Thursday, October 23, 2008

An Appeal to the World

On this day in 1947, W.E.B. DuBois stood before the United Nations General Assembly and presented his now famous address, "An Appeal to the World: a Statement on the Denial of Human Rights to Minorities and an Appeal to the United Nations for Redress." He had been dedicating both his personal and professional life for over fifty years at that point to the struggle of his people to be treated as full citizens in their own country. He obviously felt that he had exhausted all avenues without success and that it was, therefore, necessary to ask the United Nations to bring to bear whatever influence it had to pressure the U.S. to fulfill its democratic principles and its moral responsibilities.

The Appeal was a factual study of the denial of the right to vote, and also outlined grievances related to educational and other types of discrimination, as well as the withholding of other basic human rights. As a result, President Harry Truman subsequently created the first civil rights commission.

One can only imagine what Du Bois would think today of seeing Barack Obama, his fellow Harvard graduate, hung in effigy even while being the frontrunner in the race for the U.S. Presidency. One thing's for sure, Du Bois never stopped -- no matter what. And we ain't stoppin' either.


Cero said...

Amazing - all of it.

Macon D said...

Du Bois also gets next to no credit for being a leading, perhaps the leading, historian on the South (in "Black Reconstruction"). He was a very keen observer of the ways of white folks too--their souls, and all. Where's the likes of him now, a mover, shaker and thinker like that on how much race matters matter? Well, maybe the Big O, despite all the running away he's had to do from the problem of the 20th century, in order to get where he is.

Changeseeker said...

Good morning, Cero and Macon. Yes, indeedy, it is an impressive array of ideological juxtapositions. And the more I learn about Du Bois, the more fascinated I am by the man and his work. All while the Encyclopedia Brittanica's entry on "the Negro" at the time (1909) portrayed African-Americans as people who are markedly inferior to Whites and become more "child-like" as they grow up. How did he keep from running naked into the streets with his hair on fire, one wonders?

Kit (Keep It Trill) said...

I never learned this! My daughter, in the 9th grade, had a history assignment last month comparing Du Bois to Booker T Washington, and it wasn't mentioned in any of her materials. That's an incredible omission. Thanks for passing it along.

brohammas said...

Do you think DuBois would find Obama being hung in effigy more remarkable than his very real potential presidency?

DuBois lived through lynching's apex and I would argue that the idea of a black man sitting at the head of the country DuBois eventually fled would far outweigh the negatives that were the norm for his day.

In his day it wouldn't be in effigy.

DuBois was a very respected sociologist that was studied deeply in the University I attended.
Not to defend a history class that could very well be deficient in black history, but I don't recall studying ANY sociologists, historians, economists, or philosophers in middle or high school.

Changeseeker said...

Kit, it's quite interesting to note the specific types of things that so typically do NOT appear in our "history" books and classes.

Brohammas, I would suggest that social science and history classes in most elementary, middle and high schools in the U.S. spend at least some time referring to people like Plato, Socrates, Des Cartes and other White "thinkers," while the University professors where I went to grad school did not even mention Du Bois in passing. I saw a state of the art middle school social science text a few years ago that included 70 pages on ancient Greece and 7 on the history of the entire continent of Africa. It sounds as if you got a better education in that respect.