As Aldon Morris author of The Scholar Denied: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Birth of Modern Sociology notes below, Du Bois remains a figure of global importance because of his activism for human liberation. A cornerstone of his legacy still rests in his home in Accra, Ghana, which is owned by the Ghanian government but is in need of greater investment to preserve it for future generations.
As part of the W. E. B. Du Bois Museum Foundation’s efforts to convince the government to enhance and preserve the home, the organization recently invited Aldon Morris to present The Scholar Denied to Ghanian President Nana Akufo-Addo. Morris reflects on the experience in his comment below.
The Scholar Denied is based on extensive, rigorous primary source research; the book is the result of a decade of research, writing, and revision. In exposing the economic and political factors that marginalized the contributions of Du Bois and enabled Park and his colleagues to be recognized as the “fathers” of the discipline, Morris delivers a wholly new narrative of American intellectual and social history that places one of America’s key intellectuals, W. E. B. Du Bois, at its center.
How can an appropriate legacy be nourished for a historic figure larger than life? That is the challenge faced by Japhet Aryiku the Executive Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Museum Foundation, the Ghanian President Akufo-Addo, the Ghanian people, scholars, and activists around the world.
The historic figure is W. E. B. Du Bois born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts in 1868 and died as a Ghanian citizen in Accra, Ghana in 1963. Du Bois was the founder of a global emancipatory sociology, and his prodigious writings and activism continue to inform the world about how to achieve human liberation. Throughout his life, these efforts bore fruit: in the formation of the Pan African Congresses establishing Du Bois as a father of Pan Africanism, the Niagara Movement, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the creation of The Crisis magazine, and his pivotal work that helped lay the foundation for independence in Africa, the Americas, the Caribbean, and Asia. As the consummate public intellectual, Du Bois fought for the liberation of people of color worldwide, for women and workers’ rights, Jewish freedom, a peaceful world without nuclear weapons, and global democracy.
A cornerstone of Du Bois’s legacy resides in Accra where he and his wife Shirley Graham worked and lived toward the end of their lives. Their home serves as their eternal resting place and its grounds house an undeveloped museum and meeting spaces. The entire site is owned by the Ghana government. Though Du Bois died sixty years ago, the government has not kept up the property and has not expanded nor enhanced it.
The Du Bois Museum Foundation aims to make fundamental changes to the complex. Their mission is to honor the legacy of Du Bois by “redeveloping and rebranding his final resting place in Accra, Ghana. The interest and dedication of the Foundation is to revive the current Du Bois Memorial Centre into a Museum Complex and as a destination for scholars, artists and heritage tourists alike.” But a major roadblock stands in the way of the nonprofit foundation raising fifty million dollars required to transform the complex: donors will not commit funds because the Ghanian government owns the property. The current president of Ghana claims he wishes to transfer the property to the foundation but continues to delay when the decision seems close at hand.
To convince the president to act, the foundation brings major Du Boisian scholars to Accra to speak and meet with the president. Because of my book, The Scholar Denied, I recently spoke in Accra on the global importance of Du Bois and as a member of a delegation I met the president. Mr. Aryiku asked me to autograph a copy of The Scholar Denied for the president. I dedicated it to the president and the people of Ghana. The president enthusiastically accepted The Scholar Denied as cameras flashed. I was honored.
But my commitment was to help the president reach the decision to transfer the center to the foundation so a fitting, living, legacy of Du Bois can flourish in the land where he chose to complete his work and die. I hope this mission can no longer be denied.