APRIL 27, 1903

W.E.B. Du Bois Credit: Wikipedia/Carte de visite by James E. Purdy, 1907

In his book, “The Souls of Black Folk”, W.E.B. Du Bois called for active resistance to racist policies: “We have no right to sit silently by while the inevitable seeds are sown for a harvest of disaster to our children, black and white.”

He described the tension between being Black and being an American: “One ever feels his twoness, — an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” 

He criticized Washington’s “Atlanta Compromise” speech. Six years later, Du Bois helped found the NAACP and became the editor of its monthly magazine, The Crisis. He waged protests against the racist silent film, “The Birth of a Nation”, and against lynchings of Black Americans, detailing the 2,732 lynchings between 1884 and 1914. 

In 1921, he decried Harvard University’s decisions to ban Black students from the dormitories as an attempt to renew “the Anglo-Saxon cult, the worship of the Nordic totem, the disenfranchisement of Negro, Jew, Irishman, Italian, Hungarian, Asiatic and South Sea Islander — the world rule of Nordic white through brute force.” 

In 1929, he debated Lothrop Stoddard, a proponent of scientific racism, who also happened to belong to the Ku Klux Klan. The Chicago Defender’s front page headline read, “5,000 Cheer W.E.B. DuBois, Laugh at Lothrup Stoddard.” 

In 1949, the FBI began to investigate Du Bois as a “suspected Communist,” and he was indicted on trumped-up charges that he had acted as an agent of a foreign state and had failed to register. The government dropped the case after Albert Einstein volunteered to testify as a character witness. Despite the lack of conviction, the government confiscated his passport for eight years. 

In 1960, he recovered his passport and traveled to the newly created Republic of Ghana. Three years later, the U.S. government refused to renew his passport, so Du Bois became a citizen of Ghana. He died on Aug. 27, 1963, the eve of the March on Washington.

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The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.