The W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies was officially established in 1970, and has grown to become one of the largest Africana Studies departments in the country. We offer BA, MA, and PhD degrees for all students who wish in-depth knowledge of the history and culture of black people in the Americas and the worldwide African Diaspora. We are located on the campus of the University of Massachusetts in New Africa House. From its beginning our department has been named for the scholar-activist William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (/duːˈbɔɪs/ doo-BOYSS; February 23, 1868 – August 27, 1963), the sociologist, socialist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author, writer and editor. Born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts in the western part of the Bay State, Du Bois attended Fisk University, and went on to complete graduate work at the University of Berlin and Harvard, where he was the first African American to earn a doctorate. He became a professor of history, sociology and economics at Atlanta University and was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.
Du Bois is buried in Ghana, where he died on August 27, 1963, in the capital of Accra at the age of 95. The following day, at the March on Washington, speaker Roy Wilkins asked the hundreds of thousands of marchers to honor Du Bois with a moment of silence. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, embodying many of the reforms Du Bois had campaigned for his entire life, was enacted almost a year after his death.
Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah gave Du Bois a state funeral and his former home has been dedicated the W. E. B. Du Bois Memorial Centre for Pan African Culture in his memory. The UMass library is named for Du Bois and holds his collected papers. The department counts among its former faculty his wife Shirley Graham Du Bois, who worked here before she died in 1977; as well as his stepson David Graham Du Bois. Over the years we have been part of the stewardship of his boyhood homesite just outside of his hometown of Great Barrington, Massachusetts.