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W.E.B. DuBois Memorial Park Dedicated Amid Heated Criticism

By Lee A. Daniels

(Special to the CRIMSON)

GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., Oct. 18-Today in this town of 7000 a memorial park was dedicated to the late W.E.B. DuBois '90, the distinguished black historian, sociologist, and racial activist. Dubois was born here 101 years ago.

The memorial park, located on the site of the DuBois family homestead just north of the town, was and is the subject of a heated controversy among the town's residents. The John Birch Society, the American Legion, and the Daughters of the American Revolution bitterly opposed the creation of the park. They said they were opposed because DuBois was a member of the Communist Party the last years of his life.

(DuBois. a lifelong socialist, at 93 joined the Panty, renounced his American citizenship, and emigrated to Ghana where he died two years later in 1963.)

More than Deserved

Others in the town, however, supported the idea of the memorial park. The Berkshire Eagle, the town's newspaper, said in an editorial last March that DuBois more than deserved the honor. Citing his outstanding record in scholarship and social activism, the paper said. "The important consideration is one of proportion. To judge a man as full of variety as DuBois by looking at only an eighth or ninth of his life-and that portion the last one-is absurd."

There was some fear that those opposed to the park might attempt to disrupt the dedication ceremonies. But the ceremonies proceeded smoothly.

Ossie Davis, the actor. Horace Mann Bond. an intimate friend of DuBois and chairman of the sociology department at Atlanta University, and his son. Georgia legislator Julian Bond, addressed an informally-dressed gathering of 800 at the sunswept DuBois homesite.

Julian Bond said in the keynote speech that DuBois had pointed out the major problem of the twentieth century over half a century ago. "DuBois in The Souls of Black Folk said that the major problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line-the failure of the white world minority to share its wealth and produce with the nonwhite world majority. That problem is still with us today," Bond said.

Bond went on to say that DuBois' joining the Communist Party was "more an expression of disgust at American social practices than of attraction for communist ideology. We live in a country whose economic philosophy is socialism for the rich, and capitalism for the poor; a country which annually gives farmers thousands of dollars for not producing crops, yet which will not give a family on welfare enough to live decently." Bond said.

Horace Mann Bond and Davis reminisced about DuBois and spoke of his relevance to the contemporary black movement. A letter from the black leader's widow, Mrs. Shirley Graham DuBois, was read to the gathering, which included more people from New York. New Jersey and Connectient than from Massachusetts. (Few townspeople came to the ceremonies).

Three of DuBois' relatives were also in the audience- his cousin, Mrs. Alice DuBois Crawford of Brooklyn, Mrs. DuBois Williams Peck, and her son of Denver.

The park was the brainchild of Walter Wilson. a white former Texan who is now a successful Berkshire real estate dealer. Wilson purchased the DuBois property several years ago, not knowing its former owners. When he discovered it to be the DuBois family homesite. Wilson contacted Edmund Gordon. chairman of the guidance department at Columbia University Teachers College. Together the two drew up plans to make the idea of a memorial park a reality.

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