The W.E.B. Du Bois Distinguished Lecture Series was initiated by the Department during the late 1970’s as a means for acknowledging, annually, the achievements of William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, the pre-eminent Black scholar and political activist of the early 20th century. Dr. Du Bois’ career spanned some 75 years during which time he made significant contributions in the areas of scholarship [first African American to write books of scholarly merit], teaching [Atlanta University, Wilberforce University and the U. of Pennsylvania], and political activism [among the founders of the NAACP and the Pan African Congress]. Dr. Du Bois was also instrumental in establishing the tradition of providing an assessment of the progress of African Americans, and all peoples of African descent, in their progress toward full equality, while also making clear what work remains in achieving this goal. For these reasons, each year, the Department invites an illustrious scholar or activist to provide an assessment of where we are in this journey, what problems and issues demand our immediate attention, and what work remains in achieving our overall goal of full equality.
During the more than 30 years of this Lecture Series, we have sought to invite as our distinguished lecturers, eminent scholars and social activists whose works and achievements are commensurate with the scholarly and activist tradition established by Dr. Du Bois. Among the early presenters in the Series were Sterling Brown, C. L. R. James, Sterling Stuckey, Sonia Sanchez, Lani Guinier, Derrick Bell, Paula Giddings, Manning Marable, Charles V. Willie, Shirley A. Jackson, James Friedman, and Raymond Hall. Within the past decade, we have been privileged to include a similar set of eminent scholars and social activists among our lecturers.