W.E.B. Du Bois Center
Letter from the Director
Du Bois’s Words Offer Perspective For Complicated Times
We live in complicated times. For each national victory, there is a sobering moment to temper our celebration. This has been a summer of mourning, crying, shouting, and marching, and one also questioning why? In moments like these, I find myself reaching for the words of Dr. Du Bois from so long ago, to help with context and perspective.
"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 require. To the real question, how does it feel to be a problem? I answer seldom a word." - Du Bois 1903
In the midst of today’s real and unasked questions, I write this letter with a sense of inspiration and accomplishment. Through the collective work of countless students, staff, current faculty and elder scholars, the Du Bois Center has been awarded three years of funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This award brings to life our first Du Bois Center Faculty Seminar Series centering on curriculum development and scholarship in the Du Boisian tradition; it increases graduate and post-doc Du Bois Fellows, and the grant establishes a collaborative relationship with the Commonwealth Honors College and its Honors to Honors Program, specifically highlighting the work of W. E. B. Du Bois in the required course “Ideas That Change the World.”
There is always a reason to press forward, even in complicated times. I am looking forward to this coming year at the Du Bois Center. The occasion will require engaging with new people on and off of campus and bringing the legacy of Dr. Du Bois to a new generation of students who truly need his words right now.
Dubois Center News
Bernard Jaffe, who passed away last year at the age of 95, was an attorney and scholar who had a multi-faceted professional relationship and personal friendship with W.E.B. Du Bois over the last decade of Du Bois’s life. When Du Bois accepted President Kwame Nkrumah’s invitation to move to Ghana, Jaffe managed the legal issues relating to this transition, as well as the legal needs of Du Bois and his wife Shirley Graham Du Bois, for the remainder of their lives.
The Bernard Jaffe Collection centers on the close relationship between Jaffe, Shirley, and W.E.B. Du Bois. Although there is little correspondence from W.E.B. Du Bois himself, the collection contains an exceptional run of correspondence with Shirley, which offers insight into the Du Boises' time in Africa, as well as Shirley's subsequent departure and resettlement in Egypt. The collection also includes a wealth of correspondence with David Graham Du Bois, along with materials from his work with the W.E.B. Du Bois Foundation.
Jaffe helped facilitate the Libraries’ acquisition of the Du Bois Collection, and arranged for Shirley Graham Du Bois to have a visiting professorship at the university. Thanks to the generosity of the Jaffe family, specifically Jaffe’s nephew Jonathan Klate, the collection includes contracts, correspondence, and photographs.