to the inflammatory nature of many of his articles. Alas, Du Bois prevailed.

Du Bois’ was an active supporter of equality and civil rights for African Americans. Interestingly, he extended his support to the simultaneous women’s suffrage movement, although rarely vocalised it due to their rejection of his own movement.

du-bois-hardvard-graduation

Du Bois was the first African-American to earn a doctorate at Harvard.

Some of his famous works include:

  • The Souls of Black Folk (1903)
  • The Negro (1915)
  • Black Reconstruction in America (1935)

One famous quote of Du Bois’, and one of great relevance to modern politics is as follows:

Either the United States will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States.

The entire quote, in its original context:

The school system in the country districts of the South is a disgrace and in few towns and cities are Negro schools what they ought to be. We want the national government to step in and wipe out illiteracy in the South. Either the United States will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States. And when we call for education we mean real education. We believe in work. We ourselves are workers, but work is not necessarily education. Education is the development of power and ideal. We want our children trained as intelligent human beings should be, and we will fight for all time against any proposal to educate black boys and girls simply as servants and underlings, or simply for the use of other people. They have a right to know, to think, to aspire.

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