The Legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois
by Horace Mann Bond

Originally published in Freedom Ways, 1st Quarter, 1965

MY FATHER was a charter subscriber to The Crisis Magazine when it began publication in 1910. This was the year when I had my sixth birthday and, as I note from a letter written by my mother to a friend that year, advanced from the First to the Second Reader.

I was an avid reader of The Crisis from my earliest literate days. We lived in rural Kentucky places and my isolation from the world was the greater because I read omnivorously. Through The Crisis Du Bois helped shape my inner world to a degree impossible to imagine in the world of contemporary children, and the flood of various mass media to which they are exposed. I remember the pleasant faces of brown and black children pictured in the magazine; I remember the photographs of decently garbed men and women of color, never seen elsewhere in the publications that came to our home; and I remember, also, the horrifying cartoons depicting "lynch law" that frequently appeared in the magazine. Indeed, I remember a period during which the same frightening nightmare would recur, night after night; I was being pursued by the grisly form of "lynch law," to awaken only at that dreadful moment, when the monster has you immobilized at last and you realize that you cannot escape him.

The cartoons were strong stuff for a child, perhaps, as were the factual accounts of the lynchings through burnings, ending with fragments of fingers and toes for sale as souvenirs for the mob; the lynchings through hangings, the lynchings through gun shot, the mass lynchings through disfranchisement and discrimination and brutalizing oppressions of all sorts. Yet I am glad that through Du Bois I had these vicarious experiences with the real and brutal world of race and color, as with the real world of black men and women clothed in beauty and dignity.

A number of years later — in 1924 — Dr. Du Bois published, as Editor of The Crisis, the first article I had to appear in a nationally circulated journal. Two years later, he provided me with a small grant from the Garland Fund, through which I was able to contribute to a national survey he was then conducting of the education of Negroes. My assignment was Oklahoma. These were small beginnings; but they were truly "seed" grants in inspiring and confirming my bent toward writing and research.

And Africa! For an American child growing up between 1910 and 1920, there was scarcely an antidote anywhere for the poisonous picture of Africa, and of Africans, painted in the school geographies, the newspapers and magazines, and by the movies. The Crisis magazine gave me the one antidote available. From the earliest day of The Crisis. Africans were revealed as intelligent human beings. I have long counted it as one of my great blessings that I read Du Bois on Africa when I was very young.

The real truth about a brutal social order, however frightening; the beauty and dignity of black people; these learnings were almost impossible to come by, for children of whatever color or race in the United States, when I was a child. This is what I know that Du Bois did for me. I believe he was the teacher, likewise, of a host of other persons in this country, and throughout the World. For me, and for others, he was the Great Revelator.

Copyright © Horace Mann Bond, 1965.

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