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10 W.E.B DuBois Quotes That Still Resonate In Today’s Society

Dr. W.E.B. DuBois was an educator, journalist, scholar, and activist who was born on February 23, 1868, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. DuBois graduated valedictorian from his high school in 1884. Four years later DuBois received a bachelor’s degree from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. DuBois earned a second bachelor’s degree from Harvard University. DuBois started two years of graduate studies in History and Economics at the University of Berlin in Germany in 1892 and returned to the U.S. to start teaching Greek and Latin at Wilberforce University in Ohio. Then in 1895, DuBois became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. at Harvard University. Here are 10 W.E.B. DuBois quotes.


1. “Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it. All, nevertheless, flutter round it. They approach me in a half-hesitant sort of way, eye me curiously or compassionately, and then, instead of saying directly, How does it feel to be a problem? they say, I know an excellent colored man in my town; or, I fought at Mechanicsville; or, Do not these Southern outrages make your blood boil? At these I smile, or am interested, or reduce the boiling to a simmer, as the occasion may inquire. To the real question, How does it feel to be a problem? I answer seldom a word.”

W. E. B. Du Bois in The Souls of Black Folk (1903)

2. “We say easily, for instance, ‘The ignorant ought not to vote.’ We would say, ‘No civilized state should have citizens too ignorant to participate in government,’ and this statement is but a step to the fact: that no state is civilized which has citizens too ignorant to help rule it.”

W. E. B. Du Bois in Of the Ruling of Men (1920)

3. “Children learn more from what you are than what you teach.”

W. E. B. Du Bois

4. “Perhaps even higher than strength and art loom human sympathy and sacrifice as characteristic of Negro womanhood”

W. E. B. Du Bois in The Damnation of Women (1920)

5. “I believe in pride of race and lineage and self; in pride of self so deep as to scorn injustice to other selves.”

W. E. B. Du Bois

6. “The true significance of slavery in the United States to the whole social development of America lay in the ultimate relation of slaves to democracy. What were to be the limits of democratic control in the United States? If all labor, black as well as white, became free – were given schools and the right to vote – what control could or should be set to the power and action of these laborers? Was the rule of the mass of Americans to be unlimited, and the right to rule extended to all men regardless of race and color, or if not, what power of dictatorship and control; and how would property and privilege be protected? This was the great and primary question which was in the minds of the men who wrote the Constitution of the United States and continued in the minds of thinkers down through the slavery controversy. It still remains with the world as the problem of democracy expands and touches all races and nations.”

W. E. B. Du Bois in Black Reconstruction in America (1935)

7. “And herein lies the tragedy of the age: not that men are poor, –all men know something of poverty; not that men are wicked, –who is good? not that men are ignorant, –what is Truth? Nay, but that men know so little of men.”

W. E. B. Du Bois in The Souls of Black Folk (1903)

8. “Capitalism cannot reform itself; it is doomed to self-destruction.”

W. E. B. Du Bois

9. “Most men today cannot conceive of a freedom that does not involve somebody’s slavery.’

W. E. B. Du Bois

10. “Either America will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States.”

W. E. B. Du Bois

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