William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (1868-1963), born and raised in Great Barrington, is one of the most important figures in American intellectual history and a leader in the civil rights movement.
After graduating from Searles High School, he went on to earn a B.A. degree from Fisk University and a B.A. and M.A. from Harvard University. In 1895, he became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard. Over his long and controversial career, he served as editor of the NAACP's newspaper The Crisis from 1910 until 1934, and published an extraordinary range of books, including The Suppression of the African Slave-Trade to the United States of America (1896), The Philadelphia Negro (1899), The Souls of Black Folk (1903), Darkwater (1920), The Gift of Black Folk: The Negroes in the Making of America (1924), Dark Princess (1928), and Black Reconstruction (1935).
Over the years, Bard College at Simon's Rock has sought to honor the memory and legacy of this native son of Great Barrington by establishing a W.E.B. Du Bois Collection in African American literature and history in the library and establishing W.E.B. Du Bois scholarships for outstanding minority students. In 1996, the College established its W.E.B. Du Bois Memorial Lecture—to be given each year on or near Du Bois's birthday, February 23—which is presented by a distinguished African American whose own achievements are in the tradition of Du Bois.
2015: Whitney Battle-Baptiste, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts
2014: Penelope Andrews, 17th President & Dean of Albany Law School
2013: Richard J. Powell, John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art and Art History, Duke University
2012: Lewis Gordon, Laura H. Carnell Professor of Philosophy and Jewish Studies, with affiliations in African American Studies and Religion, Temple University
2010: Joan Countryman, former Head of Lincoln School, former Interim Head of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa
2009: Faith Ringgold, Professor of Art, University of California at San Diego
2008: John Edgar Wideman, Asa Messer Professor of Africana Studies and English, Brown University
2007: Yaw Bredwa-Mensah, lecturer and archeologist, University of Ghana
2006: Leon E. Wynter, journalist and essayist
1998: David L. Smith, Francis Christopher Oakley Professor of English & Dean of the Faculty, Williams College
1997: Sonia Sanchez, Laura Carnell Professor of English, Temple University
1996: Roger W. Wilkins, Robinson Professor of History, George Mason University
The W.E.B. Du Bois Memorial Lecture is supported by a grant from The Spingold Foundation, Inc.