Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: … How does it feel to be a problem? … 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 … He would not Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face.
—W.E. B. Du Bois, “Strivings of the Negro People”, 1897
Pioneering sociologist, historian, novelist, playwright, and cultural critic, W. E. B. Du Bois committed his life to a relentless opposition to racial and social injustice. He helped to found both the Niagara Movement and the NAACP. For years, he was editor of The Crisis and other progressive journals, and was an international spokesperson for peace and the rights of oppressed minorities.
The Department of Special Collections and University Archives at UMass Amherst is home to Du Bois Central, an extensive website and archives relating to W.E.B. Du Bois and his legacy.
Twenty-five years ago, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission of the National Archives helped UMass process the collection through a grant for microfilming his papers.
In my high school American history class, Du Bois was not given nearly enough class time. Unfortunately, it’s hard to think of a modern intellectual equivalent of his, despite 100 years having passed. It goes to show how far we have NOT come as a society that black Americans are still languishing in the tier of second class citizens due to our complete inability to commit to large-scale educational reform in the poorest of communities.