William Edward Burghardt Du Bois broke new ground on many frontiers in his remarkable and controversial life. Du Bois earned the first Harvard doctorate awarded to an African American. During a prolific career of writing and publication, including sixteen thought-provoking books on sociology, history, politics, and race relations, Du Bois became the principal architect of the civil rights movement in the United States. He perceptively said, “The problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line.”
Du Bois’ connection to Harpers Ferry began in Canada in 1905, when he became the leader of an elite group of African Americans known as the Niagara Movement. The formation of this group marked the beginning of Du Bois’ public assault on racial discrimination. The next year the Niagara Movement met on the campus of Storer College in Harpers Ferry. Du Bois referred to the 1906 gathering as “one of the greatest meetings American Negroes ever held.” Du Bois returned to Harpers Ferry 44 years later as the commencement speaker for the 1950 graduating class of Storer College.