W.E.B. Du Bois helped to lay the foundation for today’s Black intellectual and artistic traditions. One of Du Bois’s lifelong dreams was to bring together scholars, writers, and artists of color, and to institutionalize support for their individual and collective work. In addition to scouting land for a possible retreat center in the Berkshires and his participation in the renowned Pan African Congresses, Du Bois convened groups of Black scholars and writers at Troutbeck, the Spingarn estate in nearby Amenia, New York.
Drawing upon this century-old foundation, the Du Bois Forum shapes the future of Black intellectual and artistic traditions. The forum serves as an incubator for scholarly and creative projects; a communal space for individual and collaborative ventures; and a meeting and resting place for writers, scholars, and artists engaged in this work. In this way, the Forum aims to support Black thought, creative production, and social change.
In July 2022, we hosted the inaugural Du Bois Forum retreat, convening an intergenerational group of twenty-five writers, scholars, and artists of color. Individuals arrived from across the country and spent a weekend learning about the origins of the Forum and brainstorming next steps together. Participants reflected upon Du Bois’s life and legacy, including the Black intellectual and artistic traditions he shaped; on the current Du Boisian landscape — scholarly, artistic, and memorial; and on the urgency of this work in our current political moment. The weekend concluded with a public roundtable discussion co-hosted by Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.
The Forum is partnering with Jacob’s Pillow once again this summer for an evening in honor of Pulitzer Prize-winning Du Bois biographer and historian David Levering Lewis. Scholars, writers, musicians, and artists will reflect upon the impact of Dr. Lewis’ scholarship and public engagement. Later that evening, James Beard award-winning chef Bryant Terry, author of Black Food, will present a Du Bois-inspired menu under the stars. This event will also feature a performance by Lecolion Washington and staff/faculty at Community Music Center of Boston, the largest outside provider of arts education to the Boston Public Schools.
Dr. Kendra Taira Field is Associate Professor of History and Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Tufts University. Field is the author of Growing Up with the Country: Family, Race, and Nation after the Civil War (Yale, 2018). Her current book project, The Stories We Tell (W.W. Norton) is a history of African American genealogy and storytelling from the Middle Passage to the present. Field abridged David Levering Lewis’ W.E.B. Du Bois: A Biography (Henry Holt, 2009), and her scholarly articles have appeared in the Journal of American History, the Journal of African American History, Southern Cultures, and the American Historical Review. As a public historian, Field co-founded the African American Trail Project and the Du Bois Forum, a retreat center for writers, scholars, and artists; served as project historian for the Du Bois Freedom Center, the first museum in North America dedicated to the life and work of W.E.B. Du Bois; co-curated “We Who Believe In Freedom: Black Feminist DC,” the inaugural exhibition (2023) of the National Women’s History Museum; and serves as chief historian for the 10 Million Names Project.
Kerri Greenidge is Mellon Associate Professor in the Department of Studies in Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora at Tufts University, where she also co-directs the African American Trail Project. She is the author of Black Radical: The Life and Times of William Monroe Trotter (2019). Listed by the New York Times as one of its top picks of 2019, the book is the first biography of Boston editor, William Monroe Trotter, written in nearly fifty years. The book received the Mark Lynton Prize in History, the Massachusetts Book Award, the J. Anthony Lukas Award, the Sperber Award from Fordham University, and the Peter J. Gomes Book Prize from the Massachusetts Historical Society. Black Radical was also short-listed for the Stone Book Award from the Museum of African American History, Boston, the Cundill History Prize, and the Plutarch Award for Best biography. Her most recent book, The Grimkes: The Legacy of Slavery in An American Family (2022) was recently listed as a best book of the year by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Boston Globe, among other publications. It was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Award, in addition to the J. Anthony Lukas Award. Her writings have appeared in the Massachusetts Historical Review, the Radical History Review, the New Yorker, the Atlantic, and the Guardian.
The mission of the W.E.B. Du Bois Center for Freedom and Democracy is to educate the public about the life and legacy of civil rights pioneer W.E.B. Du Bois and the rich African American heritage of the Berkshires. Located at the former Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church in Great Barrington, where he was born and raised, this vibrant center of Black thought and remembrance constitutes the first museum and living memorial in North America dedicated to Du Bois’ life and legacy.