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Saturday, July 02, 2022

UW-Madison community to celebrate life and works of W.E.B. Du Bois

W.E.B. Du Bois wrote in his seminal work, \The Souls of Black Folk,"" ""This meaning is not without interest to you, Gentle Reader; for the problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color-line."" The 100th anniversary of ""Souls"" prompted UW-Madison to address both Du Bois and issues surrounding race.  

 

 

 

To commemorate the centennial of Du Bois' book, the UW-Madison Department of Afro-American Studies and The Center for Humanities are cooperating to hold lectures and activities addressing Du Bois' impact. 

 

 

 

Symposium manager David LaCroix said the effects of Du Bois' work can be shown through those who will lecture at the symposium. 

 

 

 

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""Of the 35 people presenting, there are 10 different kinds of academic departments ... It takes this many people, with this wide of a spread, to address this one book and this one man,"" LaCroix said. 

 

 

 

Du Bois was the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard and was the founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. ""The Souls of Black Folk"" was his most famous book on which he based his following works.  

 

 

 

Nellie McKay, co-director of the Du Bois symposium and a professor of African-American and American Literature at UW-Madison, said Du Bois' place in history should interest everyone.  

 

 

 

""The presence of African-Americans in the history of the U.S. ... should be an interest to every American, not just those interested in black studies,"" McKay said. ""Without knowing this, students are going out [of college] disabled."" 

 

 

 

According to LaCroix, the week of Du Bois activities fits in with the Wisconsin Idea, as they are available to anyone in the Madison area who wishes to attend. For UW-Madison, the events can educate while increasing dialogue on campus. 

 

 

 

""Du Bois, although speaking 100 years ago, gives a voice on race issues, class issues ... issues that any major university in the country can benefit from [hearing],"" said LaCroix. 

 

 

 

In the past, dialogue on Du Bois could occur for various reasons.  

 

 

 

""The only reason that Du Bois is just now getting his due in the last quarter century is mainly racism,"" said Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, professor of sociology of Colby College and a keynote speaker at the symposium. 

 

 

 

Gilkes said she believes this exclusion impeded our understanding the importance of making sense of racial inequality.  

 

 

 

""Because he was ignored, we are now 'Johnny-come-lately's' to questions he raises,"" Gilkes said.  

 

 

 

There are many lecturers who will address the questions Du Bois posed. The keynote speaker is Du Bois biographer David Levering Lewis, and several other speakers, including Mary Frances Berry, the former head of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, will also present. Panels will address issues such as ""Du Bois and Gender,"" ""The Political Impact of Du Bois"" and ""Du Bois and the World.""  

 

 

 

There are also movies planned through UW-Madison's student film society, Cinematheque, and Wisconsin Public Radio's ""Chap-ter-a-Day"" program, which will air programs related to the symposium.  

 

 

 

The week will culminate in a performance by the Fisk University Jubilee Singers, who are the oldest ongoing musical tradition in the country. 

 

 

 

All symposium events are free and open to the public and are held at the Pyle Center. For more information about the symposium, visit its Web site, Most of The Center for Humanities events are also free. For more information about the week of events, visit The Center for the Humanities' Web site,

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