DuBois Speaks to Africa 1958

DuBois Speaks to Africa 1958


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes




Shirley Graham Du Bois 1958

Delivers A Speech to the All-African Congress



Books by W.E.B. Du Bois


The Suppression of the African Slave Trade  (1896)  / The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study (1899) 


 The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches  (1903)  /  John Brown.(1909)  / The Quest of the Silver Fleece (1911) 


Darkwater: Voices Within the Veil (1920) /   Gift of Black Folk: The Negroes in the Making of America (1924) 


Dark Princess: A Romance (1928)  /  Black Reconstruction in America (1935) / Black Folk, Then and Now (1939)


Color and Democracy: Colonies and Peace (1945)  / The World and Africa: An Inquiry (1947)  / In Battle for Peace (1952)


A Trilogy: The Ordeal of Monsart (1957) / Monsart Builds a School (1959) / Worlds of Color (1961) / An ABC of Color: Selections (1963)


The Autobiography of W.E.B. Du Bois: A Soliloquy on Viewing My Life from the Last Decade of Its First Century (1968)

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Shirley Graham Du Bois, His Day Is Marching On: A Memoir of W.E. B. Du Bois (1971)


Leslie Alexander Lacy. The Life of W.E.B. Du Bois: Cheer the Lonesome Traveler (1970)


Brian Johnson, ed. Du Bois on Reform: Periodical-based Leadership for African Americans.

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DuBois Speaks to Africa


My only role in this meeting is one of advice from one who has lived long, who has studied Africa and has seen the modern world. I had hoped to deliver this word in person, but this was not possible. I have therefore asked my wife, Shirley Graham, to read it to you. It is simple and direct. 

In this great crisis of the world’s history, when standing on the highest peaks of human accomplishment we look forward to peace and backward to War; when we look up to Heaven and down to Hell, let us mince no words. We face triumph or tragedy without alternative. Africa, ancient Africa has been called by the world and has lifted up her hands!

Which way shall Africa go? First, I would emphasize the fact that today Africa has no choice between private Capitalism and Socialism. the whole world, including Capitalist countries, is moving towards Socialism, inevitably, inexorably. You can choose between blocs of military alliance, you can choose between groups of political union, you cannot choose between Socialism and private Capitalism, because private ownership of capital is doomed.

But what is Socialism? It is disciplined economy and political organization in which the first duty of a citizen is to serve the state; and the state is not a selected aristocracy, or a group of self-seeking oligarchs who have seized wealth and power. No! The mass of workers with hand and brain are the ones whose collective destiny is the chief object of all effort.

Gradually, every state is coming to this concept of its aim. The great Communist states like the Soviet Union and China have surrendered completely to this idea. The Scandinavian states have yielded partially; Britain has yielded in some respects, France in part and even the United States adopted the New Deal which was largely socialistic, even though today further American Socialism is held at bay by 60 great groups of corporations who control individual capitalists and the trade-union leaders.

On the other hand, the African tribe, whence all of you sprung, was communistic in its very beginnings. No tribesman was free. All were servants of the tribe of whom the chief was father and voice. Read of the West Coast trade as described by Casely-Hayford: There is small trace of private enterprise or individual initiative. It was the tribe which carried on trade through individuals, and the chief was mouthpiece of the common will.

Here then, my brothers, you face your great decision: Will you for temporary advantage–for automobiles, refrigerators and Paris gowns–spend your income in paying interest on borrowed funds, or will you sacrifice present comfort and the chance to shine before your neighbors in order to educate your children, develop such industry as best serves the great mass of people and makes your country strong in ability, self-support and self-defense?

Such union of effort for strength calls for sacrifice and self-denial, while the capital offered you at high price by the colonial powers like France, Britain, Holland, Belgium and the United States, will prolong fatal colonial imperialism, from which you have suffered slavery, serfdom and colonialism. 

You are not helpless. You are the buyers of capital goods, nations, former owners of the world, must sell or face bankruptcy. You are not compelled to buy all they offer now. you can wait. you can starve a while longer rather than sell your great heritage for a mess of Western capitalistic pottage.

You cannot only beat down the price of capital as offered by the united and monopolized Western private capitalists, but at last today you can compare their offers with those of socialistic countries like the Soviet Union and China, which with infinite sacrifice and pouring out of blood and tears, are at last able to offer weak nations needed capital on better terms than the West.

The supply which socialist nations can at present spare is small as compared with that of the bloated monopolies of the West, but it is larger and rapidly growing. Its acceptance involves no bonds which a free Africa may not safely assume. It certainly does not involve slavery and colonial control which is the price which the West has demanded, and still demands.

Today she offers a compromise, but one of which you must beware: She offers to let some of your smarter and less scrupulous leaders become fellow capitalists with the white exploiters, if in turn they induce the nation’s masses to pay the awful cost. This has happened in the West Indies and in south America. this may yet happen in the Middle East and Eastern Asia. Strive against it with every fibre of your bodies and souls. A body of local private capitalists, even if they are black, can never free Africa; they will simply sell it into new slavery to old masters overseas.

As I have said, this is a call for sacrifice. Great Goethe sang, “Entbehren sollst du, sollst entbehren” — “Thou shalt forego, shalt do without.” If Africa unites it will be because each part, each nation, each tribe gives up a part of its heritage for the good of the whole.

This is what union means; that is what Pan-Africa means: When the child is born into the tribe the price of his growing up is to give over a part of the freedom to the tribe. this he soon learns or dies. When the tribe becomes a union of tribes, the individual tribe surrenders some part of its freedom to the paramount tribe.

When the nation arises, the constituent tribes, clans and groups must each yield power and much freedom to the demands of the nation or the nation dies before it is born. Your local tribal, much-loved languages must yield to the few world tongues which serve the largest numbers of people and promise understanding and world literature.

This is the great dilemma which faces Africa today; faces one and all: Give up individual rights for the needs of the nation; give up tribal independence for the needs of Mother Africa. Firget nothing but set everything in its rightful place: the Glory of the six Ashanti Wars against Britain; the wisdom of the Fanti Confederation; the unity of Nigeria; the song of the Songhay and Hausa; the rebellion of the Mahdi and the hands of Ethiopia; the greatness of the Basuto and the fighting of Chaka; the revenge of Mutessa, and many other happenings and men; but above all–Africa, Mother of Men.

Your nearest friends and neighbors are the colored people of China and India, the rest of Asia, the Middle East and the sea isles, once close bound to the heart of Africa and now long severed by the greed of Europe. Your bond is no mere color of skin but the deeper experience of wage slavery and contempt.

So too, your bond with the white world is closer to those like the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, who support and defend China and help the slaves of Tibet and India, and not those who exploit the Middle East, the West Indies, and South America.

Awake, awake, put on thy strength, O Zion, reject the meekness of missionaries who teach neither love nor brotherhood, but emphasize the virtues of private profit from capital, stolen from your land and labor. Africa awake, put on the beautiful robes of Pan-African Socialism.

You have nothing to lose but your Chains!

You have a continent to regain!

You have freedom and human dignity to attain!

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Shirley Graham Du Bois (1907-1977), whom W. E. B. Du Bois married in 1951, after the death of his first wife, Nina Gomer Du Bois, Graham’s His Day Is Marching On: A Memoir of W.E. B. Du Bois (1971) contains much anecdotal information about  Du Bois’ 1958-59 trip to Soviet bloc countries. See letter to Yolande.

Source: Leslie Alexander Lacy. The Life of W.E.B. Du Bois: Cheer the Lonesome Traveler. New York: The Dial Press, 1970.

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Other Writings


The Conservation of Races (Washington, D.C.: American Negro Academy, 1897).

Africa: Its Geography, People and Products (Girard, Kansas: Haldeman-Julius, 1930).

Africa: Its Place in Modern History (Girard, Kansas: Haldeman-Julius, 1930).

Dusk of Dawn: An Essay Toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860-1880 (New York: Holt, 1939)

W.E.B. Du Bois Speaks: Speeches and Addresses, edited by Philip S. Foner (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1970).

W.E.B. Du Bois: The Crisis Writing, editing by Daniel Walden (Greenwich, Conn.: Fawcett, 1972).

The Emerging Thought of W.E.B. Du Bois: Essays and Editorials From “The Crisis,” edited by Henry Lee Moon (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1972)

The Education of Black People: Ten Critiques, 1906-1960, edited by Herbert Aptheker (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1973.

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Africa Makes Some Noise—Documentary on contemporary music from Africa

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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posted 7 November 2007




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Related files: The White Masters of the World   DuBois Speaks to Africa    Negroes and the Crisis of Capitalism   Death of a Nation  Mahalia Jackson  Prophet & Apocalypse Now  

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