W.E.B. Du Bois (1868–1963) was a historian, sociologist, novelist, journalist, editor, and political activist. During his long and fertile career, he embraced variously Pan-Africanism, socialism, and communism. In those various guises, he served as a founder and a principal operative of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He also was a leader of the Council on African Affairs founded in 1937, which over the next two decades spearheaded the struggle in the United States in favor of decolonization of Africa. In 1961, on the verge of departing the United States for selfimposed exile in Ghana, West Africa, he joined the Communist Party, USA.
Though his life and career involved many permutations, there were also certain fixed verities as well: Among these were an abiding interest in all things African and a fierce opposition of white supremacy. These fundamentals are reflected in his many writings over the years. His book on the African slave trade, a publication of research conducted primarily while he was a graduate student at Harvard, continues to be cited as a major source of evidence on this bestial commerce, which propelled the United States into the front rank of nations. In The Souls of Black Folk he set the tone for the epoch by noting that the problem of this century was the “color line.” He did not limit these words to this nation, nor did he circumscribe this thought by referring solely to “black-white” relations; specifically and pointedly his concept of the “color line” encompassed Asia and Latin America as well.
The Crisis, the journal he edited during his tenure with the NAACP, was wildly successful, attracting tens of thousands of subscribers as it detailed the triumphs and travails of those struggling against the pestilence that was white supremacy. In opening its pages to poets and other creative writers, Du Bois inadvertently served as a principal founder of what came to be known as the “Harlem Renaissance.”
Phylon, a journal he founded at Adanta University, continues to be a leading