My Tenth Decade
The Autobiography of W.E.B. DuBois:
A Soliloquy on Viewing My Life from the
Last Decade of Its First Century
[PIC: Mao and DuBois meet, circa 1959]
The Autobiography of W.E.B. DuBois:
A Soliloquy on Viewing My Life from the
Last Decade of Its First Century
[PIC: Mao and DuBois meet, circa 1959]
My 90th birthday was a surprising occasion. Friends wanted
to celebrate it, but I recoiled. Who would sponsor such an
event? There had, I admitted, been some pleasant
occurrences. I had a successful television interview over
the Dumont Broadcasting system; my bust by Zorach had been
accepted by the New York Public Library and installed in
the Schomburg Collection at the 135th Street branch. At the
dedication Franklin Frazier, Judge Jane Bolin and Van Wyck
Brooks took part. Tablet, the official organ of the
Brooklyn diocese of the Roman Catholic church, naturally
added one sour note, writing the library: "This corporation
writes to enquire whether you would accept a bust of
Benedict Arnold, which we would be happy to present to
I spoke at Paul Robeson's 60th birthday:
The persecution of Paul Robeson by the government and
people of the United States during the last nine years has
been one of the most contemptible happenings in modern
history. Robeson has done nothing to hurt or defame this
nation. He is, as all know, one of the most charming,
charitable and loving of men. There is no person on earth
who ever heard Robeson slander or even attack the land of
his birth. Yet he had reason to despise America. He was a
black man; the son of black folk whom Americans had stolen
and enslaved. Even after his people's hard won and justly
earned freedom, America made their lot as near a hell on
earth as was possible. They discouraged, starved and
insulted them. They sneered at helpless black children.
Someone once said that the best punishment for Hitler would
be to paint him black and send him to the United States.
This was no joke. To struggle up as a black boy in America;
to meet jeers and blows; to meet insult with silence and
discrimination with a smile; to sit with fellow students
who hated you and work and play for the honor of a college
that disowned you--all this was America for Paul Robeson.
Yet he fought the good fight; he was despised and rejected
of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief and we
hid as it were our faces from him, he was despised and we
esteemed him not.
Why? Why? Not because he attacked this country. Search
Britain and France, the Soviet Union and Scandinavia for a
word of his against America. What then was his crime? It
was that while he did not rail at America he did praise the
Soviet Union; and he did that because it treated him like a
man and not like a dog; because he and his family for the
first time in life were welcomed like human beings and he
was honored as a great man. The children of Russia clung to
him, the women kissed him; the workers greeted him; the
state named mountains after him. He loved their homage. His
eyes were filled with tears and his heart with thanks.
Never before had he received such treatment. In America he
was a "nigger"; in Britain he was tolerated; in France he
was cheered; in the Soviet Union he was loved for the great
artist that he is. He loved the Soviet Union in turn. He
believed that every black man with blood in his veins would
with him love the nation which first outlawed the color
I saw him when he voiced this. It was in Paris in 1949 at
the greatest rally for world peace this world ever
witnessed. Thousands of persons from all the world filled
the Salle Playel from floor to rafters. Robeson hurried in,
magnificent in height and breadth, weary from circling
Europe with song. The audience rose to a man and the walls
thundered. Robeson said that his people wanted Peace and
"would never fight the Soviet Union." I joined with the
thousands in wild acclaim.
This, for America, was his crime. He might hate anybody. He
might join in murder around the world. But for him to
declare that he loved the Soviet Union and would not join
in war against it--that was the highest crime that the
United States recognized. For that, they slandered Robeson;
they tried to kill him at Peekskill; they prevented him
from hiring halls in which to sing; they prevented him from
travel and refused him a passport. His college, Rutgers,
lied about him and dishonored him. And above all, his own
people, American Negroes, joined in hounding one of their
greatest artists--not all, but even men like Langston
Hughes, who wrote of Negro musicians and deliberately
omitted Robeson's name--Robeson who more than any living
man has spread the pure Negro folk song over the civilized
world. Yet has Paul Robeson kept his soul and stood his
ground. Still he loves and honors the Soviet Union. Still
he has hope for America. Still he asserts his faith in God.
But we--what can we say or do; nothing but hang our heads
in endless shame.
On my 90th birthday, my friends invited my well-wishers to
a party at the Roosevelt Hotel. No body of sponsors could
be found, but Angus Cameron acted as chairman, and Eslanda
Robeson as treasurer. Two thousand persons were present
including my own great-grandson, who behaved with exemplary
decorum. I addressed my remarks to him. I quote from the
The most distinguished guest of this festive occasion is
none other than my great-grandson, Arthur Edward McFarlane
II, who was born this last Christmas Day. He had kindly
consented to permit me to read to you a bit of advice
which, as he remarked with a sigh of resignation,
great-grandparents are supposed usually to inflict on the
helpless young. This then is my word of advice.
As men go, I have had a reasonably happy and successful
life, I have had enough to eat and drink, have been
suitably clothed and, as you see, have had many friends.
But the thing which has been the secret of whatever I have
done is the fact that I have been able to earn a living by
doing the work which I wanted to do and work that the world
I want to stress this. You will soon learn, my dear young
man, that most human beings spend their lives doing work
which they hate and work which the world does not need. It
is therefore of prime importance that you early learn what
you want to do; how you are fit to do it and whether or not
the world needs this service. Here, in the next 20 years,
your parents can be of use to you. You will soon begin to
wonder just what parents are for besides interfering with
your natural wishes. Let me therefore tell you: parents and
their parents are inflicted upon you in order to show what
kind of person you are; what sort of world you live in and
what the persons who dwell here need for their happiness
Right here, my esteemed great-grandson, may I ask you to
stick a pin. You will find it the fashion in the America
where eventually you will live and work to judge that
life's work by the amount of money it brings you. This is a
grave mistake. The return from your work must be the
satisfaction which that work brings you and the world's
need of that work. With this, life is heaven, or as near
heaven as you can get. Without this--with work which you
despise, which bores you and which the world does not
need--this life is hell. And believe me, many a
$25,000-a-year executive is living in just such a hell
Income is not greenbacks, it is satisfaction; it is
creation; it is beauty. It is the supreme sense of a world
of men going forward, lurch and stagger though it may, but
slowly, inevitably going forward, and you, you yourself
with your hand on the wheels. Make this choice, then, my
son. Never hesitate, never falter.
And now comes the word of warning: the satisfaction with
your work even at best will never be complete, since
nothing on earth can be perfect. The forward pace of the
world which you are pushing will be painfully slow. But
what of that: the difference between a hundred and a
thousand years is less than you now think. But doing what
must be done, that is eternal even when it walks with
And I care not to garner while others
Know only to harvest and reap
For mine is the reaping of sowing
Till the spirit of rest gives me sleep.
A purse of $7,500 was given me. Later in Chicago, Truman
Gibson and Margaret Burroughs arranged another birthday
celebration and gave me $1,700 more. After talks in
California, I was able to take a trip to the West Indies
and see the beginnings of the new British West Indian
I was invited to attend the All-African Conference at
Accra. At the Fifth Pan-African Congress at Manchester,
England in 1945, a Sixth Congress on the continent of
Africa had been projected. When Ghana gained her
independence it was planned. I was not allowed to attend
the inauguration. If I had been present undoubtedly the
matter would have been further discussed. Meantime George
Padmore, secretary of the Pan-African Congress, was called
to Ghana as chief adviser to the Prime Minister, and he
published a book called Pan-Africanism or Communism in
which he said:
"In our struggle for national freedom, human dignity and
social redemption Pan-Africanism offers an ideological
alternative to Communism on one side and Tribalism on the
other. It rejects both white racialism and black
chauvinism. It stands for racial co-existence on the basis
of absolute equality and respect for human personality."
I ventured to advise Nkrumah:
I have your kind invitation of January 22, 1957. In behalf
of myself and of my wife, Shirley Graham, I thank you for
it and want to say how great was our desire to accept it.
But since the United States government refused to issue us
passports, we must with deep regret inform you of our
inability to accept. I have recently also, and for the same
reason, been compelled to my sorrow to decline a trip to
China for lectures and participation in the celebration of
the 250th anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Franklin.
However, because of the fact that I am now entering the
90th year of my life and because of my acquaintanceship
with you during the last 12 years, which cover the years of
your imprisonment, vindication, and political triumph, I
trust you will allow me a few words of advice for the
future of Ghana and Africa.
Today, when Ghana arises from the dead and faces this
modern world, it must no longer be merely a part of the
British Commonwealth or a representative of the world of
West Europe, Canada, and the United States. Ghana must on
the contrary be the representative of Africa.
The consequent Pan-Africa, working together through its
independent units, should seek to develop a new African
economy and cultural center standing between Europe and
Asia, taking from and contributing to both. It should
stress peace and join no military alliance and refuse to
fight for settling European quarrels. It should avoid
subjection to and ownership by foreign capitalists who seek
to get rich on African labor and raw material, and should
try to build a socialism founded on old African communal
life, rejecting the exaggerated private initiative of the
West, and seeking to ally itself with the social program of
the Progressive nations; with British and Scandinavian
Socialism, with the progress toward the Welfare State in
India, Germany, France and the United States; and with the
Communist States like the Soviet Union and China, in
peaceful cooperation and without presuming to dictate as to
how Socialism must or can be attained at particular times
Pan-African Socialism seeks the Welfare State in Africa. It
will refuse to be exploited by people of other continents
for their own benefit and not for the benefit of the
peoples of Africa. It will no longer consent to permitting
the African majority of any African country to be governed
against its will by a minority of invaders who claim racial
superiority or the right to get rich at African expense. It
will seek not only to raise but to process the raw material
and to trade it freely with all the world on just and equal
terms and prices.
Pan-Africa will seek to preserve its own past history, and
write the present account, erasing from literature the lies
and distortions about black folks which have disgraced the
last centuries of European and American literature; above
all, the new Pan-Africa will seek the education of all its
youth on the broadest possible basis without religious
dogma and in all hospitable lands as well as in Africa for
the end of making Africans not simply profitable workers
for industry nor stool-pigeons for propaganda, but for
making them modern, intelligent, responsible men of vision
I pray you, my dear Mr. Nkrumah, to use all your power to
put a Pan-Africa along these lines into working order at
the earliest possible date. Seek to save the great cultural
past of the Ashanti and Fanti peoples, not by inner
division but by outer cultural and economic expansion
toward the outmost bounds of the great African peoples, so
that they may be free to live, grow, and expand; and to
teach mankind what Non-violence and Courtesy, Literature
and Art, Music and ; Dancing can do for this greedy,
selfish, and war-stricken world.
Meantime big business in America, surprised by the success
of the Ghana revolution set itself to influence Nkrumah.
Nkrumah was invited to the United States in 1958, and
treated as never a Negro had been treated by the
government. Hershey, a great manufacturer of chocolate,
sent a special plane to take him to his factories; and the
New York Cocoa Board of Trade dined him at the
Waldorf-Astoria. I saw Mr. Nkrumah briefly. He was most
cordial and I expected soon to be invited to the Sixth
Pan-African Congress in Accra. No invitation came, but I
received my passport and sailed for Europe. While I was in
Tashkent an invitation arrived but not from Nkrumah nor for
a Pan-African Congress. It was from a new "All-African"
body for an African conference in December and it said
nothing about my expenses. I sensed immediately that
opposition had arisen in Africa over American Negro
leadership of the African peoples. This had happened in
1920, when the West African Congress acknowledged no tie
with the First Pan-African Congress in Paris which sparked
it. American Negroes had too often assumed that their
leadership in Africa was natural. With the rise of an
educated group of Africans, this was increasingly unlikely.
I realized how natural this was and knew that neither
Nkrumah nor Padmore were calling a Sixth "Pan-African
Congress" but that this "All-Africa Conference" was taking
its place. However, later Padmore sent me a cordial note
emphasizing the invitation and offering to pay expenses.
By this time, however, my long travel was beginning to tell
on me and I was in a Soviet sanitarium near Moscow. I
prepared to leave for Africa, but the council of physicians
advised against the trip as too taxing. I had prepared
three messages for Africa. One I delivered at Tashkent, one
I sent by my wife Shirley, who attended the conference at
Accra, and the last I broadcast later from Peking on my
At Tashkent, before my invitation to Accra had come, I
warned Africa about borrowing capital from the West.
"Boycott the export of big capital from the exploiting
world, led by America. Refuse to buy machines, skills and
comforts with cocoa, coffee, palm oil and fruit sold at
ridiculously low prices in exchange for imported food,
liquor, refrigerators and automobiles sold at exorbitant
prices. Live simply. Refuse to buy big capital from nations
that cheat and overcharge. Buy of the Soviet Union and
China as they grow able to sell at low prices. Save thus
your own capital and drive the imperialists into bankruptcy
or into Socialism."
Shirley, my wife, took my speech to Accra. She was shown
rare courtesy and was the only non-African allowed to
address the Assembly. She read my words:
My only role in this meeting is one of advice from one who
has lived long, who has studied Africa and has seen the
modern world. I had hoped to deliver this word in person,
but this was not possible. I have therefore asked my wife,
Shirley Graham, to read it to you. It is simple and direct.
In this great crisis of the world's history, when standing
on the highest peaks of human accomplishment we look
forward to Peace and backward to War; when we look up to
Heaven and down to Hell, let us mince no words. We face
triumph or tragedy without alternative. Africa, ancient
Africa has been called by the world and has lifted up her
hands! Which way shall Africa go? First, I would emphasize
the fact that today Africa has no choice between private
Capitalism and Socialism. The whole world, including
Capitalist countries, is moving toward Socialism,
inevitably, inexorably. You can choose between blocs of
military alliance, you can choose between groups of
political union, you cannot choose between Socialism and
Private Capitalism, because Private ownership of capital is
But what is Socialism? It is disciplined economy and
political organization in which the first duty of a citizen
is to serve the state; and the state is not a selected
aristocracy, or a group of self-seeking oligarchs who have
seized wealth and power. No! The mass of workers with hand
and brain are the ones whose collective destiny is the
chief object of all effort. Gradually, every state is
coming to this concept of its aim. The great Communist
states like the Soviet Union and China have surrendered
completely to this idea. The Scandinavian states have
yielded partially; Britain has yielded in some respects,
France in part and even the United States adopted the New
Deal which was largely socialistic, even though today
further American Socialism is held at bay by 60 great
groups of corporations who control individual capitalists
and the trade-union leaders.
On the other hand, the African tribe, whence all of you
sprung, was communistic in its very beginnings. No
tribesman was free. All were servants of the tribe of whom
the chief was father and voice. Read of the West Coast
trade as described by [J. E.] Casely-Hayford: There is
small trace of private enterprise or individual initiative.
It was the tribe which carried on trade through
individuals, and the chief was mouthpiece of the common
Here then, my Brothers, you face your great decision: Will
you for temporary advantage--for automobiles, refrigerators
and Paris gowns-- spend your income in paying interest on
borrowed funds, or will you sacrifice present comfort and
the chance to shine before your neighbors in order to
educate your children, develop such industry as best serves
the great mass of people and makes your country strong in
ability, self-support and self-defense? Such union of
effort for strength calls for sacrifice and self-denial,
while the capital offered you at high price by the colonial
powers like France, Britain, Holland, Belgium and the
United States, will prolong fatal colonial imperialism,
from which you have suffered slavery, serfdom and
colonialism. You are not helpless. You are the buyers of
capital goods, and to continue existence as sellers of
capital, the great nations, former owners of the world,
must sell or face bankruptcy. You are not compelled to buy
all they offer now. You can wait. You can starve a while
longer rather than sell your great heritage for a mass of
western capitalistic pottage.
You cannot only beat down the price of capital as offered
by the united and monopolized western private capitalists,
but at last today you can compare their offers with those
of socialist countries like the Soviet Union and China,
which with infinite sacrifice and pouring out of blood and
tears, are at last able to offer weak nations needed
capital on better terms than the West. The supply which
socialist nations can at present spare is small as compared
with that of the bloated monopolies of the West, but it is
large and rapidly growing. Its acceptance involves no bonds
which a free Africa may not safely assume. It certainly
does not involve slavery and colonial control which is the
price which the West has demanded, and still demands. Today
she offers a compromise, but one of which you must beware:
She offers to let some of your smarter and less scrupulous
leaders become fellow capitalists with the white
exploiters, if in turn they induce the nation's masses to
pay the awful cost. This has happened in the West Indies
and in South America. This may yet happen in the Middle
East and Eastern Asia. Strive against it with every fibre
of your bodies and souls. A body of local private
capitalists, even if they are black, can never free Africa;
they will simply sell it into new slavery to old masters
As I have said, this is a call for sacrifice. Great Goethe
sang, "Entbehren sollst du, sollst entbehren"--"Thou shalt
forego, shalt do without." If Africa unites it will be
because each part, each nation, each tribe gives up a part
of its heritage for the good of the whole. That is what
union means; that is what Pan-Africa means: When the child
is born into the tribe the price of his growing up is to
give over a part of his freedom to the tribe. This he soon
learns or dies. When the tribe becomes a union of tribes,
the individual tribe surrenders some part of its freedom to
the paramount tribe.
When the nation arises, the constituent tribes, clans and
groups must each yield power and much freedom to the
demands of the nation or the nation dies before it is born.
Your local tribal, much-loved languages must yield to the
few world tongues which serve the largest numbers of people
and promote understanding and world literature.
This is the great dilemma which faces Africa today; faces
one and all: Give up individual rights for the needs of the
nation; give up tribal independence for the needs of Mother
Africa. Forget nothing but set everything in its rightful
place: the Glory of the six Ashanti Wars against Britain;
the wisdom of the Fanti Confederation; the unity of
Nigeria; the song of the Songhay and Hausa; the rebellion
of the Mahdi and the hands of Ethiopia; the greatness of
the Basuto and the fighting of Chaka; the revenge of
Mutessa, and many other happenings and men; but above
all--Africa, Mother of Men. Your nearest friends and
neighbors are the colored people of China and India, the
rest of Asia, the Middle East and the sea isles, once close
bound to the heart of Africa and now long severed by the
greed of Europe. Your bond is no mere color of skin but the
deeper experience of wage slavery and contempt.
So too, your bond with the white world is closest to those
like the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, who support
and defend China and help the slaves of Tibet and India,
and not those who exploit the Middle East, the West Indies,
and South America.
Awake, awake, put on thy strength, O Zion; reject the
meekness of missionaries who teach neither love nor
brotherhood, but emphasize the virtues of private profit
from capital, stolen from your land and labor. Africa
awake, put on the beautiful robes of Pan-African Socialism.
You have nothing to lose but your Chains!
You have a continent to regain!
You have freedom and human dignity to attain!
The address was greeted with applause. Later Shirley and
Mrs. Robeson with the help of Tom Mboya, the chairman,
secured the removal of Chiang Kai-shek's Formosa flag from
the assembly hall.
When in Peking, my 91st birthday was given national
celebration. I pled for unity of China and Africa and my
speech was broadcast to the world:
By courtesy of the government of the 600 million people of
the Chinese Republic, I am permitted on my 91st birthday to
speak to the people of China and Africa and through them to
the world. Hail, then, and farewell, dwelling places of the
yellow and black races. Hail human kind!
I speak with no authority; no assumption of age nor rank; I
hold no position, I have no wealth. One thing alone I own
and that is my own soul. Ownership of that I have even
while in my own country for near a century I have been
nothing but a "nigger." On this basis and this alone I dare
speak, I dare advise.
China after long centuries has arisen to her feet and leapt
forward. Africa, arise, and stand straight, speak and
think! Act! Turn from the West and your slavery and
humiliation for the last 500 years and face the rising sun.
Behold a people, the most populous nation on this ancient
earth, which has burst its shackles, not by boasting and
strutting, not by lying about its history and its
conquests, but by patience and long suffering, by blind
struggle, moved up and on toward the crimson sky. She aims
to "make men holy; to make men free."
But what men? Not simply the mandarins but including
mandarins; not simply the rich, but not excluding the rich.
Not simply the learned, but led by knowledge to the end
that no man shall be poor, nor sick, nor ignorant; but that
the humblest worker as well as the sons of emperors shall
be fed and taught and healed and that there emerge on earth
a single unified people, free, well and educated.
You have been told, my Africa: My Africa in Africa and all
your children's children overseas; you have been told and
the telling so beaten into you by rods and whips, that you
believe it yourselves, that this is impossible; that
mankind can rise only by walking on men; by cheating them
and killing them; that only on a doormat of the despised
and dying, the dead and rotten, can a British aristocracy,
a French cultural elite or an American millionaire be
nurtured and grown.
This is a lie. It is an ancient lie spread by church and
state, spread by priest and historian, and believed in by
fools and cowards, as well as by the downtrodden and the
children of despair.
Speak, China, and tell your truth to Africa and the world.
What people have been despised as you have? Who more than
you have been rejected of men? Recall when lordly
Britishers threw the rickshaw money on the ground to avoid
touching a filthy hand. Forget not the time when in
Shanghai no Chinese man dare set foot in a park which he
paid for. Tell this to Africa, for today Africa stands on
new feet, with new eyesight, with new brains and asks:
Where am I and why?
The Western sirens answer: Britain wheedles; France
cajoles; while America, my America, where my ancestors and
descendants for eight generations have lived and toiled;
America loudest of all, yells and promises freedom. If only
Africa allows American investment!
Beware Africa, America bargains for your soul. America
would have you believe that they freed your grandchildren;
that Afro-Americans are full American citizens, treated
like equals, paid fair wages as workers, promoted for
desert and free to learn and travel across the world
This is not true. Some are near freedom; some approach
equality with whites; some have achieved education; but the
price for this has too often been slavery of mind,
distortion of truth and oppression of our own people.
Of 18 million Afro-Americans, 12 million are still
second-class citizens of the United States, serfs in
farming, low-paid laborers in industry, and repressed
members of union labor. Most American Negroes do not vote.
Even the rising six million are liable to insult and
discrimination at any time.
But this, Africa, relates to your descendants, not to you.
Once I thought of you Africans as children, whom we
educated Afro-Americans would lead to liberty. I was wrong.
We could not even lead ourselves much less you. Today I see
you rising under your own leadership, guided by your own
Africa does not ask alms from China nor from the Soviet
Union nor from France, Britain, nor the United States. It
asks friendship and sympathy and no nation better than
China can offer this to the Dark Continent. Let it be
freely given and generously. Let Chinese visit Africa, send
their scientists there and their artists and writers. Let
Africa send its students to China and its seekers after
knowledge. It will not find on earth a richer goal, a more
promising mine of information.
On the other hand, watch the West. The new British West
Indian Federation is not a form of democratic progress but
a cunning attempt to reduce these islands to the control of
British and American investors. Haiti is dying under rich
Haitian investors who with American money are enslaving the
peasantry. Cuba is showing what the West Indies, Central
and South America are suffering under American big
The American worker himself does not always realize this.
He has high wages and many comforts. Rather than lose
these, he keeps in office by his vote the servants of
industrial exploitation so long as they maintain his wage.
His labor leaders represent exploitation and not the fight
against the exploitation of labor by private capital. These
two sets of exploiters fall out only when one demands too
large a share of the loot.
This China knows. This Africa must learn. This the American
Negro has failed so far to learn. I am frightened by the
so-called friends who are flocking to Africa. Negro
Americans trying to make money from your toil, white
Americans who seek by investment and high interest to bind
you in serfdom to business as the Near East is bound and as
South America is struggling with. For this America is
tempting your leaders, bribing your young scholars, and
arming your soldiers. What shall you do?
First, understand! Realize that the great mass of mankind
is freeing itself from wage slavery, while private capital
in Britain, France, and now in America, is still trying to
maintain civilization and comfort for a few on the toil,
disease and ignorance of the mass of men. Understand this,
and understanding comes from direct knowledge. You know
America and France, and Britain to your sorrow. Now know
the Soviet Union, but particularly know China.
China is flesh of your flesh, and blood of your blood.
China is colored and knows to what a colored skin in this
modern world subjects its owner. But China knows more, much
more than this: she knows what to do about it. She can take
the insults of the United States and still hold her head
high. She can make her own machines, when America refuses
to sell her American manufactures, even though it hurts
American industry, and throws her workers out of jobs.
China does not need American nor British missionaries to
teach her religion and scare her with tales of hell. China
has been in hell too long, not to believe in a heaven of
her own making. This she is doing.
Come to China, Africa, and look around. Invite Africa to
come, China, and see what you can teach by just pointing.
Yonder old woman is working on the street. But she is
happy. She has no fear. Her children are in school and a
good school. If she is ill, there is a hospital where she
is cared for free of charge. She has a vacation with pay
each year. She can die and be buried without taxing her
family to make some undertaker rich.
Africa can answer: but some of this we have done; our
tribes undertake public service like this. Very well, let
your tribes continue and expand this work. What Africa must
realize is what China knows; that it is worse than stupid
to allow a people's education to be under the control of
those who seek not the progress of the people but their use
as means of making themselves rich and powerful. It is
wrong for the University of London to control the
University of Ghana. It is wrong for the Catholic church to
direct the education of the black Congolese. It was wrong
for Protestant churches supported by British and American
wealth to control higher education in China.
The Soviet Union is surpassing the world in popular and
higher education, because from the beginning it started its
own complete educational system. The essence of the
revolution in the Soviet Union and China and in all the
"iron curtain" nations, is not the violence that
accompanied the change; no more than starvation at Valley
Forge was the essence of the American revolution against
Britain. The real revolution is the acceptance on the part
of the nation of the fact that hereafter the main object of
the nation is the welfare of the mass of the people and not
of the lucky few.
Government is for the people's progress and not for the
comfort of an aristocracy. The object of industry is the
welfare of the workers and not the wealth of the owners.
The object of civilization is the cultural progress of the
mass of workers and not merely of an intellectual elite.
And in return for all this, communist lands believe that
the cultivation of the mass of people will discover more
talent and genius to serve the state than any closed
aristocracy ever furnished. This belief the current history
of the Soviet Union and China is proving true each day.
Therefore don't let the West invest when you can avoid it.
Don't buy capital from Britain, France and the United
States if you can get it on reasonable terms from the
Soviet Union and China. This is not politics; it is common
sense. It is learning from experience. It is trusting your
friends and watching your enemies. Refuse to be cajoled or
to change your way of life, so as to make a few of your
fellows rich at the expense of a mass of workers growing
poor and sick and remaining without schools so that a few
black men can have automobiles.
Africa, here is a
real danger which you must avoid or return to the slavery
from which you are emerging. All I ask from you is the
courage to know; to look about you and see what is
happening in this old and tired world; to realize the
extent and depth of its rebirth and the promise which glows
on your hills.
Visit the Soviet Union and visit China. Let your youth learn
the Russian and Chinese languages. Stand together in this
new world and let the old world perish in its greed or be born
again in new hope and promise. Listen to the Hebrew prophet
Ho! every one that thirsteth; come ye to the waters; come, buy and eat, without money and price!
Again, China and Africa, hail and farewell!
From W.E.B. DuBois, The Autobiography of W.E.B. DuBois: A Soliloquy on Viewing My Life from the Last Decade of Its First Century.
New York, NY: International Publishers Co. Inc.,
1968, pp. 396-408.