Stamped

by

Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

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W. E. B. Du Bois Character Analysis

The fourth of the five main historical figures in Stamped, W. E. B. Du Bois was a prominent Black writer, sociologist, and activist. He was born in 1868 and died at the height of the civil rights movement in 1963. After attending Fisk University and getting his PhD at Harvard, Du Bois became a powerful intellectual leader for many Black Americans. He taught at Atlanta University, co-founded the NAACP, and published the influential book The Souls of Black Folk. He publicly opposed Booker T. Washington’s proposal that Black people should accept segregation and white rule in order to advance in American society. However, Du Bois still spent much of his career pushing assimilationist ideas. For instance, he believed in “uplift suasion”: he thought that Black people needed to educate themselves and economically develop in order to win equality in American society. He even thought that he was superior to other Black people because he was biracial. But over the course of his life, he met antiracists like the anthropologist Franz Boas and the poet Langston Hughes, who gradually brought him around to their side. By the end of his life, Du Bois gave up on uplift suasion, quit the NAACP, and started working with Black freedom activists to fight for racial equality.

W. E. B. Du Bois Quotes in Stamped

The Stamped quotes below are all either spoken by W. E. B. Du Bois or refer to W. E. B. Du Bois. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Racism vs. Antiracism Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Little, Brown Books for Young Readers edition of Stamped published in 2020.
Chapter 15 Quotes

Du Bois believed in being like White people to eliminate threat so that Black people could compete. Washington believed in eliminating thoughts of competition so that White people wouldn’t be threatened by Black sustainability. And there were Black people who believed both men, because, though we’re critiquing their assimilationist ideas in this moment, they were thought leaders of their time.

Related Characters: Jason Reynolds (speaker), W. E. B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington
Page Number: 122-123
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 19 Quotes

But not everyone was kissing Du Bois’s assimilationist feet. There was a resistant group of artists that emerged in 1926 who called themselves the Niggerati. They believed they should be able to make whatever they wanted to express themselves as whole humans without worrying about White acceptance. […] They wanted to function the same way as the blues women, like Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, who sang about pain and sex and whatever else they wanted to. Even if the images of Blackness weren’t always positive. W. E. B. Du Bois and his supporters of uplift suasion and media suasion had a hard time accepting any narrative of Black people being less than perfect. Less than dignified. But the Niggerati were arguing that, if Black people couldn’t be shown as imperfect, they couldn’t be shown as human.

Related Characters: Jason Reynolds (speaker), W. E. B. Du Bois
Page Number: 148
Explanation and Analysis:

It was 1933. Du Bois’s life as an assimilationist had finally started to vaporize. He just wanted Black people to be self-sufficient. To be Black. And for that to be enough. Here he argued that the American educational system was failing the country because it wouldn’t tell the truth about race in America, because it was too concerned with protecting and defending the White race. Ultimately, he was arguing what he’d been arguing in various different ways, and what Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Booker T. Washington, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Marcus Garvey, and many others before him had argued ad nauseam: that Black people were human.

Page Number: 150
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 20 Quotes

King closed the day with what’s probably the most iconic speech of all time—“I Have a Dream.” But there was bad news. W. E. B. Du Bois had died in his sleep the previous day.

Indeed, a younger Du Bois had called for such a gathering, hoping it would persuade millions of White people to love the lowly souls of Black folk. And, yes, the older Du Bois had chosen another path—the antiracist path less traveled—toward forcing millions to accept the equal souls of Black folk. It was the path of civil disobedience that the young marchers […] had desired for the March on Washington, a path a young woman from Birmingham’s Dynamite Hill was already traveling and would never leave.

Page Number: 164-165
Explanation and Analysis:
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W. E. B. Du Bois Character Timeline in Stamped

The timeline below shows where the character W. E. B. Du Bois appears in Stamped. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 15: Battle of the Black Brains
History and the Present Theme Icon
Everyone has heard of W. E. B. Du Bois , but not everyone knows his story. Growing up in Massachusetts, he faced discrimination and... (full context)
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But even with his fancy education, Du Bois mostly learned racist ideas. He thought that Black people were naturally unintelligent, but that he... (full context)
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...labor, since he thought that would please white people. He was an assimilationist, just like Du Bois , but they weren’t friends. Du Bois was an intellectual, while Washington was a “man... (full context)
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But then, in 1906, an anthropologist named Franz Boas changed Du Bois ’s mind. He taught Du Bois about African history and showed him that Black people... (full context)
Chapter 16: Jack Johnson vs. Tarzan
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While W. E. B. Du Bois beat Booker T. Washington in their fight for political influence, the famous Black boxing champion... (full context)
Chapter 18: The Mission Is in the Name
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...in 1916, he immediately visited the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). W. E. B. Du Bois and Oswald Garrison Villard, William Lloyd Garrison’s grandson, founded the NAACP after both writing biographies... (full context)
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Meanwhile, Black soldiers were returning to the U.S. from World War I. Du Bois interviewed some of them in Paris and learned that they were treated better in France... (full context)
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But Marcus Garvey still didn’t think Du Bois was antiracist enough. He noticed that Du Bois thought of himself as better than other... (full context)
Chapter 19: Can’t Sing and Dance and Write It Away
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In the 1920s, W. E. B. Du Bois befriended many of the young artists who participated in the movement now known as the... (full context)
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History and the Present Theme Icon
...era after the American Civil War when Black people won more civil rights. In response, Du Bois wrote an accurate history book about Reconstruction and criticized the U.S. education system. He was... (full context)
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When the NAACP’s new leaders pushed even harder for uplift suasion, Du Bois finally decided to quit. He started teaching at Atlanta University and advocating antiracist socialism. He... (full context)
Chapter 20: Home Is Where the Hatred Is
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During World War II, Black activists like Du Bois wanted to fight racism in the U.S. and fascism abroad. After the war, Du Bois... (full context)
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After Du Bois , the Atlanta preacher Martin Luther King, Jr. soon became the civil rights movement’s most... (full context)
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...gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech and led a moment of silence for W. E. B. Du Bois , who died a day before. (full context)