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musings from linda 6/9/23

Great Barrington, Massachusetts may look like a sleepy little town, but it was there — on February 23, 1868 that one of the most stellar men who ever lived — W.E.B. DuBois was born!

Though the town was integrated and relatively tolerant , growing up a fatherless, African-American boy in a small town could not have been easy. Despite personal challenges, however, William Edward Burghardt DuBois excelled in his studies and graduated as VALEDICTORIAN of his high school class. When he decided he wanted to attend college, members of his church (First Congregational!!) raised the money for his tuition.

From 1885-1888 he attended Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. Studying in the South was his first experience with SOUTHERN RACISM — encompassing the HORRORS of Jim Crow laws, bigotry, suppression of black voting and lynchings.

Upon graduation, he applied to Harvard for graduate study — but discovered that none of his academic credits from Fisk would be recognized — so he earned ANOTHER undergraduate degree (cum laude — in history) from Harvard!

He then went on to do graduate work at both the University of Berlin and Harvard, became the FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN to earn a DOCTORATE from Harvard and then taught at Atlanta University as a professor of history, sociology and economics.

In 1899 a mob of 2000 whites lynched, tortured, burned and hanged Sam Hose. Stunned to observe his BURNED KNUCKLES in a store window display — DuBois resolved: “one cannot be a calm and detached scientist while Negroes are lynched, murdered and starved!”

He went on to say: “The CURE isn’t simply TELLING people the TRUTH — It is inducing them to ACT ON THE TRUTH.”

He dedicated his life to fighting racism in all forms.

In 1905 DuBois met with 30 other African-American scholars and activists in Canada (because blacks weren’t allowed to stay in white hotels in America) who wrote a declaration of principles (incorporated as the “Niagara Movement”) seeking equal rights for blacks and opposing Booker T Washington’s “Atlanta Compromise.” “Crafted as an “unwritten deal”, the Compromise stated that southern blacks would WORK AND SUBMIT TO WHITE POLITICAL RULE in exchange for basic educational and economic opportunities.” DuBois insisted on FULL civil and economic rights for all blacks. That Niagara meeting launched discussions which would eventually result in the establishment of the N.A.A.C.P. in 1909. A prolific author, he wrote and worked tirelessly his entire life — shedding light on injustice and working for equality in every way he could. He was an ardent peace activist and advocated nuclear disarmament. The U.S. Civil Rights Act, embodying reforms for which he had campaigned his entire life was enacted a year after his death. What would W.E.B. DuBois say to us in our generation?


This Sunday our choir is singing an anthem which I believe W.E.B. DuBois would applaud ! ROLL DOWN JUSTICE was written by contemporary composer Mark Miller. Click here to listen now — then don’t miss our own choir’s heartfelt rendition on Sunday!!

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