116 minutes, 1995 Producer/Director: Louis Massiah, Writer/Narrators: Wesley Brown, Thulani Davis, Toni Cade Bambara and Amiri Baraka
ABOUT THE FILM
The long and remarkable life of Dr. William Edward Burghardt (W.E.B) Du Bois (1868-1963) offers unique insights into an eventful century in African American history. Born three years after the end of the Civil War, Du Bois witnessed the imposition of Jim Crow, its defeat by the Civil Rights Movement and the triumph of African independence struggles.
Du Bois was the consummate scholar-activist whose path-breaking works remain among the most significant and articulate ever produced on the subject of race. His contributions and legacy have been so far-reaching, that this, his first film biography, required the collaboration of four prominent African American writers. Wesley Brown, Thulani Davis, Toni Cade Bambara and Amiri Baraka narrate successive periods of Du Bois' life and discuss its impact on their work.
Part One: Black Folk and the New Century (1895-1915) Du Bois' first sociological work, The Philadelphia Negro, and, even more, The Souls of Black Folk, examined the cultural and political psychology of the American African Diaspora. During the same period, racism was institutionalized under the Jim Crow system. Du Bois emerged as the most outspoken critic of Booker T. Washington's advocacy of accommodation to segregation. He co-founded the Niagara Movement and then the NAACP to agitate for full equality between blacks and whites.
Part Two: The Crisis and the New Negro (1919-1929) Du Bois created the NAACP's magazine, The Crisis, which became a vital organ in the burgeoning African American cultural movement, the Harlem Renaissance. Du Bois also was a founder of the Pan African movement, organizing the first international congresses of leaders from Africa and the Diaspora.
Part Three: A Second Reconstruction? (1934-1948) Dismissed from the editorship of The Crisis for his radical views, Du Bois was forced to resume his academic career at age 68. It was now the Depression and he became more open to leftist ideology as reflected in his magnum opus, Black Reconstruction.
Part Four: Color, Democracy, Colonies and Peace (1949-1963) Du Bois' continuing anti-racist activism and growing leftist sympathies made him a target during the McCarthy years. He was indicted and for a time his passport was revoked. In 1961, Kwame Nkrumah, the president of the newly independent African state of Ghana, invited him to participate in that country's development; Du Bois accepted, living there for the remainder of his life.
"An absolutely incredible job! Your film on Du Bois nears perfection . . . A resonantly full work of art. I can't imagine that Du Bois himself would not weep in gratitude upon seeing the work."
Houston A. Baker Jr., University of Pennsylvania
"Scholar, activist, father of Pan-Africanism, founder of the twentieth-century struggle for civil rights, W.E.B. Du Bois succeeds in capturing this remarkable man and his significance. It will enlighten anyone - student scholar or general viewer - fortunate enough to see it."
Eric Foner, Columbia University
"Sets a new standard for documentary film. The brilliance of interpretation and historical breadth make it a fitting tribute to the man whom I believe is the most important intellectual of our century."
Robin D. G. Kelley, New York University
"One of the essential tools for teaching about the great Dr. Du Bois...Hearing this most self-reflective of men speaking in his own voice about the meaning of the central events of his life is at once profoundly moving and a source of insight."
K. Anthony Appiah, Harvard University
"A beautiful and moving epic - not only about a brilliant and important figure but about the struggle of a people in the 20th century...Will make a wonderful teaching tool. I was personally inspired."