Over twenty years of struggle culminated on the morning of October 5, 1994 as the Board of Trustees of the University of Massachusetts unanimously decided to approve the naming of the 28 floor UMass tower library in honor of one of the pioneers of the modern civil rights movement: Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois. The tower library at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst houses the most extensive collection of W.E.B. Du Bois's writings. They were obtained by the efforts of members of the W.E.B. Du Bois Afro-American Studies Department and former Chancellor Randolph Bromery from various nations across the globe.
A native of Massachusetts, Dr. William Edward Burghardt Du Bois's extraordinary life spanned almost a century from the turbulent times of the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era in 1868 to the eve of the historic Civil Rights March on Washington in 1963. In addition to being the first African American to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard University, Du Bois was also one of the first scholars to systematically study the plight of the African American community in the United States. His sociological studies are still quite relevant, especially with regards to his method of scholarship and aim of research.
Du Bois is perhaps most remembered for being one of the founders of the Niagara Movement that later grew into the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). But Du Bois was also the intellectual leader and organizer of the Pan Africanist Movement which inspired African leaders from Kwame Nkrumah and Patrice Lamumba to Jomo Kenyatta and Nelson Mandela in their struggles to free Africa from European colonial rule.
A lifelong educator, an activist in the struggle for world peace, a Fellow and Life Member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters, a Knight Commander of the Liberian Order of African Redemption, a recipient of both the International Peace Prize and the Lenin Peace Prize, and a recipient of a host of Honorary Degrees from Fisk University, Howard University, Atlanta University, Wilberforce University, Morgan State College, the University of Berlin, Charles University (Prague), Moscow University, and the University of Ghana, Du Bois was truly an intellectual giant with a firm commitment to social and economic justice.
A socialist for the better part of his life, Du Bois joined the Communist Party USA in 1961 at the height of the McCarthy era. In an open letter to CPUSA Chair Gus Hall, Du Bois writes of his conviction that capitalism cannot reform itself and is doomed to self- destruction, for universal selfishness cannot bring social good to all. The Du Boisean legacy draws on the insights of Marx and Lenin by delineating the connection between the exploitation of the working masses and the role of European racism and imperialism in furthering the physiological and psychological debilitation of the majority of the people of the world, namely, people of color.
At this dusk of a new dawn at the University of Massachusetts, a reaffirmation of a commitment to education is in order. In the words of Du Bois: "Of all the civil rights for which the world has struggled and fought for five thousand years, the right to learn is undoubtedly the most fundamental" ("The Freedom to Learn," Midwest Journal 2, Winter 1949).
On Behalf of the W.E.B. Du Bois Petition Coalition