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19 October 2011

William Edward Burghardt (or W. E. B.) Du Bois in Great Barrington, Massachusetts: Literary New England #10

'I WAS BORN BY A GOLDEN RIVER IN THE SHADOW OF TWO GREAT HILLS. FIVE YEARS AFTER THE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION.'
BIRTHSITE OF W.E.B. DUBOIS (1868-1963)
PREMIER ARCHITECT OF THE AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT

ERECTED BY THE GREAT BARRINGTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY
1994'

Du Bois's mother, Mary Sylvina Burghardt, had married Alfred Du Bois in 1867 and they rented a small property near this site on Church Street. After some trouble from Mary's family, though, Alfred left to make his own way. In Darkwater, W.E.B. Du Bois remembered its clapboards, its five rooms, and the delicious strawberries at the back. It was demolished in 1897.

William went to meetings at the Town Hall on the corner of Main and Castle streets to gather news for the Freeman (which was later called the Globe), a newspaper from New York with a predominant African American circulation.

The ailing Mary moved to other rented accommodation in Church Street, at the rear of the Congregational Church on Main Street, which she joined. When she died in 1885, William moved in with his aunt on Main Street for a short time before going to Fisk University. This is one of three congregations that helped him financially.

Clinton African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Elm Court is the oldest black church building in Berkshire County. William returned to give a talk there in 1894. The following year, he became the first African American to earn a PhD from Harvard University. 

'W.E.B. DU BOIS
RIVER GARDEN

"The Housatonic River flows gently
as the first life stream of our town".
                               W.E.B. Du Bois, 1961'.

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