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W.E.B. Du Bois Quotes Honoring the Power of Education

These W.E.B. Du Bois quotes will challenge the way you think and stimulate your hunger for knowledge.

W.E.B Du Bois was an American sociologist, historian, author, editor, and activist. He is regarded as one of the most important African-American activists during the first half of the 20th century.

Du Bois was a spokesperson for African-American rights whose work helped change the way that the lives of blacks were seen in American society. He rose to national prominence as the leader of the Niagara Movement and was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

Born on February 23, 1868, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, Du Bois
was the first person in his extended family to attend high school, and the first African-American to earn a doctorate at Harvard.

Besides his activism, Du Bois had an expansive writing career. His collection of essays, “The Souls of Black Folk”, became required reading in African-American studies.

W.E.B Du Bois died on August 27, 1963, in Ghana, while working on an encyclopedia of the African diaspora. He will always be remembered as one of the 20th century’s most brilliant individuals.

In honor of the first great scholar of black life in America, here is our collection of inspirational, wise, and thought-provoking W.E.B. Du Bois quotes.

W.E.B. Du Bois quotes honoring the power of education

1. ”Whether you like it or not the millions are here, and here they will remain. If you do not lift them up, they will pull you down. Education must not simply teach work – it must teach life.” – W. E. B. Du Bois

2. ”Now is the accepted time, not tomorrow, not some more convenient season. It is today that our best work can be done and not some future day or future year. It is today that we fit ourselves for the greater usefulness of tomorrow. Today is the seed time, now are the hours of work, and tomorrow comes the harvest and the playtime.”  – W. E. B. Du Bois

3. ”The function of the university is not simply to teach breadwinning, or to furnish teachers for the public schools, or to be a centre of polite society; it is, above all, to be the organ of that fine adjustment between real life and the growing knowledge of life, an adjustment which forms the secret of civilization.”  – W. E. B. Dubois

4. ”The return from your work must be the satisfaction which that work brings you and the world’s need of that work. With this, life is heaven, or as near heaven as you can get. Without this — with work which you despise, which bores you, and which the world does not need — this life is hell.”  – W. E. B. Dubois

5. ”Education and work are the levers to uplift a people.” –W. E. B. Du Bois

W.E.B. Du Bois quotes honoring the power of education

6. “There is in this world, no such force as the force of a person determined to rise. The human soul cannot be permanently chained.”  – W.E.B. Du Bois

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7. ”Be honest, frank and fearless and get some grasp of the real values of life… Read some good, heavy, serious books just for discipline: Take yourself in hand and master yourself.” – W.E.B. Du Bois

8. ”In all things purely social we can be as separate as the five fingers, and yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.”  – W.E.B. Du Bois

9. ”And yet this does not touch the kernel of the problem. Human advancement is not a mere question of almsgiving, but rather of sympathy and cooperation among classes who would scorn charity.”  – W.E.B. Du Bois

10. “When you have mastered numbers, you will in fact no longer be reading numbers, any more than you read words when reading books. You will be reading meanings.” – W.E.B. Dubois

W.E.B Du Bois quotes that will stimulate your hunger for knowledge

11. ”A little less complaint and whining, and a little more dogged work and manly striving would do us more credit than a thousand civil rights bills.” – W.E.B. Du Bois

12. ”Strive for that greatness of spirit that measures life not by its disappointments but by its possibilities.” – W. E. B. Du Bois

13. ”The future woman must have a life work and economic independence. She must have the right of motherhood at her own discretion.” – W. E. B. Du Bois

14. ”The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression.” – W. E. B. Dubois

W.E.B Du Bois quotes that will stimulate your hunger for knowledge

15. ”I have loved my work, I have loved people and my play, but always I have been uplifted by the thought that what I have done well will live long and justify my life, that what I have done ill or never finished can now be handed on to others for endless days to be finished, perhaps better than I could have done.” – W. E. B. Du Bois

16. ”One thing alone I charge you. As you live, believe in life! Always human beings will live and progress to greater, broader and fuller life. The only possible death is to lose belief in this truth simply because the great end comes slowly, because time is long.” – W. E. B. Du Bois

17. ”I insist that the object of all true education is not to make men carpenters, it is to make carpenters men.” – W. E. B. Du Bois

More W.E.B. Du Bois quotes that will change the way you think

18. ”Education is that whole system of human training within and without the school house walls, which molds and develops men.” – W. E. B. Du Bois

19. ”Believe in life! Always human beings will progress to greater, broader, and fuller life.” – W. E. B. Dubois

20. ”And yet this very singleness of vision and thorough oneness with his age is a mark of the successful man. It is as though nature needs must make men narrow in order to give them force.” – W. E. B. Dubois

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21. ”The worker must work for the glory of his handiwork, not simply for pay; the thinker must think for truth, not for fame.” – W. E. B. Dubois

22. ”The theory of democratic government is not that the will of the people is always right, but rather that normal human beings of average intelligence will, if given a chance, learn the right and best course by bitter experience.” – W. E. B. Dubois

23. ”A system cannot fail those who it was never meant to protect.” – W. E. B. Dubois

W.E.B. Du Bois quotes that will change the way you think

24. ”Children learn more from what you are than what you teach.” – W. E. B. Dubois

25. ”Men we shall have only as we make manhood the object of the work of the schools – intelligence, broad sympathy, knowledge of the world that was and is, and of the relation of men to it – this is the curriculum of that Higher Education which must underlie true life.” –  W.E. B. Dubois

Wise W. E. B. Dubois quotes

26. “Education is the development of power and ideal.” — W. E. B. Du Bois

27. “Capitalism cannot reform itself; it is doomed to self-destruction.” — W. E. B. Du Bois

28. “Most men today cannot conceive of a freedom that does not involve somebody’s slavery.” — W. E. B. Du Bois

29. “The power of the ballot we need in sheer defense, else what shall save us from a second slavery?” — W. E. B. Du Bois

30. “To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships.” — W. E. B. Du Bois

31. “Rule-following, legal precedence, and political consistency are not more important than right, justice and plain common-sense.” — W. E. B. Du Bois

32. “But what of black women?… I most sincerely doubt if any other race of women could have brought its fineness up through so devilish a fire.” — W. E. B. Du Bois

33. “What a world this will be when human possibilities are freed, when we discover each other, when the stranger is no longer the potential criminal and the certain inferior!” — W. E. B. Du Bois

34. “I believe in Liberty for all men: the space to stretch their arms and their souls, the right to breathe and the right to vote, the freedom to choose their friends, enjoy the sunshine, and ride on the railroads, uncursed by color; thinking, dreaming, working as they will in a kingdom of beauty and love.” — W. E. B. Du Bois

35. “I believe in God, who made of one blood all nations that on earth do dwell. I believe that all men, black and brown and white, are brothers, varying through time and opportunity, in form and gift and feature, but differing in no essential particular, and alike in soul and the possibility of infinite development.” — W. E. B. Du Bois

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W.E.B. DuBois quotes revealing his thoughts

36. “Either America will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States.”

W.E.B. DuBois 

37. “Herein lies the tragedy of the age: not that men are poor, — all men know something of poverty; not that men are wicked, — who is good? not that men are ignorant, — what is Truth? Nay, but that men know so little of men.” – W.E.B. DuBois 

38. “There is but one coward on earth, and that is the coward that dare not know.”  – W.E.B. DuBois 

39. “One ever feels his twoness, — an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” – W.E.B. DuBois 

40. “The world still wants to ask that a woman primarily be pretty and if she is not, the mob pouts and asks querulously, ‘What else are women for?” – W.E.B. DuBois 

41. “Ignorance is a cure for nothing.” – W.E.B. DuBois 

42. “How shall Integrity face Oppression? What shall Honesty do in the face of Deception, Decency in the face of Insult, Self-Defense before Blows? How shall Desert and Accomplishment meet Despising, Detraction, and Lies? What shall Virtue do to meet Brute Force? There are so many answers and so contradictory; and such differences for those on the one hand who meet questions similar to this once a year or once a decade, and those who face them hourly and daily.” – W.E.B. DuBois 

43. “Honest and earnest criticism from those whose interests are most nearly touched,- criticism of writers by readers, of government by those governed, of leaders by those led, – this is the soul of democracy and the safeguard of modern society” – W.E.B. DuBois 

44. “For education among all kinds of men always has had, and always will have, an element of danger and revolution, of dissatisfaction and discontent.”  – W.E.B. DuBois 

45. “But art is not simply works of art; it is the spirit that knows Beauty, that has music in its being and the color of sunsets in its headkerchiefs; that can dance on a flaming world and make the world dance, too.”  – W.E.B. DuBois 

Which of these W.E.B. Du Bois quotes was your favorite?

W.E.B. Du Bois’ work transformed the way that blacks were perceived in American society. He will always be remembered for championing liberal learning and for his commitment to the struggle against racial discrimination.

Du Bois’ life and work remind us to always stand up for what is right rather than what the establishment deems to be popular. Hopefully, the above quotes will help empower you.

Did you enjoy these W.E.B. Du Bois quotes? Which of the quotes was your favorite? Let us know in the comment section below.

Norbert Juma, Lead Editor
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1 Comment
  1. Gwendolyn Hamilton

    March 17, 2020 at 12:18 AM

    Yes. Working on a proposal to develop a program to support higher education for Black youth. He is the pre-eminent speaker for that. Thank you.

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