W.E.B. Du Bois
By: Brian Berger | Categories: HiLo Heroes

DuBois-GraceCt

On February 27, 1951 recently widowed W.E.B. DUBOIS (1868–1963) wed author Shirley Graham in her St. Albans, Queens home. After honeymooning in the Bahamas, the couple moved to 31 Grace Court in Brooklyn Heights, a townhouse purchased from playwright Arthur Miller. At 83, DuBois’ life was one of diverse, monumental, often fractious achievement. In literature, he’d authored three masterpieces: Souls of Black Folk (essays, 1903); Darkwater: Voices From Within the Veil (proto-modernist collage, 1920); and Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880 (history, 1935). Increasingly anti-capitalist, in 1950, DuBois was the American Labor Party’s candidate for U.S. Senator. “A GIANT OF THE PEOPLE,” read one ad, “Climaxes his half century fight for Peace and Humanity against the little men of War and Bias.” The little men were not amused and in February 1951, DuBois and four other anti-war activists were indicted for violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act; after their acquittal, the State Department denied both Dubois’ passport renewals. Such persecution took its toll, most depressingly in a fatuous March 1953 eulogy for Josef Stalin. Still, there were graces. In June, DuBois spoke at Julius and Ethel Rosenberg’s Brooklyn funeral and in October 1956, when The Nation published DuBois’ anti-electoral essay “Why I Won’t Vote,” an unexpected letter to the editor followed. “When I was a very young man,” recalled Henry Miller of Big Sur, California, “I attended his lectures, read his books. I owe a great deal to him — he was one of the truly great influences in my life.”

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REDISCOVERED BY HILOBOOKS: W.E.B. DuBois’s Radium Age science fiction story “The Comet”.

On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Aziz Ansari, Jean-Paul Clébert, Kazimir Malevich, Terence Fisher.

READ MORE about members of the Anarcho-Symbolist Generation (1864–73).

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Historian, journalist, and poet Brian Berger is coeditor of New York Calling. He has written for many publications, a few of which even still exist.