w.e.b. dubois Quotes

W.E.B. DuBois Quotes

Birth Date: 1868-02-23 (Sunday, February 23rd, 1868)
Date of Death: 1963-08-27 (Tuesday, August 27th, 1963)

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Quotes

    • 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.
    • There is but one coward on earth, and that is the coward that dare not know.
    • The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line.
    • I insist that the object of all true education is not to make men carpenters, it is to make carpenters men.
    • The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression.
    • Liberty trains for liberty. Responsibility is the first step in responsibility.
    • 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.
    • The cause of war is preparation for war.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • In my own country for nearly a century I have been nothing but a nigger.
    • Believe in life! Always human beings will progress to greater, broader, and fuller life.
    • 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.
    • The Soviet Union does not allow any church of any kind to interfere with education, and religion is not taught in public schools. It seems to me that this is the greatest gift of the Russian Revolution to the modern world. Most educated modern men no longer believe in religious dogma. If questioned they will usually resort to double-talk before admitting the fact. But who today actually believes that this world is ruled and directed by a benevolent person of great power who, on humble appeal, will change the course of events at our request? Who believes in miracles? Many folk follow religious ceremonies and services and allow their children to learn fairy tales and so-called religious truth, which in time the children come to recognize as conventional lies told by their parents and teachers for the children's good. One can hardly exaggerate the moral disaster of the custom. We have to thank the Soviet Union for the courage to stop it.
    • After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world, - a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. 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. One ever feels his twoness, - an American, a Negro; two warring souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. 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.
    • To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships.
    • And yet this very singleness of vision and thorough oneness with his age is a mark of the successful man. It is as though Nature needs must make men narrow in order to give them force.
    • The function of the university is not simply to teach bread-winning, or to furnish teachers for the public schools or to be a centre of polite society; it is, above all, to be the organ of that fine adjustment between real life and the growing knowledge of life, an adjustment which forms the secret of civilization.
    • The worker must work for the glory of his handiwork, not simply for pay; the thinker must think for truth, not for fame.
    • I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not. Across the color-line I move arm in arm with Balzac and Dumas, where smiling men and welcoming women glide in gilded halls. From out the caves of the evening that swing between the strong-limbed earth and the tracery of the stars, I summon Aristotle and Aurelius and what soul I will, and they come all graciously with no scorn nor condescension. So, wed with Truth, I dwell above the Veil. Is this the life you grudge us, O knightly America? Is this the life you long to change into the dull red hideousness of Georgia? Are you so afraid lest peering from this high Pisgah, between Philistine and Amalekite, we sight the Promised Land?
    • 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.
    • 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 and 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.
    • 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.
    • Why was his hair tinted with gold? An evil omen was golden hair in my life. Why had not the brown of his eyes crushed out and killed the blue? - for brown were his father's eyes, and his father's father's. And thus in the Land of the Color-line I saw, as it fell across my baby, the shadow of the Veil.
    • Within the Veil was he born, said I; and there within shall he live, - a Negro and a Negro's son. Holding in that little head - ah, bitterly! - the unbowed pride of a hunted race, clinging with that tiny dimpled hand - ah, wearily! - to a hope not hopeless but unhopeful, and seeing with those bright wondering eyes that peer into my soul a land whose freedom is to us a mockery and whose liberty is a lie.
    • 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.
    • It was a bright September afternoon, and the streets of New York were brilliant with moving men.... He was pushed toward the ticket-office with the others, and felt in his pocket for the new five-dollar bill he had hoarded.... When at last he realized that he had paid five dollars to enter he knew not what, he stood stock-still amazed.... John... sat in a half-maze minding the scene about him; the delicate beauty of the hall, the faint perfume, the moving myriad of men, the rich clothing and low hum of talking seemed all a part of a world so different from his, so strangely more beautiful than anything he had known, that he sat in dreamland, and started when, after a hush, rose high and clear the music of Lohengrin's swan. The infinite beauty of the wail lingered and swept through every muscle of his frame, and put it all a-tune. He closed his eyes and grasped the elbows of the chair, touching unwittingly the lady's arm. And the lady drew away. A deep longing swelled in all his heart to rise with that clear music out of the dirt and dust of that low life that held him prisoned and befouled. If he could only live up in the free air where birds sang and setting suns had no touch of blood! Who had called him to be the slave and butt of all?... If he but had some master-work, some life-service, hard, aye, bitter hard, but without the cringing and sickening servility.... When at last a soft sorrow crept across the violins, there came to him the vision of a far-off home - the great eyes of his sister, and the dark drawn face of his mother.... It left John sitting so silent and rapt that he did not for some time notice the usher tapping him lightly on the shoulder and saying politely, 'will you step this way please sir?'... The manager was sorry, very very sorry - but he explained that some mistake had been made in selling the gentleman a seat already disposed of; he would refund the money, of course... before he had finished John was gone, walking hurriedly across the square... and as he passed the park he buttoned his coat and said, 'John Jones you're a natural-born fool.' Then he went to his lodgings and wrote a letter, and tore it up; he wrote another, and threw it in the fire....
    • Present-day students are often puzzled at the apparent contradictions of Southern slavery. One hears, on the one hand, of the staid and gentle patriarchy, the wide and sleepy plantations with lord and retainers, ease and happiness; on the other hand one hears of barbarous cruelty and unbridled power and wide oppression of men. Which is the true picture? The answer is simple: both are true. They are not opposite sides of the same shield; they are different shields.
    • 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.
    • Unfortunately there was one thing that the white South feared more than Negro dishonesty, ignorance, and incompetency, and that was Negro honesty, knowledge, and efficiency.
    • w.e.b. dubois

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