EAP History Archive
2000 December 14
Class and Power: The Driving
Forces Behind Du Bois'
Scholarship and Revolutionary
Rodney D. Coates, Ph. D.
Oxford, Ohio, USA
December 14, 2000
From 1867 to 1876, Negroes placed
their whole hope of full emancipation and economic security upon their political power.
This was of course putting the
cart before the horse. Their political power could only have been permanently sustained by
economic security-ownership of land, control of some capital and education (Du Bois,
America, with its egalitarian
creeds imbued in the phrase "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" is to
be judged by the extent that these rights and privileges are extended to all the
Du Bois, fervently believing in a
populist democracy, spent nearly a century challenging America to live up to its promises
by guaranteeing these rights and privileges denied particularly to blacks.
Blacks, however were not his sole
concern, Du Bois like the prophet crying in the wilderness, consistently rebuked
imperialism, anti-semitism and oppression in all of its many guises (Pollard, 1992).
Racism, an historically created
social process, erected many obstacles to the fulfillment of these promises. Racism, as
observed by Du Bois, created a complex system under which attitudes of racial differences
interacted with, structured and defined the economic and political spheres of American and
Referring to race and racism as a
veil, he made significant, even if generally ignored, intellectual contributions as a
sociologist and social psychologists (Lemert, 1994).
W. E. B. Du Bois argued that
racism represented a central contradiction in and for America, which, if left unresolved,
ultimately would lead to the destruction of our society (Du Bois, 1968a, Cain, 1990, and
It is virtually impossible to
pick up a text dealing with sociology, race and race relations, anthropology,
stratification, American, European or African history and not come across the name or
ideas of Du Bois.
Books, essays, organizations,
originating in the mind of Du Bois, serve us even today. They persist just as robust, just
as provocative, and just as fresh as when they were first conceived.
W.E.B. Du Bois, born in the
small New England town of Great Barrington, traversed the halls of government, palaces of
royalty and national and international platforms. On this journey he would occupy the
roles of historian, sociologist, poet, editor, lecturer, organizer, essayists,
propagandist, civil rights activist, humanitarian, diplomat, and advocate for peace.
Du Bois plotted a course few
would even dare to dream, much less live. His impact can be seen from Africa to Asia, from
America to China, and from France to Russia.
Through it all, amid praise and
damnation, pride and humiliation, hope and despair -- Du Bois remained singularly directed
toward confronting and defeating the "color-line". Du Bois ultimately became
identified with the plight of the African diaspora and their refusal to accept anything
less then freedom.
He used scholarship, poetry,
fiction, and diplomacy to advance the cause of blacks every where. His unquestioned place
in the black struggle, American and world history is only now, thirty years after his
death, being fully appreciated and openly acknowledged (Bennett, 1993).
Following in the footsteps so
firmly established by:
- Fannie Lou
- Mary Jane McLeod
- Timothy Fortune
Du Bois set the standard and defined the revolutionary agendas for civil rights leaders of
the twentieth century, such as:
- Martin Luther King
- Angela Davis
D. Coates, Ph.D.
Director of Black World Studies
Associate Professor of
Oxford, Ohio 45056 USA