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WSU, UMass Libraries Honor Civil-rights Leader W.E.B. Du Bois

WESTFIELD — In honor of Black History Month, Westfield State University will collaborate with UMass Libraries, St. John’s Congregational Church, Beta Sigma Boule, and Springfield Public Schools to hold a tribute for W.E.B. Du Bois at St. John’s Congregational Church in Springfield on Sunday, Feb. 22 at 3 p.m.

William Edward Burghardt (W.E.B.) Du Bois was born in Great Barrington on Feb. 23, 1868. He grew up to become a pioneering civil-rights leader and visionary of equality and democracy. He was the first African-American to earn a doctorate from Harvard University and a pioneer in the fields of sociology and history. A founding member of the NAACP, Du Bois was also a playwright, poet, novelist, and cultural critic.

The event includes a performance of the play W.E.B. Du Bois: A Man for All Times, by the Pulse Ensemble Theater group from New York City.

Event organizer Brooks Fitch, consultant to UMass Libraries, said the tribute and the play share a message. “Knowledge is not enough, we must act. There are a lot of lessons that W.E.B. Du Bois gave. Du Bois is a man of all times. That template of what he did and how he did it is relevant to today.”

In addition to St. John’s Music Ministry and the play, there will be performances by WSU’s Chorus, Gospel Choir, and So Seductive Step Team. Each performance will reflect the theme of W.E.B. Du Bois’s life and elements of Black History Month.

Fitch said the event will appeal to adults and kids alike. “We hope to provide aspirational modeling for young people in particular to encourage them to go to further their education. The tribute lets adults see all that all aspects of the community, college students, etc., have a common focus.”

The event will be held at St. John’s Congregational Church because of its significance to Du Bois and what he stood for. Abolitionist John Brown was a member of the church when he lived in Springfield, and Springfield became a hub of the Underground Railroad due to the activities of St. John’s. Du Bois also attended the church on occasion. The W.E.B. Du Bois event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.westfield.ma.edu/bhm.

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