W.E.B. Du Bois, the Historic Man and Founder of the NAACP
Tufuku Zuberi: Long before your modern public intellectual. Long before there was science in sociology, W.E.B. Dubois had the courage to be scientific in a world that wasn't necessarily prepared for scientific explanations of human relationships.
He did that by applying science of sociology, which was new at the beginning of the 20th century, to apply that knowledge to the study of the African-American population in Philadelphia and he did this at the invitation of the University of Pennsylvania.
He received that letter, that invitation from the provost here at the University of Pennsylvania, inviting him to come and write the Philadelphian Eagle. He came with the intention of not only to give them what they wanted but to produce a scientific work, which would be a model for future investigations without race prejudice, without discrimination. A model for doing social science that privileged the humanity above the prejudice views of the scholars. That indeed, he did.
You talk to political scientists and they will be at the conference and they will tell you that W.E.B Dubois inspired me to be a political scientist. You talk to historians and they will argue with me that W.E.B. Dubois was a historian. You talk to psychologists and they will explain to you how his idea about double consciousness has been fundamental for understand the psychological processes of not only African-Americans but citizens all over the world and especially those grappling with the questions of inequality. With the questions of being oppressed by some tyrannical force in the world. You talk to those who are in Africana Studies and they will celebrate the great contributions that he made towards their own scholarship but in creating the very field and coining the term in itself.
As a social scientist, importantly, we must maintain some understanding that what we say, that what we do might contribute to creating a better world. This is the mission of Dubois and this is the challenge he presented to scholars and to scholarship.