Behind Bars

The Gift of DuBois

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

William Edward Burghardt DuBois (1868-1963) was a true Renaissance man. He made history when he became one of the first Black men in America to win a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1895, but this was just the beginning.

He went on to work for citizenship rights for Black Americans, for Africans throughout the then-colonized world, and for all whom he called “the darker races.” He is perhaps best known today for his now-classic The Souls of Black Folk, a beautifully written collection of essays, poems, odes and autobiographical prose that tells the story of Black Americans of the period. He displays an eloquent, elegant advocacy for a people who have just recently left slavery, and are facing repression, peonage and death. He was thus a powerful spokesman for education for those whom literacy was once a crime punishable by death. He was one of the co-founders of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and wrote scathing editorials for the organization’s journal.

His outspokenness and growing radicalism earned him expulsion from the group he helped found, but it didn’t stop his work. Yet he remained as radical as ever and just as outspoken.

In 1960, several years after the Eisenhower presidential election, DuBois condemned the millions-of-dollars spent to fund the effort for commercials to sow fear and unease in the electorate. Decades before the Occupy Movement he would criticize U.S. rulers as “Instead of being individuals, are organized corporations who suppress freedom by monopolizing wealth.” He fought for 45 years for African Freedom and Independence. In 1963, he traded his U.S. citizenship to become a citizen of the West African nation of Ghana, where he spent his last months of life.

W.E.B. DuBois1—a fighter for freedom!, February 21, 2012

Write to Mumia at:

Mumia Abu-Jamal AM-8335


301 Morea Road

Frackville, PA 17932

1DuBois. W.E.B. The Education of Black People—Ten Critiques: 1906. (New York: Monthly Review Press. 1972).