In Episode 11 of Brooklyn Historical Society’s podcast Flatbush + Main, co-hosts Zaheer Ali and Julie Golia explore the last decade of the life of iconic Civil Rights leader W.E.B. Du Bois, when he called Brooklyn home.
03:33 – Histories and Ideas: Interview with David Levering Lewis
22:43 – Voices of Brooklyn: Esther Cooper Jackson
32:45 – Into the Archives: William Howard Melish’s Eulogy for W.E.B. Du Bois
Du Bois lived at 31 Grace Court in Brooklyn Heights from 1951 until 1961, when he left the United States for Ghana. He died in Accra on August 27, 1963, the night before the March on Washington.
Zaheer and Julie chat with eminent historian and Du Bois biographer David Levering Lewis about Du Bois’ life in Brooklyn, and place Du Bois’ Brooklyn years in the context of the Cold War and American politics and culture in the 1950s. They feature clips from an oral history with Civil Rights activist Esther Cooper Jackson about her collaborations with Du Bois. And they examine Du Bois’ intellectual legacy while listening to a eulogy for Du Bois given by Brooklyn pastor William Howard Melish.
Du Bois was one of America’s most enduring and influential intellectuals. Do you have a favorite Du Bois quote or contribution? Share it using the hashtag #flatbushandmain.
Segment 1: Histories and Ideas
David Levering Lewis is the Julius Silver University Professor and Professor of History Emeritus at New York University.
He is the author of a masterful two-volume biography of Du Bois. Both W.E.B. Du Bois, 1868-1919: Biography of a Race and W.E.B. Du Bois, 1919-1963: The Fight for Equality and the American Century won numerous awards including the Pulitzer Prize.
While it’s not about Brooklyn, you should also read Professor Lewis’s When Harlem Was In Vogue, a remarkable examination of the Harlem Renaissance.
To see the David Attie photographs of Du Bois in his home that Professor Lewis mentioned, come visit Brooklyn Historical Society and check out the exhibition Truman Capote’s Brooklyn: The Lost Photographs of David Attie.
Segment 2: Voices of Brooklyn
Esther Cooper Jackson is an civil rights activist and community organizer, who worked as an activist and board member on the Committee to Defend Negro Leadership–an organization that came to the aid of African Americans who were being targeted by the McCarthyism of the Cold War era. In 1961, she co-founded Freedomways magazine in 1961 with W.E.B. Du Bois and Shirley Graham Du Bois, among others, and would continue to edit the magazine for the twenty-four years of its existence. At the time of the interview, she was ninety-two years old. The interview is being made available, thanks to a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) of the National Archives and Records Administration.
Segment 3: Into the Archives
Both the audio recording and transcripts of William Howard Melish’s eulogy for Du Bois can be found in the John Howard and William Howard Melish Collection (ARC.050). Peruse the finding aid here.
Segment 4: Endorsements
Zaheer endorsed the Voices of Crown Heights public program, “Community Classroom: Ideas, Innovation, and Education Equity,” hosted by our project partner Weeksville Heritage Center, on Saturday, March 11, 2017, 1pm – 2:30pm. The event is free, but RSVP is requested here.
Julie endorsed “The Legacy of Jane Jacobs,” taking place Thursday, March 16, 2017, 6:30pm. The event is $5 for members/$10 for non-members, and you can get tickets here.