W. E. B. DuBois: Birth and Family
My Birth and Family
I was born by a golden river and in the shadow of two great hills, five years after the Emancipation Proclamation, which began the freeing of American Negro slaves. The valley was wreathed in grass and trees and crowned to the eastward by the huge bulk of East Mountain, with crag and cave and dark forests. Westward the hill was gentler, rolling up to gorgeous sunsets and cloud-swept storms. The town of Great Barrington, which lay between these mountains in Berkshire County, Western Massachusetts, had a broad Main Street, lined with maples and elms, with white picket fences before the homes. The climate was to our thought quite perfect.
In 1868 on the day after the birth of George Washington was celebrated, I was born on Church Street, which branched east from Main in midtown. The year of my birth was the year that the freedmen of the South were enfranchised, and for the first time as a mass took part in government. Conventions with black delegates voted new constitutions all over the South, and two groups of laborers--freed slaves and poor whites--dominated the former slave states. It was an extraordinary experiment in democracy. Thaddeus Stevens, the clearest-headed leader of this attempt at industrial democracy, made his last speech, impeaching Andrew Johnson on February 16, and on February 23 I was born.
The house of my birth was quaint, with clapboards running up and down, neatly trimmed; there were five rooms, a tiny porch, a rosy front yard, and unbelievably delicious strawberries in the rear. A South Carolinian, lately come to the Berkshire Hills, owned all this--tall, thin and black, with golden earrings, and given to religious trances. Here my mother, Mary Burghardt, and my father, Alfred Du Bois, came to live temporarily after their marriage ceremony in the village of Housatonic, which adjoined Great Barrington on the north. Then after a few years my father went east into Connecticut to build a life and home for mother and me. We meantime went to live on the lands of my mother's clan on South Egremont Plain in the southern part of our town.
The black Burghardts were a group of African Negroes descended from Tom, who was born in West Africa about 1730. He was stolen by Dutch slave traders and brought to the valley of the Hudson as a small child. Legally, Tom was not a slave, but practically, by the custom of the day, he grew up as either slave or serf, and in the service of the Burghardts, a white family of Dutch descent. Early in the 18th century, "Coonraet Borghardt" and Tom came east from the Hudson Valley and settled in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, which was described as a "howling wilderness." When the Revolutionary War broke out, Tom Burghardt "appears with the rank of private on the muster and payroll of Captain John Spoors company, Colonel John Ashley's Berkshire county regiment."
Tom "was reported a Negr." He enlisted to serve for three years; but how long or where he served the records do not show. At any rate this war service definitely freed him and his family from slavery; and later the Bill of Rights of 1780 declared all slaves in Massachusetts free. Tom's mother or wife was a little black Bantu woman, who never became reconciled to this strange land; she clasped her knees and rocked and crooned:
Do bana coba--gene me, gene me,
Ben d' nuli, ben d' le--
The song came down the years and I heard it sung at my grandfather's fireside. Tom died about 1787, but of him came many sons; one Jack, who took part in Shays' rebellion; and a daughter named Nancy Pratt. Jack is said to have married the celebrated Mom Bett as his first wife. Violet was Jack's second wife, and from these two were born a mighty family, splendidly named: Harlow and Ira, Chloe, Lucinda, Maria and Othello!
These Burghardts lived on South Egremont Plain for near 200 years. The last piece of their land was bought from a cousin of mine and given to me in 1930 by a group of friends. Among them were Jane Addams, Clarence Darrow, Mrs. Jacob Schiff and Moorfield Storey. I planned eventually to make it my country home, but the old home was dilapidated; the boundaries of the land had been encroached upon by neighbors, and the cost of restoration was beyond my means. I sold it in 1955.
Here in the late 18th and early 19th centuries the black Burghardts lived. I remember three of those houses and a small pond. These were homes of Harlow and Ira; and of my own grandfather, Othello, which he had inherited from his sister Lucinda. There were 21 persons in these three families by the Census of 1830. Here as farmers they long earned a comfortable living, consorting usually with each other, but also with some of their white neighbors.
The living to be earned on the farms gradually became less satisfying, and the group began to disintegrate; some went to the Connecticut Valley; some went West; many moved to town and city and found work as laborers and servants. Usually their children went to school long enough to learn to read and write, but few went further. I was the first of the clan to finish high school.
Work for black folk which would lead to a more prosperous future was not easy to come by. Just why this was so it is difficult to say; it was not solely race prejudice, although this played its part; it was lack of training and understanding, reluctance to venture into unknown surroundings, and fear of a land still strange to family mores which pictured travel as disaster. In my family, I remember farmers, barbers, waiters, cooks, housemaids and laborers. In these callings a few prospered. My cousins, the Crispels of West Stockbridge, owned one of the best homes in town, and had the only barber shop; my Uncle Jim long had a paying barber business in Amherst; several hotel cooks and waiters were in charge of dining rooms, did well and were held in esteem; a cousin in Lenox was a sexton in the most prominent church, and his wife and four daughters ran an exclusive laundry; the family was well-to-do, but they worked hard and unceasingly. Few of my folk entered the trades or went into mercantile business or the professions. My cousin Ned Gardner, a nice-looking and well-bred man, worked his whole life at the Berkshire Hotel; honest, prompt, courteous; but he died a waiter. One uncle became the lifelong servant of the Kellog family, and the legend was that his unpaid wages kept that family from suffering until one daughter married the Hopkins who helped build the Pacific Railroad. She was left a rich widow and returned to Great Barrington in 1880. This circumstance helped me enter the profession of teaching.
My mother's ancestral home on Egremont Plain, the house of my grandfather, Othello, one of three farming brothers, was sturdy, small and old-fashioned. There was a great fireplace, whose wrought-iron tongs stand now before my fireplace as I write. My immediate family, which I remember as a young child, included a very dark grandfather, Othello Burghardt. I dimly remember him, "Uncle Tallow," strong-voiced and redolent with tobacco, who sat stiffly in a great high chair beside the open fire, because his hip was broken. He was good-natured but not energetic. The energy was in my grandmother, Sally, a thin, tall, yellow and hawk-faced woman, certainly beautiful in her youth, and efficient and managing in her age. She had Dutch and perhaps Indian blood, but the rest of the family were black.
Othello and Sally had ten or more children. Many of these had moved away before I was old enough to know them; but I remember my Aunt Lucinda, who married a Gardner, and after his death a Jackson; then my Aunt Minerva, whose married name was Newport. The youngest children were my Uncle Jim and my mother, Mary Silvina. She was born in 1831, and died in 1885, at the age of 54 years. Mother was dark shining bronze, with smooth skin and lovely eyes; there was a tiny ripple in her black hair, and she had a heavy, kind face. She gave one the impression of infinite patience, but a curious determination was concealed in her softness.
As a young woman she had a son, Idelbert, born of a love affair between her and her first cousin, John Burghardt. The circumstances of this romance I never knew. No one talked of it in the family. Probably the mating was broken up on account of the consanguinity of the cousins. My mother became a silent, repressed woman, working at household duties at home, helping now and then in the neighbors' homes, and finally going into town where her married sisters lived and where she worked as a housemaid. When she was 35, Alfred Du Bois came to town
In the early 17th century, two French Huguenots, sons of Cretian Du Bois, migrated from Flanders to America. Perhaps a third son who spelled his name Du Bose went South. Louis and Jacques Du Bois settled in Ulster County, New York State. They were in all probability artisans descended from peasants; but the white American family declares they were aristocrats, and has found a coat of arms which they say belongs to them.
From Jacques in the fifth generation was descended James Du Bois, born about 1750, who became a physician in Poughkeepsie, New York, and migrated to the Bahamas. Lord Dunmore, Governor of New York and later of Virginia and the Bahamas, had given grants of land to various members of the Du Bois family, who were loyalists, and young Dr. James Du Bois went to the Bahamas soon after the Revolution and took over several plantations and one lake of salt which still bears his name. He prospered after some vicissitudes, and founded a family.
Whether, as is probable, he took a slave as a concubine, or married a free Negro woman--in either case two sons were born, my grandfather Alexander in 1803 and a younger brother, John. After their mother's death, Dr. James Du Bois brought both boys to New York in 1810. Both were white enough to "pass," and their father entered them in the private Cheshire School in Connecticut. He visited them regularly, but on one visit, about 1820, he suddenly fell dead.
The white New York family removed the boys from school and took charge of their father's property. My grandfather was apprenticed to a shoemaker. Just what happened to John, I do not know. Probably he continued as white, and his descendants, if any, know nothing of their colored ancestry. Alexander was of stern character. His movements between 1820 and 1840 are not clear. As the son of a "gentleman," with the beginnings of a gentleman's education, he refused to become a shoemaker and went to Haiti at the age of perhaps 18. Boyer had become President just after the suicide of Christophe, and held power until 1843, bringing the whole island under his control and making a costly peace with France.
Of grandfather's life in Haiti from about 1821 to 1830, I know few details. From his 18th to his 27th year he formed acquaintanceships, earned a living, married and had a son, my father, Alfred, born in 1825. I do not know what work grandfather did, but probably he ran a plantation and engaged in the growing shipping trade to the United States. Who he married I do not know, nor her relatives. He may have married into the family of Elie Du Bois, the great Haitian educator. Also why he left Haiti in 1830 is not clear. It may have been because of the threat of war with France during the Revolution of 1830 and the fall of Charles X.
England soon recognized the independence of Haiti; but the United States while recognizing South American republics which Haiti had helped to free, refused to recognize a Negro nation. Because of this turmoil, grandfather may have lost faith in the possibility of real independence for Haiti. Again trade with the United States was at this period exceeding the trade of England or France and amounting to more than a million dollars a year. This trade was carried on with Northern cities like New Haven, but it was also demanded by the rapidly growing Cotton Kingdom in the South. Also, perhaps domestic difficulties with his wife's family and over family property may have arisen. For any or all of these reasons my grandfather left Haiti and settled with his son, now five years of age, in New Haven.
He arrived from the West Indies at a critical time: David Walker had published his bitter Appeal to Negroes against submission to slavery, in 1829; Nat Turner led his bloody Virginia slave revolt in 1831; slavery was abolished in the British West Indies in 1833; the rebelling slaves of the ship Amistad landed in Connecticut in 1839, and their trial took place in New Haven. Riots against Negroes occurred in New England cities, in New York and Philadelphia in this decade, and Negroes held conventions in Philadelphia. Among other things these Negroes determined to build an industrial college in New Haven, and later Prudence Crandall tried there to let Negro girls enter her seminary, to the disgust of the whites. In New Haven, the abolitionists Simeon Jocelyn and Arthur Tappan worked, and here Garrison visited.
In New Haven my grandfather settled. He opened a grocery store at 43 Washington Street. The color line was sharp in New Haven and abolitionists were stirring up dissension. In Trinity parish of the Episcopal church were a few colored communicants, including my grandfather. But the rector, Harry Croswell, was reactionary and openly condemned the abolition movement. Soon the colored communicants of Trinity were given to understand that they would be happier in their own racial church. Alexander Crummell, the great Negro minister, encouraged this move, and the example of Amos Beman who was building the Temple Street Negro Congregational Church, made the move inevitable.
This must have infuriated my grandfather, and yet his very pride drove him into joining this segregated church. He was made treasurer probably because he owned property; eventually he became the first senior warden of St. Luke's, as this "jim-crow" church was called. It still exists. Also, he and certain other Negroes with property were permitted to buy lots at the rear of the new Grove Street Cemetery, opposite the Yale campus. Years later when this cemetery was enlarged, those Negro lots lay on the center path. Here my grandfather lies buried and here I shall one day lie. 
Alexander, in addition to his grocery, now became steward on the passenger boat which ran between New Haven and New York. Here he reformed the treatment of the servants, kept the boats in first-class order, and achieved a degree of independence. He was in charge of repairing and hiring. He had charge of the workers and saw to it that the Negro servants were served their meals regularly at a table. But race segregation in New Haven and New York was growing, and grandfather, after a time, determined that Springfield, Massachusetts, offered a better place for him and his family to live. In 1856 he removed to Springfield. He bought a farm not far from the city, down the Connecticut River, and established his family in the city of Springfield. He spent the winters there, but in Spring and Summer kept his stewardship of the New York-New Haven boats. He lived well: "bought a silk vest at Laws Clothing Store for $6.75. . . . Had a few invited guests at supper, one-half past six o'clock, champagne, a rather poor quality from Webster's . . . dedication ball at city hall." He joined the white Episcopal church and notes attendance at lectures. "Finished reading Shakespear's Othello," he writes one day.
Suddenly, in late May 1861, my grandfather took a trip to Haiti. This may have been caused by the outbreak of the Civil War. Perhaps he had just lost an American wife. In March, 11 American slave states had seceded and formed the Confederacy. In April, Southern ports were blockaded, and on May 14, Lee became Brigadier-General. The relation of colored folk to the war was uncertain, and my father, Alfred, was eligible for drafting. The future of colored folks in the United States was a problem; then, too, the rector of St. Luke's was Theodore Holly, who early in 1861 had led a migration of Negroes to Haiti, and painted a future for them there. It is possible also that grandfather was seeking property either of his father, Dr. James Du Bois, in the Bahamas, which was but a few hundred miles north from Haiti; or, perhaps, especially in Long Key, his birthplace; or from the family of his former Haitian wife. But he was a reticent man, and even his diary is silent on the most important points.
"Thursday, May 9. Have thoughts of leaving the vessel, but want resolution to do so. Wrote to friends we should sail on Friday the 10th. Feel ashamed to back out, will wait a day or two longer but feel like one rushing on his fate. If God forsakes me, I am undone forever. 'There is a divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew as we will.'
"May 15. Sun rose clear, wind west. Hove anchor, got under way 20 minutes past six o'clock. God speed the ship, and grant me deliverance from my enemy that I may conquer before I die." (Who was this enemy? The white Du Boises? The colored Haitians?)
On his lonely trip grandfather writes poetry, not very good, but indicating deep emotion. On May 19:
A single soul, One! Only one!
Of all I know or ever knew
My star by night, by day the sun
Now guide my bark, now bound my view.
It may be right, perchance tis wrong
To love without the priestly ken,
Such things are often known among
The disappointed Sons of Men.
Bodies may be joined together
By priestly craft and laws, so strong
In vain you try the bonds to sever
Yet love in laughter breaks the thong.
(Was grandfather confessing desertion of a Haitian wife whom he had not married and excusing his marriages in the United States?)
"Monday, June 3: Landed in Port Au Prince, took board at Mr. Fredd's, Rue Caserne; rain clearing; mosquitoes, jackasses, Negroes, mud water, soldiers, universal filth.
"Saw emigrants at the emigrant house in a condition that if not changed soon will send many to the grave. Poor men and women, I am sorry, heart sorry for them. They put on an air of cheerfulness, which I am satisfied there is not one of them, but would give all they had in the world if they could stand where I did a few weeks ago."
Boyer had ruled Haiti. He had united the whole island under Haitian rule and had finally made peace with France, albeit on almost fatal terms. Four Presidents succeeded in the next four years; and then for ten years came the Emperor Faustin, who had been the slave Soulouque. The regime had an impressive magnificence, but was an economic failure.
The empire was overthrown in 1859 and Geffrard, a progressive and hard-working man, became President, from 1859 to 1867. He promoted education and industry and tried to cooperate with American abolitionists and colored leaders like Holly in encouraging the immigration of American Negroes. It was under Geffrard that my grandfather arrived. He "saw the President, Baron Dennis, August Elie; invited me to take passage in government steamer to St. Mark." It was in the vicinity of St. Mark that he had resided when he formerly lived in Haiti, and here his son Alfred had been born. Perhaps here were his strongest ties to Haiti. He stayed from June 4 to June 9. He says no word of what he did or whom he saw. We only know that on June 10 he was bound home on a British steamer "just eight days after I went ashore; I felt happy to arrive. I am more than happy to leave."
The ship loaded 6,000 tons of salt, the commodity which was the basis of Alexander's father's wealth, but Alexander does not mention the fact; nor apparently does he stop at Long Key where he himself was born. He is silent until Monday, June 24, when he lands in the United States. It is possible that in Haiti he received funds which gave him greater independence, or again it may be that he had left Alfred in Haiti, when he left in 1830; that his wife had died and that in 1861 he returned to get his son and bring him to America. This is conjecture.
Soon after returning he seems to have given up his New Haven work and connections and taken up a new career in Springfield, Massachusetts, where he had been living for some time. On July 12, 1861, "Du Bois and Thomas rented a shop on Main Street of W. W. Parsons at $150 a year."
I saw grandfather but once, when I was 15 and he 77. Always he held his head high, took no insults, made few friends. He was not a "Negro"; he was a man! Yet the current was too strong even for him. Then even more than now a colored man had colored friends or none at all, lived in a colored world or lived alone. A few fine, strong, black men gained the heart of this silent, bitter man in New York and New Haven. If he had scant sympathy with their social clannishness, he was with them fighting discrimination.
Beneath his sternness was a very human man. Slyly he wrote poetry--stilted, pleading things from a soul astray. He loved women in his masterful way, marrying after his Haitian experience three beautiful wives in succession, in the United States, clinging to each with a certain desperate, even if unsympathetic affection. As a father he was naturally a failure --hard, domineering, unyielding. His four children reacted characteristically: one was until past middle life a thin spinster, the mental image of her father; one died; one passed over into the white world, and her children's children are now white, with no knowledge of their Negro blood; the fourth, my father, bent before grandfather, but did not break --better if he had. He yielded and flared back, asked forgiveness and forgot why, became the harshly-bold favorite, who ran away and rioted and roamed, and loved and married my brown mother.
He arrived in Great Barrington in 1867. He was small and beautiful of face and feature, just tinted with the sun, his wavy hair chiefly revealing his kinship to Africa. In nature, I think, he was a dreamer--romantic, indolent, kind, unreliable. He had in him the making of a poet, an adventurer, or a Beloved Vagabond, according to the life that closed round him; and that life gave him all too little.
I really know very little of my father. He had been brought from Haiti by his father. How he was schooled, I do not know. New Haven then had separate schools and all public schools were poor. Perhaps he was put into one of the better private Negro schools, which existed in New Haven at times. What he did between the ages of 15 and 35, I do not know. He probably worked and wandered here and there. There is no hint of his marrying during this time. But his picture which he gave mother showed him in the uniform of a Civil War private. How long he served or where, I do not know, nor whether he enlisted as colored or white. Connecticut raised two Negro regiments.
When my father came to Great Barrington in 1867, the black Burghardts did not like him. He was too good-looking, too white. He had apparently no property and no job, so far as they knew; and they had never heard of the Du Bois family in New York. Then suddenly in a runaway marriage, but one duly attested and published in the Berkshire Courier, Alfred married Mary Burghardt and they went to live in the house of Jefferson McKinley. Here they lived for a year or two and against them the black Burghardt family carried on a more or less open feud, until my birth.
I was of great interest to the whole town. The whites waited to see "when my hair was going to curl," and all my Burghardt relatives admired me extravagantly. They still looked askance at my father and he was not attracted by them. There loomed the question as to where we were going to live and what my father was going to do for a living. He must have had some money on hand when he came, and he recoiled from grandfather Burghardt's home where Mary and her baby were expected eventually to live. After a year or more of hesitation, father went away to establish a home for his family. He would write for mother to come. Mother and I went to live on Egremont Plain with the Burghardts. In a few months father wrote from New Milford, a small town in Connecticut about 40 miles south of Great Barrington on the Housatonic River. Mother hesitated. She had seldom been out of her hometown. Once as a girl she had taken an excursion to New York. The family objected to her leaving and expressed more and more doubt as to father. The result was in the end that mother never went and my father never came back to Great Barrington. If he wrote, the letters were not delivered. I never saw him, and know not where or when he died.
My mother worried and sank into depression. The family closed about her as a protecting guardian. The town folk who knew the Burghardts took her and me into a sort of overseeing custody. We lived in simple comfort, and living was cheap. And yet as I look back I cannot see how mother accomplished what she did. Her brother and sisters, her cousins and relatives always stood by. My silent older half-brother early went to work as a waiter and was seldom home, but always he was ready to help.
My mother seldom mentioned my father. She was silent before family criticism. She uttered no word of criticism or blame. I do not remember asking much about him. Why, I am not sure; but I think that I knew instinctively that this was a subject which hurt my mother too much even to mention.
As I look back now, I can see that the little family of my mother and myself must often have been near the edge of poverty. Yet I was not hungry or in lack of suitable clothing and shoes, or made to feel unfortunate in company with my fellow students. That was partly because most village folk were poor or middle class. There were but few rich families. Most of my schoolmates belonged to families of small farmers, artisans, or shopkeepers. When special expenditures were called for, new shoes or school books, the money often came from gifts from my uncle or aunts or less frequently from white families, long closely connected with the Burghardts. There may have been other gifts but they were never conspicuous. I never wore cast-off clothes. I never asked folk outside the family for money. Our landlord, Mrs. Cass, received no rent, I am sure, for long intervals. I think the rent was four dollars a month, and finally it was accounted for by settlement as a gift when I went to college.
We continued to live with grandfather Burghardt until I was about five, and grandfather died. The family then moved into town. We lived on the Sumner estate on south Main Street, where we had rooms over what was once the stables. There was a nice wide yard and a running brook which afforded me infinite pleasure. Right opposite the front gate was the long lane leading down to the public school grounds. I suspect this nearness to school induced mother to choose this home. Then after grandmother died, we moved up to Railroad Street, right next to the station. We lived with a poor white family, kindly, but the wife was near insanity.
Soon after, my worrying mother had a paralytic stroke from which she never entirely recovered. As I remember her, she was always lame in her left leg, with a withered left hand. We always walked arm in arm. The misfortune never seemed to me to hurt us. I continued in school and had plenty to eat. Aunts and cousins did our mending and neighbors were always ready to help out. Sometimes mother went out for a day's work and people seemed to like to have her. I always went to bring her home at night and was never left alone.
We soon moved to the Cass home which mother and I occupied during my high school days. It was on Church Street and stood back of the Cass residence and next to the horsesheds of the Congregational church, which was empty except on Sunday. We occupied two rooms and a pantry on the ground floor and two bedrooms on the second half-story.
None of these successive homes had modern conveniences: the "back house" and running water were outdoors; our heat came from stoves. Usually the houses were weatherproof and we had furniture enough for health and comfort. We had no gardens, but sometimes a border bit of land. Always after I was 12, I had a bedchamber to myself, a luxury which I never dreamed was so rare until I was much older.
In the public schools of this town, I was trained from the age of six to 16, and in the town schools, churches, and general social life, I learned my patterns of living. I had, as a child, almost no experience of segregation or color discrimination. My schoolmates were invariably white; I joined quite naturally all games, excursions, church festivals; recreations like coasting, swimming, hiking and games. I was in and out of the homes of nearly all my mates, and ate and played with them. I was as a boy long unconscious of color discrimination in any obvious and specific way.
I knew nevertheless that I was exceptional in appearance and that this riveted attention upon me. Less clearly, I early realized that most of the colored persons I saw, including my own folk, were poorer than the well-to-do whites; lived in humbler houses, and did not own stores. None of the colored folk I knew were so poor, drunken and sloven as some of the lower class Americans and Irish. I did not then associate poverty or ignorance with color, but rather with lack of opportunity; or more often with lack of thrift, which was in strict accord with the philosophy of New England and of the 19th century.
On the other hand, much of my philosophy of the color line must have come from my family group and their friends' experience. My immediate family eventually consisted of my mother and her brother. Near to us in space and intimacy were two married aunts with older children; and a number of cousins, in various degrees removed, lived scattered through the town and county. Most of these had been small farmers, artisans, laborers and servants. With few exceptions all could read and write, but few had training beyond this. These talked of their work and experiences, of hindrances which colored people especially encountered, of better chances in other towns and cities. In this way I must have gotten indirectly a pretty clear outline of color bars which I myself did not experience. Moreover, I couldn't rationalize my own case, because I found it easy to excel most of my classmates in studies, if not in games. The secret of life and the loosing of the color bar, then, lay in excellence, in accomplishment. If others of my family, of my colored kin, had stayed in school instead of quitting early for small jobs, they could have risen to equal whites. On this my mother quietly insisted. There was no real discrimination on account of color --it was all a matter of ability and hard work.
This philosophy saved me from conceit and vainglory by rigorous self-testing, which doubtless cloaked some half-conscious misgivings on my part. If visitors to school saw and remarked on my brown face, I waited in quiet confidence. When my turn came, I recited glibly and usually correctly because I studied hard. Some of my mates did not care, some were stupid, some excelled, but at any rate I gave the best a hard run, and then sat back complacently.
I entered public school at the age of about five or six. For ten years I went regularly to school, from nine o'clock until noon, and one o'clock until four each day, five days a week, ten months a year. The teachers were mature women, most of them trained in State Normal Schools and invariably white American Protestants. Miss Cross, my first primary teacher, was stern and inflexible, but with an inward kindliness and sense of fairness which made her a favorite of mine; and since I was a bright boy who got his lessons, I became a favorite of hers.
The school grounds were not particularly attractive or large, and yet they were ample for the play of children at recess. A great choke-cherry tree with bared roots gave shade in the summer, and fences hemmed us in from the private homes at the side and the low meadows beyond. The primary schoolhouse was wooden, with wooden hand-made furniture, and usually pretty well crowded. The grammar and high school building was brick. We had short devotions and singing each morning and there my clear young voice brought some initial distinction.
Gradually I became conscious that in most of the school work my natural gifts and regular attendance made me rank among the best, so that my promotions were regular and expected. I look back upon my classmates with interest and sharpened memory. They were boys and girls of town and country, with a few Irish and never but once another colored child. My rapid advancement made me usually younger than my classmates, and this fact remained true in high school and at college and even when I began my life work it influenced my attitudes in many ways. I was often too young to lead in enterprises even when I was fitted to do so, but I was always advising and correcting older folk.
Of course, I was too honest with myself not to see things which dessert and even hard work did not explain or solve. I recognized ingrained difference in gift. Art Benham could draw pictures better than I; but I could express meaning in words better than he; Mike Gibbons was a perfect marble player, but dumb in Latin. I came to see and admit all this but I hugged my own gifts and put them to test.
As playmate of the children I saw the homes of nearly everyone. The homes I saw impressed me, but did not overwhelm me. Many were bigger than mine, with newer and shinier things, but they did not seem to differ in kind. One class of rich folk with whom I came in contact were summer boarders who made yearly incursions from New York. I think I was mostly impressed by their clothes. Outside of that there was little reason so far as I could see to envy them. The children were not very strong and rather too well dressed to have a good time playing. I think I probably surprised them more than they me, for I was easily at home with them and happy. They looked to me just like ordinary people, while my brown face and frizzled hair must have seemed strange to them.
The schools of Great Barrington were simple but good, well-taught; and truant laws were enforced. I started on one school ground, and continued there until I was graduated from high school. I was seldom absent or tardy. The curriculum was simple: reading, writing, spelling and arithmetic- grammar, geography and history. We learned the alphabet, we were drilled vigorously on the multiplication tables and we drew accurate maps. We could spell correctly and read with understanding.
5. In fact, Dr. Du Bois was buried after a State funeral, in Accra, Ghana, at the beach perhaps 100 yards from the Atlantic Ocean.