ArchiveBlog 13

The Legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois

The Legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois
A bust of Dr. Du Bois at the Center
A bust of Dr. Du Bois at the Center

A highlight of our Media in Ghana study abroad program was visiting the W.E.B. Du Bois Memorial Center, which served as his home later in life. Dr. Du Bois (1868-1963) was unquestionably the leading African-American scholar of his time. He was a sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, and a journalist. He is credited with writing over 4,000 articles, and the Center houses his personal library of more than 900 books (including many first editions). In fact, one of his books was signed by Albert Einstein.

Our tour of Du Bois's library.
Our tour of Du Bois’s library.

Sadly, the collection is in jeopardy of being lost, due to humidity and improper storage.  Professor Leslie Steeves (who leads our program) and I have pledged to encourage our Knight Library to support the preservation of this great scholar’s legacy.

A shelf of Dr. Du Bois's Private Book Collection
A shelf of Dr. Du Bois’s Private Book Collection

Dr. Du Bois was also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the top fraternity for African American luminaries, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Duke Ellington, Fredrick Douglass, and Jessie Owens. Juwan Wedderburn, one of our studying abroad students attending this trip, holds a leadership position in UO’s chapter of the fraternity. It meant a lot to him to be photographed next to a plaque from the organization that is mounted in the entryway of the gazebo where Dr. Du Bois was laid to rest.

Juwan Wedderburn next to a plaque from Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity
Juwan Wedderburn next to a plaque from Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity

Another unexpected treat was entering the library to find Dr. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, who is among the most revered scholars of our time. She is a professor at Columbia University and a founding member of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society.

Dr. Spivak in Du Bois's library.
Dr. Spivak in Du Bois’s library.

Dr. Spivak’s post-colonial work is required reading for most graduate students in numerous disciplines. It was so inspiring to find her reading through these historic texts, making note of Dr. Du Bois’ penciled notations in the margins, careful not to tear the fragile remains of these important books.

One of the many rare books, studied by Dr. Spivak
One of the many rare books, studied by Dr. Spivak

Unexpectedly, she consented to some photographs and an impromptu on-camera interview (that I’ll edit upon return to the States). Dr. Spivak has lectured extensively on Dr. Du Bois. Her lectures were sponsored by Harvard Press. You can view portions of the lectures on YouTube.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you, Ed, for his truly marvelous pictorial presentation of your amazing trip to Ghana. I am so jealous and also inspired to get there to see this for myself. I look forward to catching up with you to hear more about this wonderful journey. Sign me up for the next trip; I will be waiting for the call!

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