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W.E.B Du Bois Quotes (Grades 11-12)

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W.E.B Du Bois Quotes

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (1868–1963) was an American civil rights activist, sociologist, educator, historian, writer, and scholar.

Born in Massachusetts, Du Bois was his high school's valedictorian, and he went on to earn three degrees from Harvard including his Ph.D., the first ever Harvard doctorate earned by an African American.

In 1896, Du Bois became assistant instructor in sociology at the University of Pennsylvania where, in 1899, he published the pioneering sociological study of an urban community: 'The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study' assuring his place among America’s leading scholars. Another of his significant publications, 'The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches' (1903), is a collection of essays in American letters.

In 1909, Du Bois was among the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and he founded and edited the organization's monthly magazine.

Du Bois' writings have produced many memorable quotes, some of which are seen below. While reading the quotations, consider the context of the times in which he lived, and compare that with American society of the early 21st century. Read each quote and explain in your own words what you think it means and whether the statement is true today.
"Either the United States will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States." -- Niagara Movement Speech, 1905.

“Honest and earnest criticism from those whose interests are most nearly touched,- criticism of writers by readers, of government by those governed, of leaders by those led, - this is the soul of democracy and the safeguard of modern society” -- The Souls of Black Folk, 1903.

"The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression." -- John Brown: A Biography, 1909.

"Daily the Negro is coming more and more to look upon law and justice, not as protecting safeguards, but as sources of humiliation and oppression. The laws are made by men who have little interest in him; they are executed by men who have absolutely no motive for treating the black people with courtesy or consideration; and, finally, the accused law-breaker is tried, not by his peers, but too often by men who would rather punish ten innocent Negroes than let one guilty one escape." -- The Souls of Black Folk, 1903.

"In 1956, I shall not go to the polls. I have not registered. I believe that democracy has so far disappeared in the United States that no 'two evils' exist. There is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say." -- "Why I Won't Vote," The Nation, 1956.

To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships. -- The Souls of Black Folk, 1903.

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