Abstraction and Utopia

Hilton Kramer's exploration of abstract art's early ties to utopian ...


W. E. B. Du Bois

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, on February 23, 1868, the only child of Mary Burghardt, a woman of Dutch-African stock, and Alfred Du Bois, a French Huguenot. As a member of one of few black families in Great Barrington, he did not experience segregation and the realities of race until he was a student at Fisk University in Nashville. Later at Harvard he earned a B.A. in philosophy and an M.A. in history, then attended the University of Berlin, and in 1895 became the first black to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard. After teaching at the University of Pennsylvania, Du Bois was named to the faculty of Atlanta University, where he taught economics and sociology. The Souls of Black Folk brought him to national prominence, especially because of its criticism of Booker T. Washington. In 1910 Du Bois helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; he broke with the organization in the 1930s over questions of ideology, but meanwhile he had edited its Crisis monthly magazine and had helped school a generation of blacks in the tactics of protest. In his later years he gravitated toward African nationalism and communism, dying as a citizen of Ghana in August 1963. Among his many writings are Black Reconstruction, Dusk of Dawn, Color and Democracy, and In Battle for Peace.