Monday, April 2, 2012

Week 14 - W.E.B.DuBois: Ferocious Intellect

The Story of an Education

WEB Dubois stands at the forefront of a lot of black intellectual thought. I’ve always loved to read the works of great Black authors and Dubois has always been one of my favourites. Along with Frederick Douglass (the both of whom I discovered at the same time), he inspired me with his eloquence and his writing always inspired me. In particular, his opus ‘The Souls of Black Folks’ is an exceptional work of Black Literature. The essays ensconced within it are a great sociological exploration of the Black experience of that time. It’s a truly seminal work of social history and it would be a great read for anyone.

Dubois was a celebrated author, historian, sociological researcher, activist and along with Marcus Garvey was one of the more famous Pan-Africanists. He was the slightly more stringent counterpart to Booker T Washington’s quiet accomodationism and he was adamant in his demands for full civil rights for all people of color. This led to him helping co-found the NAACP and throughout his entire life, he was strongly opposed to capitalism, nuclear armament and discrimination of all forms and against all people. His theme of double consciousness is one that resonates with me strongly. I feel it in every interaction, the idea of looking at yourself the way others see you. It’s something that takes a lifetime to overcome.

What I love most about Dubois was his unabashed intellectualism and his desire to use the knowledge that he gained to empower his community. He was an unashamed academic and never apologised for this. The idea that blacks could contribute to these kind of liberal arts pursuits was a radical one for the time. The pursuit of knowledge is not always for its own sake. It can sometimes serve a higher purpose and Du Bois was very cognizant of this, propelling himself through his studies to become the first Black to receive a PhD from Harvard. There’s a lot that I could get into about him, but he was most important to me personally because he managed through his writing and treatises to display and elucidate the genius and humanity of Blacks. He was a relentless writer and essayist, publishing countless works and remaining productive for almost his entire life. He died in Ghana, and the Civil Rights Act, the culmination of his life’s work was passed a year later. He is rightly honoured as one of the greatest African Americans and a truly great thinker.

Greatest quote:
“The most important thing to remember is this: To be ready at any moment to give up what you are for what you might become.”

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