Conferences

“The Souls of Black Folk” Centennial

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and David Levering Lewis

Du Bois Professor of Humanities at Harvard University and Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of W.E.B. Du Bois

April 7-13, 2003
Keynote: Monday, April 7, 2003 @ 8:00am

This second biannual "Humanities Week" sponsored by the Center for the Humanities was held at venues throughout Madison and Dane County.

The weeklong event--including lectures, theater, music and dance performances, movies, exhibits, readings, debates and panel discussions--paid tribute to the author W.E.B. Du Bois and his landmark book on African-American life, The Souls of Black Folk published in 1903. All events were open to the public; most were free.

"The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line," said Du Bois. Born on Feb. 23, 1868, in Massachusetts, he grew to be a leading intellectual of African-American thought. Du Bois was the first African-American to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard and went on to become a scholar, writer, editor and political activist as well as a co-founder of the NAACP. He died in 1963 in Accra, Ghana.

This Humanities Week program was presented in conjunction with the W.E.B. Du Bois Centennial Symposium, an international academic conference focusing on the work of Du Bois and The Souls of Black Folk, the text thought to mark the founding of the discipline of African-American studies. The symposium, sponsored by the Afro-American Studies Department, was scheduled Thursday, April 10-12, 2003, Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St.

Keynote speakers for the event were Gates, the Du Bois Professor of Humanities at Harvard University, and Lewis, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning biography, W.E.B. Du Bois. Other participants include such prominent authorities on African-American life as Hazel Carby, Paula Giddings, Marc Anthony Neal, Nell Painter, and Arnold Rampersad.

Nellie McKay, professor of Afro-American Studies at UW-Madison and co-editor with Gates of the Norton Anthology of African-American Literature, will co-direct centennial events with Craig Werner, professor of African-American Studies at UW-Madison and author of A Change Is Gonna Come: Music, Race & the Soul of America.

"We are so pleased to be hosting this remarkable array of scholars here at UW-Madison," McKay says. "Why Madison? Why now? What more fitting place to explore one of the most influential books and thinkers of the 20th century than the home of the Wisconsin Idea."

"We look forward to sharing a wide variety of programming with the citizens of the Madison, the state and beyond," Werner adds. "'Humanities Week' offers an unprecedented opportunity to look ahead to the next 100 years of The Souls of Black Folk."

Humanities center director Steven Nadler, a professor of philosophy at UW-Madison, says, "Building on the tremendous success of the award-winning Jane Austen in the 21st Century Humanities Festival in 2001, the Center for the Humanities is pleased to be joining in the commemoration of the centennial anniversary of the publication of an extremely important work of American letters and the life and times of one of our country's most important thinkers. This is a great opportunity to explore the continued relevance of Du Bois and his writings and the political, social and cultural legacies of his ideas."