Du Bois, W.E.B.
W.E.B. Du Bois
W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963), known even at the FBI as the “father of ‘Pan-Africanism,’” was an enormously prolific author, scholar, and civil rights activist with a mature career spanning some seven decades from the 1890s to the 1960s. Born far from the Deep South in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and trained as the first African American Ph.D. from Harvard University, Du Bois can be said to have invented the modern type of the black activist-intellectual. He was a cofounder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); a leader of the Niagara Movement opposing the social and educational compromises of Booker T. Washington; a pioneer of scientific sociology in The Philadelphia Negro (1899); an organizer of multiple Pan-African Congress meetings in Paris, London, and other European capitals; the editor of the NAACP’s Crisis magazine during the prime of the Harlem Renaissance; a groundbreaking revisionist historian of American race relations in Black Reconstruction (1935); and the architect of the Encyclopedia Africana, a comprehensive reference work on the black world completed only after his 1963 death in Ghana. The Souls of Black Folk (1903), Du Bois’s most significant work of imaginative literature, contains a famous transnational prediction— “the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line”—as well as the most influential concept-metaphor in African American letters: that of “double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.” To the FBI, the multitalented Du Bois was “a great negro [sic] educator, author, lecturer, and publisher,” but also a major threat to U.S. national greatness. During the Cold War, the Bureau collaborated with the State Department to seize Du Bois’s U.S. passport. After his exile to Ghana and his enrollment in the U.S. Communist Party, it investigated his late-life editorship of the Encyclopedia Africana. Altogether, Du Bois’s FBI file reached 756 pages between 1942 and 1963, and his early New Negro journalism featured prominently in what may be the Bureau’s inaugural work of literary criticism, Radicalism and Sedition among the Negroes as Reflected in Their Publications (1919).
Du Bois, W.E.B.
FBI documents studying W.E.B. Du Bois.
Material is in the public domain.
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