W.E.B. DuBois, the Pan-Africanist

In 1921 W.E.B. DuBois travelled to Manchester England for the second Pan-African Congress. DuBois along with the other leaders gathered there he wanted to put forth a set of resolutions on racial equality and ensure that Africa would be ruled by Africans. These resolutions were presented to the League of Nations, however they were never actually taken up. For most of us we know Dr. DuBois as a scholar, historian and founder of one of the most important civil right organizations, the NAACP. DuBois not only championed the rights of Africans in America but also the collective liberation of African people, especially on the continent.

Over twenty years later Dr. Dubois would meet Kwame Nkrumah, the future president of Ghana. Nkrumah eventually invited him to come to Ghana in 1957 to celebrate their independence from British colonialism. However at that time Dubois’ passport was confiscated by the U.S. government. Finally in 1960 he was able to travel to Africa.

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(pictured l-r) Mrs. Shirley Graham-DuBois, President Kwame Nkrumah, Kojo and Dr. W.E.B. DuBois.

While in Ghana DuBois discussed with Nkrumah the creation of the a new encyclopedia of the African diaspora. By 1961 Ghanaian officials informed DuBois that they would support the project. In 1963, Dr. and Mrs. Dubois returned to Ghana to begin the project and at that time the U.S. refused to renew Dubois’ passport.  In response to this challenge from the government, he decided to become a citizen of Ghana. DuBois’ health weakened in the two years he was in Ghana and he died on August 27, 1963 in Accra, at the age of 95.  His death in many ways was overshadowed by the March on Washington, which took place just one day following his passing.

Although Dubois did not always share the ideologies of his contemporaries such as Marcus Garvey he is considered the father of modern Pan-Africanism. As Leslie Gordon Goffe points out,”his role in establishing the Pan-African Congresses and his agitation for an end to colonialism, made him an inspiration to many African leaders, among them Nigeria’s Nnamdi Azikiwe, who met him while a student in the US, and Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, who first met Du Bois at the 1945 Pan-African Congress in Britain.”

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DuBois’ grave at the Memorial Center for Pan-African Culture in Accra.

On August 28, 1963, a day after Dubois’ death, speaker and activist, Roy Wilkins asked the many thousands assembled that day to remember his legacy with a moment of silence.  By 1964 when the Civil Right Act was passed it included many of the reforms that DuBois had worked so tirelessly for in his lifetime.

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W.E.B. DuBois Memorial Center for Pan-African Culture

Here is an excerpt from DuBois’ poem, Ghana Calls (full poem here) :

I went to Moscow; Ignorance grown wise taught me Wisdom;
I went to Peking: Poverty grown rich
Showed me the wealth of Work
I came to Accra.
Here at last, I looked back on my Dream;   
I heard the Voice that loosed
The Long-looked dungeons of my soul
I sensed that Africa had come
Not up from Hell, but from the sum of Heaven’s glory.
Let us continue to expand our understanding and appreciation of the importance of the African continent and our lasting connection to it.
Peace and love good people.
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