121+ Best W.E.B. Du Bois Quotes: Exclusive Selection

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was an American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author, writer and editor. Profoundly inspirational W.E.B. Du Bois quotes will brighten up your day and make you feel ready to take on anything.

Famous W.E.B. Du Bois Quotes

To stimulate wildly weak and untrained minds is to play with mighty fires. – W. E. B. Du Bois

The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Either America will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States. – W. E. B. Du Bois

There is in this world no such force as the force of a person determined to rise. The human soul cannot be permanently chained. – W. E. B. Du Bois

I refused to teach Sunday school. When Archdeacon Henry Phillips, my last rector, died, I flatly refused again to join any church or sign any church creed. From my 30th year on I have increasingly regarded the church as an institution which defended such evils as slavery, color caste, exploitation of labor and war. – W. E. B. Du Bois

No universal selfishness can bring social good to all. – W. E. B. Du Bois

The music of an unhappy people, of the children of disappointment; they tell of death and suffering and unvoiced longing toward a truer world, of misty wanderings and hidden ways. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Out of the temptation of Hate, and burned by the fire of Despair, triumphant over Doubt, and steeled by Sacrifice against Humiliation, . . . He bent to all the gibes and prejudices, to all hatred and discrimination with that rare courtesy which is the armor of pure souls. . . . he simply worked, inspiring the young, rebuking the old, helping the weak, guiding the strong. – W. E. B. Du Bois

If there is anybody in this land who thoroughly believes that the meek shall inherit the earth they have not often let their presence be known. – W. E. B. Du Bois

In the treatment of the child the world foreshadows its own future and faith. All words and all thinking lead to the child, – to that vast immortality and wide sweep of infinite possibility which the child represents. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Had it not been for the race problem early thrust upon me and enveloping me, I should have probably been an unquestioning worshipper at the shrine of the established social order and of the economic development into which I was born. – W. E. B. Du Bois

I believe in pride of race and lineage and self: in pride of self so deep as to scorn injustice to other selves; in pride of lineage so great as to despise no man’s father; in pride of race so chivalrous as neither to offer bastardy to the weak nor beg wedlock of the strong, knowing that men may be brothers in Christ, even though they be not brothers-in-law. – W. E. B. Du Bois

If the unemployed could eat plans and promises, they would be able to spend the winter on the Riviera. – W. E. B. Du Bois

I believe in Liberty for all men: the space to stretch their arms and their souls. – W. E. B. Du Bois

It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Actively we have woven ourselves with the very warp and woof of this nation, – we have fought their battles, shared their sorrow, mingled our blood with theirs, and generation after generation have pleaded with a headstrong, careless people to despise not Justice, Mercy and Truth, lest the nation be smitten with a curse. Our song, our toil, our cheer and warning have been given to this nation in blood-brotherhood. Are not these gifts worth the giving? Is not this worth the striving? Would America have been America without her Negro People? – W. E. B. Du Bois

Race prejudice decreases values, both real estate and human. – W. E. B. Du Bois

One thing alone I charge you. As you live, believe in life! Always human beings will live and progress to greater, broader and fuller life. The only possible death is to lose belief in this truth simply because the great end comes slowly, because time is long. – W. E. B. Du Bois

The time must come when, great and pressing as change and betterment may be, they do not involve killing and hurting people. – W. E. B. Du Bois

The merchant must be no more pessimist than optimist, since pessimism induces him to hold back his capital but optimism induces him to take such risks that he has more to tear than to hope. Abu al’Fadl Ja’far al-Dimishqi (c. 9th century) Arab writer. The Beauties of Commerce Business pays … philanthropy begs. – W. E. B. Du Bois

It is the trained, living human soul, cultivated and strengthened by long study and thought, that breathes the real breath of life into boys and girls and makes them human, whether they be black or white, Greek, Russian or American. – W. E. B. Du Bois

The severest charge that can be brought against the Christian education of the Negro in the South during the last thirty years is the reckless way in which sap-headed young fellows, without ability, and, in some cases, without character, have been urged and pushed into the ministry. – W. E. B. Du Bois

All men cannot go to college but some men must; every isolated group or nation must have its yeast, must have for the talented few centers of training where men are not so mystified and befuddled by the hard and necessary toil of earning a living, as to have no aims higher than their bellies, and no God greater than Gold. – W. E. B. Du Bois

If you want to feel humor too exquisite and subtle for translation, sit invisibly among a gang of Negro workers. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Little of beauty has America given the world save the rude grandeur God himself stamped on her bosom; the human spirit in this new world has expressed itself in vigor and ingenuity rather than in beauty. – W. E. B. Du Bois

I am one who tells the truth and exposes evil and seeks with Beauty for Beauty to set the world right. – W. E. B. Du Bois

There is always a certain glamour about the idea of a nation rising up to crush an evil simply because it is wrong. Unfortunately, this can seldom be realized in real life; for the very existence of the evil usually argues a moral weakness in the very place where extraordinary moral strength is called for. – W. E. B. Du Bois

The world still wants to ask that a woman primarily be pretty and if she is not, the mob pouts and asks querulously, ‘What else are women for? – W. E. B. Du Bois

We cannot escape the clear fact that what is going to win in this world is reason, if this ever becomes a reasonable world. – W. E. B. Du Bois

A man does not look behind the door unless he has stood there himself – W. E. B. Du Bois

There may often be excuse for doing things poorly in this world, but there is never any excuse for calling a poorly done thing, well done. – W. E. B. Du Bois

The theory of democratic government is not that the will of the people is always right, but rather that normal human beings of average intelligence will, if given a chance, learn the right and best course by bitter experience. – W. E. B. Du Bois

The power of the ballot we need in sheer defense, else what shall save us from a second slavery? – W. E. B. Du Bois

But we do not merely protest; we make renewed demand for freedom in that vast kingdom of the human spirit where freedom has ever had the right to dwell:the expressing of thought to unstuffed ears; the dreaming of dreams by untwisted souls. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Whether you like it or not the millions are here, and here they will remain. If you do not lift them up, they will pull you down… Education must not simply teach work – it must teach life. – W. E. B. Du Bois

We shall never secure emancipation from the tyranny of the white oppressor until we have achieved it in our own souls. – W. E. B. Du Bois

How shall Integrity face Oppression? What shall Honesty do in the face of Deception, Decency in the face of Insult, Self-Defense before Blows? How shall Desert and Accomplishment meet Despising, Detraction, and Lies? What shall Virtue do to meet Brute Force? There are so many answers and so contradictory; and such differences for those on the one hand who meet questions similar to this once a year or once a decade, and those who face them hourly and daily. – W. E. B. Du Bois

The function of the university is not simply to teach breadwinning, or to furnish teachers for the public schools, or to be a centre of polite society; if is, above all, to be the organ of that fine adjustment between real life and the growing knowledge of life, an adjustment from which forms the secret of civilization. – W. E. B. Du Bois

When in this world a man comes forward with a thought, a deed, a vision, we ask not how does he look, but what is his message?. . . The world still wants to ask that a woman primarily be pretty. . . . – W. E. B. Du Bois

One ever feels his twoness – an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Among Negroes of my generation there was not only little direct acquaintance or consciously inherited knowledge of Africa, but much distaste and recoil because of what the white world taught them about the Dark Continent. There arose resentment that a group like ours, born and bred in the United States for centuries, should be regarded as Africans at all. They were, as most of them began gradually to assert, Americans. My father’s father was particularly bitter about this. He would not accept an invitation to a ‘Negro’ picnic. He would not segregate himself in any way. – W. E. B. Du Bois

I have loved my work, I have loved people and my play, but always I have been uplifted by the thought that what I have done well will live long and justify my life, that what I have done ill or never finished can now be handed on to others for endless days to be finished, perhaps better than I could have done. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Education is that whole system of human training within and without the school house walls, which molds and develops men. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Disfranchisement is the deliberate theft and robbery of the only protection of poor against rich and black against white. – W. E. B. Du Bois

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

Would America have been America without her Negro people? – W. E. B. Du Bois

A classic is a book that doesn’t have to be written again. – W. E. B. Du Bois

As Negro voting increased, Congress got an improved sense of hearing. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Lord of the springtime, Father of flower, field and fruit, smile on us in these earnest days when the work is heavy and the toil wearisome; lift up our hearts, O God, to the things worthwhile-sunshine and night, the dripping rain, the song of the birds, books and music, and the voices of our friends. Lift up our hearts to these this night and grant us Thy peace. Amen. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Now is the accepted time, not tomorrow, not some more convenient season. It is today that our best work can be done and not some future day or future year. It is today that we fit ourselves for the greater usefulness of tomorrow. Today is the seed time, now are the hours of work, and tomorrow comes the harvest and the playtime. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Strive for that greatness of spirit that measures life not by its disappointments but by its possibilities. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Children learn more from what you are than what you teach. – W. E. B. Du Bois

There is no force equal to a woman determined to rise – W. E. B. Du Bois

Nothing in the world is easier in the United States than to accuse a black man of crime. – W. E. B. Du Bois

One is astonished in the study of history at the recurrence of the idea that evil must be forgotten, distorted, skimmed over. We must not remember that Daniel Webster got drunk but only that he was a splendid constitutional lawyer. We must forget that George Washington was a slave owner . . . and simply remember the things we regard as creditable and inspiring. The difficulty, of course, with this philosophy is that history loses its value as an incentive and example; it paints perfect man and noble nations, but it does not tell the truth. – W. E. B. Du Bois

We must complain. Yes, plain, blunt complaint, ceaseless agitation, unfailing exposure of dishonesty and wrong – this is the ancient, unerring way to liberty and we must follow it. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Education must not simply teach work-it must teach life. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Daily the Negro is coming more and more to look upon law and justice, not as protecting safeguards, but as sources of humiliation and oppression. The laws are made by men who have little interest in him; they are executed by men who have absolutely no motive for treating the black people with courtesy or consideration; and, finally, the accused law-breaker is tried, not by his peers, but too often by men who would rather punish ten innocent Negroes than let one guilty one escape. – W. E. B. Du Bois

To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships. – W. E. B. Du Bois

In 1956, I shall not go to the polls. I have not registered. I believe that democracy has so far disappeared in the United States that no ‘two evils’ exist. There is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Today I see more clearly than yesterday that the back of the problem of race and color lies a greater problem which both obscures and implements it: and that is the fact that so many civilized persons are willing to live in comfort even if the price of this is poverty, ignorance, and disease of the majority of their fellow men. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Oppression costs the oppressor too much if the oppressed stands up and protests. The protest need not be merely physical-the throwing of stones and bullets-if it is mental, spiritual; if it expresses itself in silent, persistent dissatisfaction, the cost to the oppressor is terrific. – W. E. B. Du Bois

I am especially glad of the divine gift of laughter: it has made the world human and lovable, despite all its pain and wrong. – W. E. B. Du Bois

I believe that all men, black and brown, and white, are brothers, varying, through Time and Opportunity, in form and gift and feature, but differing in no essential particular, and alike in soul and in the possibility of infinite development. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Men must not only know, they must act. – W. E. B. Du Bois

There is but one coward on earth, and that is the coward that dare not know. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Ignorance is a cure for nothing. – W. E. B. Du Bois

The worker must work for the glory of his handiwork, not simply for pay; the thinker must think for truth, not for fame. – W. E. B. Du Bois

The emancipation of man is the emancipation of labor and the emancipation of labor is the freeing of that basic majority of workers who are yellow, brown and black. – W. E. B. Du Bois

The chief problem in any community cursed with crime is not the punishment of the criminals, but the preventing of the young from being trained to crime. – W. E. B. Du Bois

It is the wind and the rain, O God, the cold and the storm that make this earth of yours to blossom and bear its fruit. So, in our lives it is storm and stress and hurt and suffering that make real men and women bring the world’s work to its highest perfection. – W. E. B. Du Bois

But what of black women?… I most sincerely doubt if any other race of women could have brought its fineness up through so devilish a fire. – W. E. B. Du Bois

An American, a Negro… two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. – W. E. B. Du Bois

The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Believe in life! Always human beings will live and progress to greater, broader, and fuller life. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Most men today cannot conceive of a freedom that does not involve somebody’s slavery. – W. E. B. Du Bois

A little less complaint and whining, and a little more dogged work and manly striving, would do us more credit than a thousand civil rights bills. – W. E. B. Du Bois

When you have mastered numbers, you will in fact no longer be reading numbers, any more than you read words when reading books, You will be reading meanings. – W. E. B. Du Bois

It is as though nature must needs make men narrow in order to give them force. – W. E. B. Du Bois

To the real question, how does it feel to be a problem? I answer seldom a word. – W. E. B. Du Bois

At best, the natural good-nature is edged with complaint or has changed into sullenness and gloom. And now and then it blazes forth in veiled but hot anger. – W. E. B. Du Bois

One reads the truer deeper facts of Reconstruction with a great despair. It is at once so simple and human, and yet so futile. There is no villain, no idiot, no saint. There are just men; men who crave ease and power, men who know want and hunger, men who have crawled. They all dream and strive with ecstasy of fear and strain of effort, balked of hope and hate. Yet the rich world is wide enough for all, wants all, needs all. So slight a gesture, a word, might set the strife in order, not with full content, but with growing dawn of fulfillment. Instead roars the crash of hell… – W. E. B. Du Bois

Here is the chance for young women and young men of devotion to lift again the banner of humanity and to walk toward a civilization which will be free and intelligent; which will be healthy and unafraid, and build in the world a culture led by black folk and joined by peoples of all colors and all races – without poverty, ignorance and disease! – W. E. B. Du Bois

No people can more exactly interpret the inmost meaning of the present situation in Ireland than the American Negro. The scheme is simple. You knock a man down and then have him arrested for assault. You kill a man and then hang the corpse. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Whiteness is ownership of the earth. – W. E. B. Du Bois

The kind of sermon which is preached in most colored churches is not today attractive to even fairly intelligent men. – W. E. B. Du Bois

I insist that the object of all true education is not to make men carpenters, it is to make carpenters men. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Liberty trains for liberty. – W. E. B. Du Bois

The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife, — this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost… He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American… – W. E. B. Du Bois

I believe that there are human stocks with whom it is physically unwise to intermarry, but to think that these stocks are all colored or that there are no such white stocks is unscientific and false. – W. E. B. Du Bois

The Negro cannot stand the present reactionary tendencies and unreasoning drawing of the color line indefinitely without discouragement and retrogression. And the condition of the Negro is ever the cause for further discrimination. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Honest and earnest criticism from those whose interests are most nearly touched,- criticism of writers by readers, of government by those governed, of leaders by those led, – this is the soul of democracy and the safeguard of modern society – W. E. B. Du Bois

The most ordinary Negro is a distinct gentleman, but it takes extraordinary training and opportunity to make the average white man anything but a hog. – W. E. B. Du Bois

What do nations care about the cost of war, if by spending a few hundred millions in steel and gunpowder they can gain a thousand millions in diamonds and cocoa? – W. E. B. Du Bois

We black men seem the sole oasis of simple faith and reverence in a dusty desert of dollars and smartness. – W. E. B. Du Bois

The dark world is going to submit to its present treatment just as long as it must and not one moment longer. – W. E. B. Du Bois

All art is propaganda…I do not care a damn, for any art that is not used for propaganda. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Lord, make us mindful of the little things that grow and blossom in these days to make the world beautiful for us. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Why did God make me an outcast and a stranger in mine own house? The shades of the prison-house closed round about us all: walls strait and stubborn to the whitest, but relentlessly narrow, tall, and unscalable to sons of night who must plod darkly on in resignation, or beat unavailing palms against the stone, or steadily, half hopelessly, watch the streak of blue above. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Thus all Art is propaganda and ever must be…. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Half the Christian churches of New York are trying to ruin the free public schools in order to replace them by religious dogma. – W. E. B. Du Bois

It is the stars, it is the ancient stars, it is the young and everlasting stars! – W. E. B. Du Bois

We cannot hope, then, in this generation, or for several generations, that the mass of the whites can be brought to assume that close sympathetic and self-sacrificing leadership of the blacks which their present situation so eloquently demands. Such leadership, such social teaching and example, must come from the blacks themselves. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Progress in human affairs is more often a pull than a push, a surging forward of the exceptional man, and the lifting of his duller brethren slowly and painfully to his vantage-ground. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Unless modern civilization is a failure, it is entirely feasible and practicable for two races in such essential political, economic and religious harmony as the white and colored people in America, to develop side by side in peace and mutual happiness, the peculiar contribution which each has to make to the culture of their common country. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Cannot the nation that has absorbed ten million foreigners into its political life without catastrophe absorb ten million Negro Americans into that same political life at less cost than their unjust and illegal exclusion will involve? – W. E. B. Du Bois

The Nation has not yet found peace from its sins; the freedman has not yet found in freedom his promised land. Whatever of good may have come in these years of change, the shadow of a deep disappointment rests upon the Negro people,—a disappointment all the more bitter because the unattained ideal was unbounded save by the simple ignorance of a lowly people. – W. E. B. Du Bois

America is not another word for Opportunity to all her sons. – W. E. B. Du Bois

I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not. – W. E. B. Du Bois

It is, then, the strife of all honorable men and women of the twentieth century to see that in the future competition of the races the survival of the fittest shall mean the triumph of the good, the beautiful, and the true; that we may be able to preserve for future civilization all that is really fine and noble and strong, and not continue to put a premium on greed and imprudence and cruelty. – W. E. B. Du Bois

The future woman must have a life work and economic independence. She must have the right of motherhood at her own discretion. – W. E. B. Du Bois

The main thing is the YOU beneath the clothes and skin–the ability to do, the will to conquer, the determination to understand and know this great, wonderful, curious world. – W. E. B. Du Bois

But art is not simply works of art; it is the spirit that knows Beauty, that has music in its soul and the color of sunsets in its headkerchiefs; that can dance on a flaming world and make the world dance, too. – W. E. B. Du Bois

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. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Life has its pains and evils-its bitter disappointments; but like a good novel and in healthful length of days, there is infinite joy in seeing the World, the most interesting of continued stories, unfold… – W. E. B. Du Bois

For education among all kinds of men always has had, and always will have, an element of danger and revolution, of dissatisfaction and discontent. – W. E. B. Du Bois

So often do you see collegians enter life with high resolve and lofty purpose and then watch them shrink and shrink to sordid, selfish, shrewd plodders, full of distrust and sneers. – W. E. B. Du Bois

The world is shrinking together; it is finding itself neighbor to itself in strange, almost magic degree. – W. E. B. Du Bois

The shadow of a mighty Negro past flits through the tale of Ethiopia the shadowy and of the Egypt the Sphinx. Throughout history, the powers of single blacks flash here and there like falling stars, and die sometimes before the world has rightly gauged their brightness. – W. E. B. Du Bois

The true college will ever have but one goal – not to earn meat, but to know the end and aim of that life which meat nourishes. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Harriet Tubman fought American slavery single handed and was a pioneer in that organized effort known as the Underground Railroad. – W. E. B. Du Bois

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