PIQUA — The second performer in a series of presentations at the upcoming Piqua Chautauqua will come to Hance Pavilion on Sept. 20. Charles Everett Pace, a full-time national Chautauqua scholar, will bring to the stage his portrayal of W.E.B. DuBois, noted sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, author, writer and editor.
The first performer, Karen Vuranch as Pulitzer-winning novelist Edith Wharton, will kick off the three-day Chautauqua festival on Sept. 19. Both events begin at 6 p.m.
In addition to his portrayal of DuBois, Pace is known for his solo interpretations of such historical and literary figures as Frederick Douglass, Langston Hughes, and Malcolm X. Thematically, his body of work tells the story of how African American leaders during the last 190 years overcame many barriers of race, caste, class, and gender.
About W.E.B. DuBois
Born in Great Barrington, Mass., and educated at Humboldt University of Berlin, Harvard University, Harvard College, and Fisk University, DuBois was a vocal opponent of racism and a prolific author known for works including “The Souls of Black Folk,” and “Black Reconstruction in America.”
Also a co-founder of the NAACP, DuBois supported a camp where African Americans could be trained to serve as military officers, which was opposed by many in the military. Some whites did not want black officers, and the African Americans were not sure why they needed to be a part of this war. The Army pledged to create 1,000 officer positions for blacks, but made sure that 250 of those positions were filled by already enlisted men who were trained to take orders from white men versus a black man at the training camp. On the first day of the draft, 700,000 blacks enlisted, but were discriminated against, which caused DuBois to protest vocally.
DuBois also reported on the riots that took place in the wake of the East St. Louis riot. A couple hundred African Americans were murdered by white men for taking the white men’s jobs while they were on strike. One of DuBois’ reports was titled “The Massacre of East St. Louis.” Published in the September issue of NAACP journal The Crisis, the article also contained pictures and interviews showing the horror of this incident. However, historians now believe that DuBois may have altered the information in order to use it for propaganda. DuBois also organized the Silent Parade to express the black community’s outrage over the St. Louis riot. The Silent Parade was a march of about 9,000 African Americans in New York City, and was the first of its kind in New York and the second of its kind in the world.
Federal officials were concerned about the things that the NAACP was saying and attempted to scare them by starting some of their own investigations. DuBois was not intimidated by their actions and believed that World War I would cause an overthrow of the European colonial system and the liberation of people of color worldwide. Joel Spingarn was enthusiastic about the war and persuaded DuBois to write a pro-war editorial called “Close Ranks” in June 1918, even though Du Bois had an anti-war stance. Then DuBois received a commission into the army. Black leaders who wanted to leverage the war to gain civil rights for African Americans, criticized Du Bois for changing his mind. Southern officers in his unit objected to his presence and his commission was withdrawn.
DuBois wrote one of the first scientific treatises in the field of American sociology, and published three autobiographies, each of which contains insightful essays on sociology, politics and history. He was an ardent peace activist and advocated nuclear disarmament. The United States Civil Rights Act, embodying many of the reforms for which DuBois had campaigned his entire life, was enacted a year after his death.