Du Bois realized that the world wars of the twentieth century created a changing world in which people of color were increasingly freeing themselves from the domination of Europe and the United States. The most dramatic instance of such change came from India under the insurgent leadership of Mohandas Gandhi. Eulogizing Gandhi in 1948, Du Bois called him the “greatest man in the world” and noted the irony that a non-Christian was the only great world leader to truly exemplify the Christian doctrine of peace. Du Bois noted with awe that Gandhi had managed to bring freedom to more than 350 million Indians, with minimal bloodshed, by following the path of peace instead of war.
A contemporary of Gandhi's, Du Bois did not learn of him and his work in Africa until after World War I. On his own, Du Bois had struggled with the question of peace; as a young man he believed the only path to freedom for the world's people of color was through armed struggle. By the end of the nineteenth century, however, Du Bois signed a pledge never to participate in war. Although Du Bois found himself swept into the general fervor of wartime, the aftermath of World War I left him feeling more than ever that war would never cause peace. In this regard, Du Bois found much kinship with Gandhi, who had also supported World War I in the belief that it would be the “war to end all wars.” Understanding World War I finally as a war for industrial profit, not freedom at all, Gandhi turned to passive resistance, inaction, and noncooperation as the means to force Britain to give India its freedom.
The parallels to the situation of African Americans were strong and clear to Du Bois, and he saw great possibilities in the use of Gandhi's principles to cause social and political equality. Writing in February 1957, Du Bois noted the use of passive resistance in the Montgomery bus boycott, which was still