Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer to launch W.E.B. Du Bois Educational Series

Written Apr 19, 2016 by Sharon Smullen in Berkshire Eagle

Genius is to be prized, says historian and biographer, David Levering Lewis, and W.E.B. Du Bois was an extraordinary mind.

The author of two Pulitzer Prize-winning biographies of the civil rights pioneer will present “Du Bois’ Long Road Back to Great Barrington” as inaugural keynote speaker at the W.E.B. Du Bois Educational Series. The free event will begin at 7 p.m. April 28 at Monument Mountain Regional High School in Great Barrington.

When Du Bois was born in 1868, Levering Lewis noted, Great Barrington had some 40 families of color, many of them landholders or employed in service industries. It was an easy place for him to live, given the town’s relative enlightenment in matters of race — prejudice was mostly against the Irish and Slavs — and the encouragement he received from public school Principal Frank Hosmer.

A longtime Rutgers and NYU professor, Levering Lewis visited Great Barrington often while researching his two-volume biography, which won The Pulitzer Prize in 1994 and 2001. He conducted extensive interviews and followed local controversies about acknowledging the town’s “most significant native son.”

As a lot of people have moved to Great Barrington since then, he noted, “one can talk about Du Bois in ways that, back in 1973, you would have been very careful if you mentioned the man’s name.”

Du Bois advocate and parent John Horan brought the new program idea to her attention, Monument Mountain Principal Marianne Young said. A committee of area Du Bois scholars, educators and multicultural activists modeled the series after the highly successful Dowmel lectures which the school hosted for 15 years and which “was so impactful for students and the community,” Young said.