W.E.B. Du Bois to Yolande Du Bois

The following letter was written by W.E.B. DuBois to his only daughter, Yolande, in 1914 when she was nearly 14 years old and a student at the Besales School in England.

October 29, 1914

Dear Little Daughter:

I have waited for you to get well settled before writing.  By this time I hope some of the strangeness has worn off and that my little girl is working hard and regularly.

Of course, everything is new and unusual.  You miss the newness and smartness of America.  Gradually, however, you are going to sense the beauty of the old world: its calm and eternity and you will grow to love it.

Above all remember, dear, that you have a great opportunity.  You are in one of the world’s best schools, in one of the world’s greatest modern empires.  Millions of boys and girls all over the world would give almost anything they possess to be where you are.  You are there by no desert or merit of yours, but only by lucky chance.

Deserve it then.  Study,do your work.  Be honest, frank and fearless and get some grasp of the real values of life.  You will meet of course, curious little annoyances.  People will wonder at your dear brownand the sweet crinkley hair.  But that simply is of no importance and will be soon forgotten.  Remember that most folk laugh at anything unusual, whether it is beautiful, fine or not.  You, however, must not laugh at yourself.  You must know that brown is as pretty as white or prettier and crinkley hair as straight even though it is harder to comb.  The main thing is the YOU beneath the clothes and skin – the ability to do, the will to conquer, the determination to understand and know this great, wonderful, curious world.  Don’t shrink from new experiences and custom.  Take the cold bath bravely.  Enter into the spirit of your big bed-room.  Enjoy what is and not pine for what is not.  Read some good, heavy, serious books just for discipline: Take yourself in hand and master yourself.  Make yourself do unpleasant things, so as to gain the upper hand of your soul.

Above all remember, your father loves you and believes in you and expects you to be a wonderful woman.

I shall write each week and expect a weekly letter from you.

Lovingly yours,


Letter Source: Posterity: Letters of Great Americans to Their Children


William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (pronounced /duːˈbɔɪs/[1] February 23, 1868 – August 27, 1963) was an intellectual leader in the United States as sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author, and editor. Biographer David Levering Lewis wrote, “In the course of his long, turbulent career, W. E. B. Du Bois attempted virtually every possible solution to the problem of twentieth-century racism—scholarship, propaganda, integration, national self-determination, human rights, cultural and economic separatism, politics, international communism, expatriation, third world solidarity.”[2]

W. E. B. Du Bois, in 1918

Born in Massachusetts, Du Bois graduated from Harvard, where he earned his Ph.D in History, the first African-American to earn a doctorate at Harvard. Later he became a professor of history and economics at Atlanta University. As head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1910, he was founder and editor of the NAACP’s journal The Crisis. Du Bois rose to national attention in his opposition of Booker T. Washington‘s alleged ideas of accommodation with Jim Crow separation between whites and blacks and disfranchisement of blacks in the South, campaigning instead for increased political representation for blacks in order to guarantee civil rights, and the formation of a Black elite who would work for the progress of the African-American race.[3]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: