W.E.B. Du Bois Remembered: Library Formally Dedicated

By Beth Goldstein

The room on the 25th floor of the W.E.B. Du Bois Library was not nearly large enough for the number of people gathered there last week to formally dedicate the building to the African-American civil rights pioneer, author and educator.

On the morning of Feb. 23, the University officially named the library after W.E.B. Du Bois, who was born on the same date 128 years ago. About 150 people attended the dedication, which marked the culmination of a three-day series of related events. Among those on hand was President William M. Bulger.

"No one in this room could be more sympathetic with me right now than W.E.B. Du Bois," said President William M. Bulger. "I'm learning and I'm trying hard. I'm just the kind of guy he would seek to encourage."

The Tower Library, as it was known since it was built in 1973, houses the world's largest collection of Du Bois works, including more than 130,000 items of correspondence, photographs, manuscripts of published and unpublished writings, audiovisual material and oral history interviews.

The value of the collection was underscored by interim Provost Pat Crosson, who emceed the dedication.

"This is, by far, the largest and most important collection of Du Bois material," she said. "The papers continue to be used daily by scholars, students and film makers."

Former Chancellor Randolph Bromery, now president of Springfield College, was instrumental in bringing the papers to the campus.

"I am happy to be here today and to see the past 25 years of work come to fruition," Bromery said at the ceremony.

The former chancellor used the occasion to donate a Du Bois work from his personal library to the campus collection.

Bromery explained his 1973 role in reuniting two Du Bois collections, one from Herbert Aptheker, the 1971-72 Du Bois lecturer, and the other from Shirley Graham, Du Bois' widow. Bromery also talked about how he obtained grants for the preservation, arrangement and description of the papers.

At the front of the room, the memory of Du Bois was evoked by a bust mounted on a tall, white column. On the other side of the podium was a plaque donated last year by a student coalition that spearheaded the campaign to name the building in honor of Du Bois. About two feet in length and a foot in width, the plaque is inscribed with a quote from "Fifty Years After," the preface to the 1953 Jubilee Edition of "The Souls of Black Folk" by Du Bois. Chancellor David Scott said the plaque will be mounted in the Library courtyard later this spring.

"There are many reasons why we need to thank Randolph Bromery," said Scott, "First, because of the fact that he was instrumental in bringing the Du Bois papers to Western Massachusetts to the place where Du Bois was born. Bromery brought the papers here because he knew the faculty and staff would care for them properly. ... and probably because he knew in his heart that, one day, the Library would be named after W.E.B. Du Bois."

The dedication ceremony was followed by a Convocation in Bowker Auditorium during which honorary degrees were awarded to Aptheker, author and leading scholar on the work of Du Bois; Rachel Robinson, president of the Jackie Robinson Foundation; and Randall Robinson, founder and director of TransAfrica.

Du Bois's stepson, David DuBois, visiting professor of Afro-American Studies and Journalism and founding president of the W.E.B. Du Bois Foundation, delivered the main address.

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