Celebrating W.E.B. Du Bois


Image by Cornelius Marion Battey

Ji-Sung Lee

[dropcap style=”flat” size=”4″]B[/dropcap]orn in 1868, William Edward Burghardt (W.E.B.) Du Bois grew up in the United States amidst a time when the South was rebuilding its identity concluding the Civil War; the Reconstruction Era.  As a civil rights activist, educator and journalist, Du Bois was one of the most prominent African-American activists during the first half of the 20th century.  He co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and supported Pan-Africanism.  W.E.B. Du Bois identified himself as “mulatto,” a person of mixed white and black ancestry, but was still supported in his academic studies by his white teachers.  In 1885, Du Bois moved to Nashville, Tennessee where he first encountered Jim Crow laws.  It was in Tennessee where Du Bois began to study the issues surrounding American racism.
In 1895, Du Bois became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University.  According to the NAACP, all of Du Bois’ efforts were geared toward gaining equal treatment for “black people in a world dominated by whites and toward marshaling and presenting evidence to refute the myths of racial inferiority.”  
Du Bois’ most lasting contribution is his writing.  As a poet, playwright and novelist he wrote 21 books, edited 15 more, and published over 100 essays and articles.
In Du Bois’ poem “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” Du Bois appears to be proud of the country for overcoming slavery, but also mocks America’s attitude of freedom.  The claim of “My Country ’tis of Thee” is to rise above slavery and other prejudices, but to remember it so humans can continue to treat others with respect.
[divider style=”dotted” divider_color=”#000705″ size=”4″] Below is an excerpt from his poem, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”
[quote] My native country thee
Land of the slave set free,
Thy fame I love.
I love thy rocks and rills
And o’er thy hate which chills,
My heart with purpose thrills,
To rise above.[/quote] [heading size=”20″]Click here to read the entire poem:  https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43026/my-country-tis-of-thee[/heading]