8 W.E.B. Du Bois Quotes That Will Blow Your Mind

Back in May, a blog article was posted on this site called W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey and the Resurgency of the Radical Black Left which sought to elaborate on the history of Black political thought. A considerable amount of time was spent on W.E.B. Du Bois who I called ‘one of the greatest Black radical intellectuals in Black American history.’ It is my belief that these W.E.B. Du Bois quotes that I place before you right now will help to reinforce that opinion. The quotes are in long form, so you can get a better idea of what he was saying and see that this man was way ahead of his time.

W.E.B. Du Bois on Unconstitutional Acts Against Black People

Fourth. We want the laws enforced against rich as well as poor; against Capitalist as well as Laborer; against white as well as black. We are not more lawless than the White race, we are more often arrested, convicted and mobbed. We want justice even for criminals and outlaws. We want the constitution of the country enforced. We want Congress to take control of the Congressional elections. We want the Fourteenth Amendment carried out to the letter and every State disenfranchised in Congress which attempts to disenfranchise its rightful voters. We want the Fifteenth Amendment enforced and no State allowed to base its franchise simply on color.”
— W.E.B. Du Bois, ‘Dusk of Dawn,’ Chapter: Science and Empire

On the ‘Tuskegee Machine’ and Controlled Black Opposition

In 1903, Andrew Carnegie made the future of Tuskegee certain by a gift of $600,000. There was no question of Booker T. Washington’s undisputed leadership of the ten million [Blacks] in America, a leadership recognized gladly by the Whites and conceded by most of the [Blacks].But there were discrepancies and paradoxes in this leadership. It did not seem fair, for instance, that on the one hand Mr. Washington should decry political activities among [Blacks], and on the other hand dictate [Black] political objectives from Tuskegee. At a time when [Black] civil rights called for organized and aggressive defense, he broke down that defense by advising acquiescence or at least no open agitation. During the period when laws disenfranchising [Blacks] were being passed in all the Southern states, between 1890 and 1909, and when these were being supplemented by “Jim Crow” travel laws and other enactments making color caste legal, his public speeches, while they did not entirely ignore this development, tended continually to excuse it, to emphasize the shortcomings of [Blacks], and were interpreted widely as putting the chief onus for his condition upon [the Black man] himself.All this naturally aroused increasing opposition among [Blacks] and especially among the younger classes of educated [Blacks], who were beginning to emerge here and there, especially from Northern institutions…This beginning of organized opposition, together with other events, led to the growth at Tuskegee of what I have called the ‘TUSKEGEE MACHINE. It arose first quite naturally. Not only did Presidents of the United States consult Booker Washington, but Governors and Congressmen; philanthropists conferred with him, scholars wrote to him. Tuskegee became a vast information bureau and center of advice. It was not merely passive in these matters…active efforts were made to concentrate influence at Tuskegee. After a time almost no [Black] institution could collect funds without the recommendation or acquiescence of Mr. Washington. Few political appointments were made anywhere in the United States without his consent….…Moreover, it must not be forgotten that this Tuskegee Machine was not solely the idea and activity of Black folk at Tuskegee. It was largely encouraged and given financial aid through certain white groups and individuals in the North. This Northern group had clear objectives.
— Du Bois, W.E.B. “Dusk of Dawn: Science and Empire.” Du Bois Writings. 9th ed. New York: Library of America, 1986. Pages 606-607. Print.

On Racial and Economic Oppression

I think it was in Africa that I came more clearly to see the close connection between race and wealth. The fact that even in the minds of the most dogmatic supporters of race theories and believers in the inferiority of colored folk to white, there was a conscious or unconscious determination to increase their incomes by taking full advantage of this belief. And then gradually this thought was metamorphosed into a realization that the income-bearing value of race prejudice was the cause and not the result of theories of race inferiority; that particularly in the United States the income of the Cotton Kingdom based on black slavery caused the passionate belief in [Black] inferiority and the determination to enforce it even by arms.
— Du Bois, W.E.B. “Dusk of Dawn: The Concept of Race.” Du Bois Writings. 9th ed. New York: Library of America, 1986. Page 649. Print.

On Industrial Imperialism

The first point of attack is undoubtedly economic. The progress of the white world must cease to rest upon the poverty and the ignorance of it own proletariat and of the colored world. Thus industrial imperialism must lose its reason for being and in that way alone can the great racial groups of the world come into normal and helpful relation to each other. The present attitude and action of the white world is not based solely upon rational, deliberate intent. It is a matter of conditioned reflexes; of long followed habits, customs and folkways; of subconscious trains of reasoning and unconscious nervous reflexes.. To attack and better all this calls for more than appeal and argument. It needs carefully planned and scientific propaganda; the vision of a world of intelligent men with sufficient income to live decently and with the will to build a beautiful world. It will not be easy to accomplish all this, but the quickest way to bring the reason of the world face to face with this major problem of human progress is to listen to the complaint of those human beings today who are suffering most from white attitudes, from white habits, from the conscious and unconscious wrongs which white folk are today inflicting on their victims. The [Black] world therefore must be seen as existing not simply for itself but as a group whose insistent cry may yet become the warning which awakens the world to its truer self and its wider destiny.
— Du Bois, W.E.B. “Dusk of Dawn: The White World.” Du Bois Writings. 9th ed. New York: Library of America, 1986. Page 679. Print.

On Plutocracy, Democratic Socialism & the ‘Basic American [Black] Creed’

I stood, as it seemed to me, between paths diverging to extreme communism and violence on the one hand, and extreme reaction toward plutocracy on the other. I saw disaster for American [Blacks] in following a set determination to ignore race hate and nearing instead a creed of eventual violence and revolution….We had got to prepare ourselves for a reorganization of society especially and fundamentally in industry. And for that reason we had to to work as a group toward the socialization of our own wealth and the establishment of such social objects in the nation and in the world.——————————————————————————————————————————-B. We repudiate all artificial and hate-engendering deification of race separation as such; but just as sternly, we repudiate an enervating philosophy if [Black] escape into an artificially privileged white race which has long sought to enslave, exploit and tyrannize over all mankind.E. We believe that the labor force and intelligence of twelve million people is more than sufficient to supply their own wants and make their advancement secure. Therefore, we believe that, if carefully and intelligently planned, a co-operative [Black] industrial system in America can be established in the midst of and in conjunction with the surround national industrial organization and in intelligent accord with that reconstruction of the economic basis of the nation which must sooner or later be accomplished.G. We believe in the ultimate triumph of some form of Socialism the world over; that is, common ownership and control of the means of production and equality of income.
— Du Bois, W.E.B. “Dusk of Dawn: Revolution.” Du Bois Writings. 9th ed. New York: Library of America, 1986. Pages 774-789. Print.

On Black Self-Hatred, Black Pride & Group Economics

Thus, within the space of three-fourths of a century, the pendulum has swung between race pride and race suicide, between attempts to build up a racial ethos and attempts to escape from ourselves. In the years between emancipation and 1900, the theory of escape was dominant. We were going to escape into the mass of Americans in the same way that the Irish and Scandinavians and even the Italians were beginning to disappear…This is still the dominant philosophy of most American [Blacks]…But there are practical difficulties connected with this program which are becoming more and more clear today. First of all comes the fact that we are still ashamed of ourselves and are thus estopped from valid objection when white folks are ashamed to call us human…..….The next step, then, is certainly one on the part of [Blacks] and it involves group action. It involves the organization of intelligent and earnest people of Negro descent for their preservation and advancement in America, in the West Indies and in Africa; and no sentimental distaste for racial or national unity can be allowed to hold them back from a step which sheer necessity demands.A new organized group action along economic lines, guided by intelligence and with the express object of making it possible for [Blacks] to earn a better living and, therefore, more effectively to support agencies for social uplift, is without the slightest doubt the next step. It will involve no opposition from white America because they do not believe we can accomplish it. They expect always to be able to crush, insult, ignore and exploit 12,000,000 individual [Blacks] without intelligent organized opposition. This organization is going to involve deliberate propaganda for race pride. That is, it is going to start out by convincing American [Blacks] that there is no reason for their being ashamed of themselves; that their record is one which should make them proud; that their history in Africa and the world is a history of effort, success and trial, comparable with that of any other people………..There is no other way; let us not be deceived. American [Blacks] will be beaten into submission and degradation if they merely wait unorganized to find some place voluntarily given them in the new reconstruction of the economic world. They must themselves force their race into the new economic set-up and bring with them million of West Indians and Africans by peaceful organization for normative action or else drift into greater poverty, greater crime, greater helplessness until there is no resort but the last red alternative of revolt, revenge and war.
— Du Bois, W.E.B. “On Being Ashamed of Oneself: The Crisis Magazine, September 1933.” Du Bois Writings. 9th ed. New York: Library of America, 1986. Pages 1020-1025. Print.

On Lynchings

The recent horrible lynchings in the United States, even the almost incredible burning of human beings alive, have raised not a ripple of interest, not a single protest from the United States government, scarcely a word from the pulpit and not a syllable of horror or suggestion from the Defenders of the Republic, the 100% Americans, or the propagandists of the army and navy. And this in spite of the fact that the cause of the Louisville, Mississippi, bestiality was, according to the Memphis Commercial-Appeal, “widespread indignation at the refusal of the [Blacks] traveling in slow, second-handed Fords to give road to faster cars”. And yet hiding and concealing this barbarism by every resource of American silence we are sitting in council at Geneva and Peking and trying to make the world believe that we are a civilized nation.
— Du Bois, W.E.B. “Lynchings: The Crisis Magazine, August 1927.” Du Bois Writings. 9th ed. New York: Library of America, 1986. Page 1219. Print.

On Protesting

American [Blacks] are gradually learning the power and necessity of determined agitation and protest. But they are still a little under the influence of the idea that unless the protest is successful or seems to have a reasonable chance for success, it is worse than useless. They would say, for instance, fight Senator Allen of Kansas if you know you can defeat him, but if there is any doubt, don’t fight.. Fight against McCulloch of Oho if he can be beaten in a normally Republican state. If you have any doubt, vote for him.This is of course idiotic advice. Protest is for two purposes: first, for its effect upon your political enemies, and secondly, for its effect upon yourself.. The effect upon your political enemies can be registered through successful protest which ends in their defeat but also through unsuccessful effort which gives them clear notice of what your attitude of mind is.Senator Allen knows today that three-fourths of the [Black] voters of Kansas voted against him. He is going to think twice before he opposes these voters in the future, even though they have not yet succeeded in defeating him.But above all this, the black man that takes his medicine of insult, discourtesy and prejudice sitting down and saying nothing, loses his own self-respect. Even if the offending politician does not hear of you opposition; does not feel you lone vote, you know and you feel, and it is an awful thing to have to be ashamed of one’s self.
— Du Bois, W.E.B. “Protest: The Crisis Magazine, October 1930.” Du Bois Writings. 9th ed. New York: Library of America, 1986. Pages 1231-1232. Print.
All I can say is, I hope your intellectual soul is full after reading those knowledge bombs from back in the day. You might notice is used ‘Black’ in brackets throughout the quotations to replace the dated word ‘Negro’ which was commonly used in society during DuBois’ time. I tried to find the quotes that are still pertinent to the world we live in today. These long form W.E.B. DuBois quotes are timeless and should be shared everywhere.

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  1. Generally I do not read article on blogs, however I would like to say that this write-up very pressured me to check out and do so! Your writing style has been amazed me. Thank you, quite nice post.

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