AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – Nearly six decades after his passing, W.E.B. Du Bois legacy continues to live on in his birthplace of western Massachusetts and beyond.
His life’s commitment to social justice inspired countless to walk in his footsteps and lead scholars and teachers here to the Umass Amherst W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies.
“Dr. DuBois was a genius, he’s someone that many of us in the academy can aspire to want to emulate, said Dr. Amilcar Shabazz. “He was truly what we call a scholar-activist and by that I mean he saw problems in the world, injustices in the world and put so much of his gifts into trying to solve those problems.”
Dr. Shabazz is a professor of history and Africana Studies and has spent more than 15 years teaching in the department that bears Du Bois’s namesake. “We would like to say that we are trying to contribute to the future of Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois. Having a doctorate program since 1996, we have well over 100 Ph. D.s we’ve graduated and they’re all over the country, all over the world,” added Shabazz. “We’ve had students from China get their doctorate and return to China and students from Brazil. We really feel that’s important to carry on that work and the study of African American literature, African American history, and culture.”
Du Bois’s works and achievements span far and wide. In addition to becoming the first African American to graduate from Harvard University with a Ph.D., Du Bois was also one of the founders of the oldest civil rights organization in the country, with a local chapter located in Springfield.
“He first started in 1905. With the Niagra Movement, but then he got together with people that wanted to build a multi-racial organization that became the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People,” explained Shabazz. “It’s just a part of the many kinds of firsts and things he helped to build.”
And in building so many firsts, his call to action continues to ignite that spark in those with a thirst for knowledge and change. Something Dr. Shabazz is why Du Bois is considered to be one of the most well-known men and renowned figures in African American history.
“His call to all of us to fall in love with learning fall in love with knowledge and to grow from it is one for me and in this black history month really stands out,” expressed Shabazz.