Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

W. E. B. Du Bois, fully William Edward Burghardt Du Bois

American Sociologist, Civil Rights Leader, First African American to receive Ph.D. from Harvard, Co-Founder of NAACP, Writer and Educator

"It is the spirit which knows Beauty, that has music in its soul and the color of sunsets in its headkerchiefs; that can dance on a flaming world and make the world dance, too."

"Race prejudice decreases values, both real estate and human."

"If there is anybody in this land who thoroughly believes that the meek shall inherit the earth, they have not often let their presence be known."

"Freedom always entails danger."

"Believe in life! Always human beings will live and progress to greater, broader, and fuller life."

"The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression."

"The satisfaction with your work, even at its best, will never be complete, since nothing on earth can be perfect. The forward pace of the world which you are pushing will be painfully slow. But what of that: the difference between a hundred and a thousand years is less than you now think. But doing what must be done – that is eternal, even when it walks with poverty."

"One thing alone I charge you. As you live, believe in life! Always human beings will live and progress to greater, broader and fuller life. The only possible death is to lose belief in this truth simply because the great end comes slowly, because time is long."

"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."

"There is in this world no such force as the force of a man determined to rise. The human soul cannot be permanently chained."

"A classic is a book that doesn't have to be written again."

"A little less complaint and whining, and a little more dogged work and manly striving, would do us more credit than a thousand civil rights bills."

"All womanhood is hampered today because the world on which it is emerging is a world that tries to worship both virgins and mothers and in the end despises motherhood and despoils virgins."

"All men cannot go to college but some men must; every isolated group or nation must have its yeast, must have for the talented few centers of training where men are not so mystified and befuddled by the hard and necessary toil of earning a living, as to have no aims higher than their bellies, and no God greater than Gold."

"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."

"An American, a Negro... two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder."

"But what of black women?... I most sincerely doubt if any other race of women could have brought its fineness up through so devilish a fire."

"But what on earth is whiteness that one should so desire it? Then always, somehow, some way, silently but clearly, I am given to understand that whiteness is the ownership of the earth forever and ever, Amen!"

"But, back of this, still broods silently the deep religious feeling of the real Negro heart, the stirring, unguided might of powerful human souls who have lost the guiding star of the past and are seeking in the great night a new religious ideal. Someday the Awakening will come, when the pent-up vigor of 10,000,000 souls shall sweep irresistibly toward the Goal, out of the Valley of the Shadow of Death, where all that makes life worth living - Liberty, Justice and Right - is marked For White People Only."

"Children learn more from what you are than what you teach."

"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."

"Education is that whole system of human training within and without the school house walls, which molds and develops men."

"And yet not a dream, but a mighty reality- a glimpse of the higher life, the broader possibilities of humanity, which is granted to the man who, amid the rush and roar of living, pauses four short years to learn what living means"

"But art is not simply works of art; it is the spirit that knows Beauty, that has music in its soul and the color of sunsets in its headkerchiefs; that can dance on a flaming world and make the world dance, too."

"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."

"But we do not merely protest; we make renewed demand for freedom in that vast kingdom of the human spirit where freedom has ever had the right to dwell: the expressing of thought to unstuffed ears; the dreaming of dreams by untwisted souls."

"Either America will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States."

"Everyone likes a good quote - don't forget to share."

"Here is the chance for young women and young men of devotion to lift again the banner of humanity and to walk toward a civilization which will be free and intelligent; which will be healthy and unafraid, and build in the world a culture led by black folk and joined by peoples of all colors and all races - without poverty, ignorance and disease!"

"Herein lie buried many things which if read with patience may show the strange meaning of being black here in the dawning of the Twentieth Century. This meaning is not without interest to you, Gentle Reader; for the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line."

"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."

"Honest and earnest criticism from those whose interests are most nearly touched,- criticism of writers by readers, of government by those governed, of leaders by those led, - this is the soul of democracy and the safeguard of modern society"

"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."

"I believe in pride of race and lineage and self - in pride of self so deep as to scorn injustice to other selves."

"I believe that all men, black, brown, and white, are brothers."

"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."

"I do not laugh. I am quite straight-faced as I ask soberly:"

"I have loved my work, I have loved people and my play, but always I have been uplifted by the thought that what I have done well will live long and justify my life, that what I have done ill or never finished can now be handed on to others for endless days to be finished, perhaps better than I could have done."

"I insist that the object of all true education is not to make men carpenters, it is to make carpenters men."

"Ignorance is a cure for nothing."

"In my own country for nearly a century I have been nothing but a nigger."

"It is the trained, living human soul, cultivated and strengthened by long study and thought, that breathes the real breath of life into boys and girls and makes them human, whether they be black or white, Greek, Russian or American."

"I have always depended on the kindness of strangers."

"In any land, in any country under modern free competition, to lay any class of weak and despised people, be they white, black, or blue, at the political mercy of their stronger, richer, and more resourceful fellows, is a temptation which human nature seldom has withstood and seldom will withstand."

"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 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."

"John, she said, does it make every one unhappy when they study and learn lots of things. He paused and smiled. I am afraid it does, he said. And, John, are you glad you studied? Yes, came the answer, slowly but positively. She watched the flickering lights upon the sea, and said thoughtfully, I wish I was unhappy,—and—and, putting both arms about his neck, I think I am, a little, John."

"Joseph Stalin was a great man; few other men of the 20th century approach his stature. He was simple, calm and courageous. He seldom lost his poise; pondered his problems slowly, made his decisions clearly and firmly; never yielded to ostentation nor coyly refrained from holding his rightful place with dignity. He was the son of a serf but stood calmly before the great without hesitation or nerves. But also—and this was the highest proof of his greatness—he knew the common man, felt his problems, followed his fate."

"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."

"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...."