Don’t Lose Focus on Justice Issues

[Note: This editorial was published in 2013 as part of a series marking the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. I chose to focus on the Justice System at a time when many mainstream Americans were not paying much attention to it. With the protests following several high-profile police killings, everybody from the President of the United States to John Q Citizen is speaking out on criminal justice issues.]

Dr. Elsie L. ScottDr. Scott

This year, we are celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. As African Americans, we are pleased that this country has progressed from the forced enslavement of a race of people to the removal of the Jim Crow laws.

We are also celebrating the reelection of a man of African descent to a second term as President of the United States. There is a lot to celebrate in 2013, but there is still have a lot of work ahead.

One of the areas that that is seriously flawed is the “justice system”. It is commonly known that the U.S. incarcerates more of its citizens than any other industrialized country. The fact that a disproportionate number of the persons convicted and imprisoned are African Americans is troubling.

According to statistics from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), in 2010, 4,347 out of every 100,000 black males were incarcerated in a state, federal or local facility. This number is seven times higher than the number of white males incarcerated. In 2010, African Americans made up 38 percent of the total state prison population compared to 34 percent whites and 21 percent Hispanics.

When arrest data is compared to prison data, the percentage of blacks in the total arrest numbers (27.8 %) is found to be ten percent lower than the percentage incarcerated. This seems to indicate that blacks are more likely to be convicted and sentenced to incarceration than whites.

An examination of felony conviction data shows that black felony convictions are more likely to result in incarceration than white felony convictions. According to BJS data for 2006, 39 percent of persons convicted on felonies were black and 60 percent were white.

Conviction data show that whites who are convicted are less likely to be incarcerated (66% to 72% blacks). For drug offenses, 72 percent of blacks convicted were incarcerated in 2006 compared to 61 percent of whites. Only 59 percent of whites convicted of drug trafficking were incarcerated compared to 70 percent of blacks. The mean maximum sentence imposed by state courts on white felons was 37 months compared to 42 months for black felons. If violent offenses are isolated, the statistics show that mean maximum prison sentence given to whites was 99 months, but the mean for blacks was 108 months.

Why are such large numbers of blacks in prison? There is the need to drill down into the issue of race and the criminal justice system. One can start with drug offenses. A large percentage of blacks have been incarcerated for drug-related offenses, including drug usage, yet, studies have shown that five times more drug users are white than black.

As long as many see the image of crime as a black man, this country will struggle with addressing race in the criminal justice system. Young black boys will continue to be placed in the prison pipeline beginning with childish pranks or school misbehavior. School discipline must be dealt with by the school system and not the criminal justice system. More must be done to reduce school dropouts because two-thirds of school dropouts are ending up in the criminal justice system.

Some good strides have been made around addressing the drug sentencing problems, but more need to be done. Drug usage and addiction are not criminal justice issues.

As the country reduces incarceration numbers, the issue of returning ex-inmates to the community must be addressed. Barriers to housing and employment, are giving them few legal options as they try to becoming productive citizens. They must automatically receive a restoration of their civil rights or they must be given a clear pathway to restoration.

So as we celebrate the equality and justice anniversaries, let us not lose focus on the justice issues that still loom before us.

The Continuing Problem of Police-Black Community Relations

Dr. Elsie L. Scott


The recent shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed, 18-year old African American male by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014 focused the country’s attention on relations between African Americans and law enforcement agents once again. In the 1960s, a number of cities experienced violent uprisings that resulted in property loss and damage, and loss of lives. Since that time, incidents involving the police and black civilians have resulted in uprisings in a number of urban areas. After each of these incidents, public officials, media representatives and citizens have assessed the causes and suggested improvements.

The reaction to the 1960s riots that started with the Watts riot of 1965 was unlike the reactions to the other uprisings in that national attention was placed on the incidents. The President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson, appointed an 11-member commission (the Kerner Commission) to review the causes, the effects and preventive measures. The Kerner Commission found that police action was a major precipitating factor for all of the uprisings they studied. Federal and local resources were invested in actualizing some of the Kerner Report’s recommendations. Some of the reforms implemented were changes in police policies related to police misconduct, changes in citizen complaint process, recruitment and promotion of black police officers, and the implementation of programs designed to increase positive police-citizen interaction.

Despite the positive changes in police-community relations that were implemented in the 1970s, another major uprising took place in Miami, Florida in 1980. The not-guilty verdict of four police officers charged in the killing of a black motorcyclist led to three days of rioting that resulted in deaths, injury and property destruction. Reacting to the riot, a citizens’ review board was created, but there are questions about its effectiveness. More black and female officers were hired and promoted, but the culture did not immediately change.

The police case that personified problems with the police in the 1990s was the Rodney King case in Los Angeles. A tape of police officers beating a black man captured the nation’s attention, and when the police officers charged in the beating were acquitted, rioting started. Over one billion dollars in property damage resulted, and 53 people were killed. The chief of police who helped to create a culture of suppression and confrontational policing was forced out, but it took time and a federally-mandated consent decree to change the culture to one that was more community focused.

Cincinnati took center stage as the major uprising of the first decade of the 21st century. In 2001, four nights of looting and rioted followed the shooting death of a teenager by a police officer. The city was placed under a federal consent decree that resulted in training for officers in handling the mentally ill, changes to the foot pursuit policy, establishment of a Civilian Complaint Authority and the collection of race-related data during police stops.

In the second decade of the 21st century, the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Missouri has taken the headlines. It is too early to know what the results of case will be. What is known is that the Ferguson police seemed to have learned little or nothing from the earlier cases. Some examples of mistakes they made were 1) not releasing details of the incident; 2) shooting the “suspect” multiple times even after he seemed to walking away; 3) refusing to name the officer who shot Brown; 4) responding to the uprising with military equipment; 5) leaving the dead body in the street for hours.

In some of the cities that have experienced unrest, improvements have been made in police processes, but the improvements often have not been sustained, and they have not been holistic in approach. The problems with the police cannot be isolated from the problems within the rest of society. In many urban areas, people have risen up in part because of the economic oppression they are facing. The police shooting is just a spark that ignites a flame after years of frustration around unemployment, underemployment, housing conditions, etc. Until investments are made in addressing economic and social disparities, uprisings will continue to occur.

After an incident, rhetoric is heard from the various sides, bandages are placed to stop the bleeding or a stop-gap solution is applied. Business goes on as usual or people find a way to move on in a new environment, but the core of the problem remains. At the core is the legacy of slavery and racism. The stereotyping of black men as criminals has become ingrained in society to the point that police officers and other people are quick to act upon mistaken assumptions of the motives of black men, whether they are walking or driving. Until the country is willing to develop and implement a long-term strategic plan to address deep-seated racial problems and issues, Fergusons will continue to occur.

Acceptance of Spirit of Democracy Award from National Coalition on Black Civic Participation

Me with award

I would like to thank Melanie Campbell and the board members of NCBCP for this award. I would also like to congratulate the other recipients for their achievements. I want to thank my nephew, Dr. Ivory Toldson and his wife, Marshella for sharing this evening with me. I would also like to thank my friends Joan Farrelly and Barbara Santos for joining me and to my friend Rhonda Glover who could not be here, but provided tickets for two Howard University students to attend. I am pleased to have some of my former staff members from CBCF and so many of my sisters from the Black Women’s Roundtable.

This award is given to persons who support the NCBCP mission and vision of making civic participation a cultural responsibility and tradition. Civic participation was ingrained into me by parents who were denied that basic civil duty, the right to vote. I watched them being denied that basic right even though they were born in this country and paid taxes in this country. They could pass the literacy test and could meet all the other qualifications, except they could not pass the voter identification test. For the younger persons in the audience, the voter identification requirement was not a photo ID. It was an in-person identification by two registered voters (and all the registered voters were white). They could not find two good white people to verify that they were who their driver’s licenses said they were.

As a child, I helped people who could hardly read and write, people who worked a full day in the cotton fields but cleaned up and came out at night, learn how to complete a voter registration card with no errors. We taught them how to pass a literacy test that was designed at the college level and above. I watched crosses burn near my home and answered threatening phone calls with people on the other end saying that they would rape my mother and kill my father. I heard the shots rang out in the night when night-riders filled a barrel of bullets into my father’s car in an attempt to kill him and my other family members. I witnessed my parents take the NAACP underground when the state of Louisiana outlawed the organization.

If you ask me where my commitment to civic engagement came from, I will tell you that I inherited from Rev. John Henry and Mrs. Alease J. Scott. It is in my DNA. Civic participation is indeed a cultural responsibility and a tradition in my family, and I am trying to pass it on to the next generation. Thank you for this award.

Elsie L. Scott, Ph.D.

Remembering Dr. Jewel Limar Prestage, My Academic Mother

Jewel Prestage

by Dr. Elsie L. Scott

I join my colleagues in mourning the passing of the “mother of black political science”, Dr. Jewel Limar Prestage, my academic mother. Dr. Prestage had a track record of teaching, mentoring and producing successful students that may be unequal in academia. These are just some of her success stories in the Washington, DC area: Ike Leggett, County Executive of Montgomery County, MD; Dr. Carolyn Williams, former undersecretary of HUD; Dr. Maya Rockeymoore, President and CEO, Center for Global Policy Solutions; Dr. Shiela Harmon Martin, Chair, Political Science Department, University of the District of Columbia; and Atty. Weldon Rougeau. It has been reported that she produced at least 45 Ph.D.s and over 200 lawyers, elected officials and governmental and business officials. Two of her students went on to serve in the U.S. Congress, and several served in the Louisiana legislature. In my class of nine political science majors, three of us earned Ph.D.s, three earned law degrees (one became a judge), one is an A.B.D., one earned a master’s degree and the other was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the armed services and was killed in combat.

Twiley Barker, Jewel & me

Dr. Twiley Barker (Jewel’s academic father), Dr. Jewel Prestage & Dr. Elsie Scott

She was a role model for us as black women. She received her Ph.D. at the age of 22, and while still an undergraduate, managed to find a smart, handsome, supportive man who she married while she was in graduate school. Their 60-year marriage was an example of collaboration, love, support and respect. She was the first African American woman to receive a Ph.D. in political science, and she was a trailblazer in research on women, having co-authored one of the early books on women in politics.

Dr. Prestage became my second mother after I joined her program at Southern University. Before I met her, I had planned to attend law school as my father had tracked me to do. She insisted that I get a Ph.D. instead. I know that Desiree Pedescleaux, Dean of Undergraduate Studies at Spelman College, had a similar experience with Dr. Prestage.

She mentored and mothered all of her students, but I felt very special because she chose me to follow in her footsteps and go to the University of Iowa. She wanted me to be the second African American woman to receive a Ph.D. in political science frDr. Prestage and me at her SU retirementom Iowa. That did not happen because I hated Iowa as much as she loved it. She was, however, successful in keeping me from dropping out before I received my master’s degree. She would make phone calls to the professors and to me to try to get us to find common ground. She did not drop me when I left Iowa after completing my master’s program, with 12 hours toward my Ph.D. She kept me as a mentee and celebrated when I chose to join her former student, Dr. Mack Jones, in his new Ph.D. program at Atlanta University.

My friends who went to other schools, especially majority white universities, did not understand what was so special about Jewel Prestage. We revered her because she  aggressively sought financial assistance for us to pursue graduate study.  In an underfunded program, she found resources to expose us to outside programs and activities that would help our career advancement. She connected us with our “big brothers and sisters” who had achieved what we were striving for. She cared about our academic success and about us as individuals. When we graduated, she did move on to the next group of students, she continued to open doors for us well after we graduated, and she checked on our well-being.

Like my mother, she was very proud of my accomplishments and was always looking for ways to let others know about me. She invited me back to Southern University and to Prairie View University to speak to her students. She nominated me for awards and introduced me to people she thought I should know. She collected news clippings of my achievements and shared them through other mediums.

We, her former students, joked about phone calls with Jewel. You had to set aside a long period of time for a Jewel call—at least an hour. Even when you told her you were in a hurry, she did not rush off the phone. Jewel Prestage did not believe in rushing, whether it was to class or to catch a plane. I am glad she did not rush us because we got a chance to receive the real essence of a mentor. With each phone call, she was polishing her “jewels” to be the valuable gems she knew we could be.

His Brother’s (and Sister’s) Keeper: Lessons Learned from a Black Father

Witness to the Truth

Dr. Elsie L. Scott

My father was different from most black fathers in my small hometown in Louisiana.  He wore a white shirt and a bow tie every day.  He did not eat “greasy” food after 2:00 p.m. because he said his body would not digest it before he went to sleep. He drank herbal teas before they were marketed, and he promoted walking and physical exercise before it became the norm.  He read a lot and did not buy us a television because he said it was the “ignorant box.” He talked about civil rights for black people to anyone who would listen.

He did not drink, smoke, dance, go to clubs, curse, gamble or even play cards.  Yet, he was well respected in our hometown to the point that when he walked down Levee Street (the block where the nightclubs were located), even the winos straightened up and hid their bottles as they spoke to Rev. Scott.

With a “saint” as a father, it was not easy growing up.  All the boys were afraid to try to “court” me because they were afraid of my Daddy.  When I went to parties and started dancing, I would hear people saying, “I didn’t know Rev. Scott let her dance”.  Other children would be surprised to know that I knew all the words to the top ten hits.  One girl told me that she thought that all we did was sit around the house and read the Bible.

Beyond my father’s religious “sainthood”, he was the Moses of the civil rights movement in our section of the state.  He was not afraid to speak out for the rights of black people.  He refused to back down even when he was harassed, his family threatened, crosses burned near his house, his office burned down and he was shot.

At the time I was growing up, my father’s activism and its negative impact on our lives was not appreciated by me.  I longed for normalcy–whatever that was.  I knew I wanted to be able to sleep at night without worrying about someone bombing our house.  I knew that I wanted a life where I did not have to jump every time the dogs started barking.  I did not want to answer any more threatening phone calls.  I blamed my father for staying in Louisiana and subjecting us to all of these things. I once told my father that I did not know why he married and had a family because we were all suffering for his fight. I had to go to college before I could truly appreciate why it had to be my family that made the big sacrifice.

Beyond Daddy’s civil rights involvement, he was always helping others.  We developed a spirit of service from observing Daddy. From the time we were very young, I remember my father taking us to visit the sick and the people in nursing homes. I remember him taking us to the parish prison farm to visit people there.  Even though I did not like the smell of the nursing homes, I felt good going to visit (We also went without our parents) the seniors because for some, this was the highlight of their week.  I developed my zeal for justice from watching my Daddy advocate for those who had been unjustly incarcerated. My father never went to law school, but he studied law books so he could provide legal advice to those who did not have the money to hire a lawyer (or who did not trust the advice they were receiving from the white lawyers).

My father taught us sharing. I remember my father coming to my closet asking me to take some of my clothes and give to a family that had lost everything in a fire. He and my mother taught us to be kind to everybody regardless of their station in life, so we were always sharing even though we did not have a lot.

Daddy taught me the lesson of not letting others control you through finances. He paid for everything with cash because he knew credit could be used by the white people to control him.  He did not want to have anything that would compromise his ability to lead and his involvement in securing rights for black people. As a result, we never had a new car, but our family had no debt.

I grew up to embrace some of the values instilled in me through the teachings of my parents, but most of all through the examples they set. Of course I never embraced Daddy’s social values of not dancing and social drinking, but I did adopt his health and fitness values, and the spiritual and service values will always be with me.

My father liked to talk politics and enjoyed a spirited debate about politicians and issues.  He would probably OD on all the political shows that are now on television.  I inherited my interest in politics from him.  I remember arguing with him about integration–that he had fought for–and Black Power–that I had embraced.  Despite our different world views about the way we could achieve equality, he respected my opinions. When my brother was arrested and expelled from college for “inciting” students to riots again conditions at his college, Daddy was his biggest supporter. He fell out with some of his political friends who refused to stop the unfair prosecution of my brother.

It was not easy growing up the daughter of Rev. Scott, but I survived and I am a better person for all that I learned from him.

Can’t We Just All Get Along

Can’t We Just All Get Along
Dr. Elsie L. Scott
Director, Ronald W. Walters Leadership & Public Policy Center
Howard University

When Rodney King finally spoke after his beating by Los Angeles police officers, many were expecting him to say something about his beating, but he uttered the words, “Can’t we just all get along?”
These words came to me when I realized that today, April 29, was the 22nd anniversary of the verdict in the Rodney King case was issued, and rioting started in Los Angeles. There are no cities burning today, but the headlines and the blogs are full news and reflections on race in light of the leaked tape of Donald Sterling. It is not just the Sterling case that has us talking about race. It is also the Cliven Bundy case and the Supreme Court decision in Schuette v. Bamn. These are the topics of the day, but there will be other race-related topics in the future because we refuse to deal with the race issue in this country.
People of African descent were held in involuntary servitude for close to 250 years. Then a proclamation was issued stating that they are free, and later some Constitutional amendments were added to give them legal standing. The “freed” people were not given land or compensation for their labors. No schools or few schools were established to educate their children, but they were expected to catch up with the born free citizens. When they started businesses and found other ways to provide for their families, their businesses were destroyed, their rights were taken away, they were re-enslaved through the criminal justice system, and they were asked why they could not succeed like others.
Many blacks have tried to just get along and have found themselves falling further behind economically through unfair labor, banking and legal practices. They have tried to get along and found discrimination in housing. They have tried to get along and found they have been profiled, restricted, labeled and stereotyped.
Despite the dream of many Caucasian Americans that they would not have to deal with the issue of race, race issues are woven into the fabric of American society. The framework was established by the founding fathers when they allowed slavery to be legalized, and they allowed enslaved people to be defined as property. There was an opportunity to do something about it when slavery was abolished, but weak government “leaders” allowed the defeated South to continue a form of enslavement.
Notwithstanding all that African Americans have gone through, many have tried to find a way to just get along. Affirmative action was seen as one way to make the playing field even and to adjust for some of the past discrimination, but the term “reverse discrimination” was coined and this measure was stripped of its effectiveness.
What seems to be the final nail in the affirmative action coffin is the recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Schuette v. Bamn. Affirmative action was needed because we all cannot just get along. The University of Michigan, in arguing for keeping the policy, stated that universities must have race-sensitive admissions plans to ensure diversity.
We have seen the impact that the change in admissions policy has had on California universities. At UCLA, for example, only three percent of the law students are black (33 out of roughly 1,100 students).
It was sad to watch two black female law students on the Melissa Harris Perry Show talk about what it means to be part of the three percent. The experiences they talked about were similar to my experience as the only black in my graduate school program at Iowa years ago. (I was the only black in my program, and we had no black professors.)
Justice Anthony Kennedy, in his majority opinion in Schuette, essentially stated that the will of the people supersedes concerns about racial equality as long as it does not violate the Constitution. He seemed to question “race-based categories” (affirmative action) when he wrote: “Government action that classifies individuals on the basis of race is inherently suspect and carries the danger of perpetuating the very racial divisions the polity seeks to transcend.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a brilliant dissent in this case. She outlined three prominent areas in which race matters. “Race matters…because of the long history of racial minorities being denied access to the political process.” “Race also matters because of persistent racial inequality in society.” “And race matters for reasons that really are only skin deep, that cannot be discussed any other way, and that cannot be wished away.”
We did not magically enter into a post-racial society when an African American was elected president. Many people had hoped that they would not have to hear anything else about racial discrimination and inequality. They hoped that we could just all get along, but nothing had been done to weed out the Donald Sterlings and Cliven Bundys.

It is not just the white men over 60 who are preventing us from just getting along. There are numerous hate incidents of college campuses such as the white students at San Jose State University barricading their Black roommate his room, displaying a Confederate flag, writing the word “nigger” on a white board in a common area, attaching a metal bicycle lock around his neck and calling him “three-fifths”. Black faculty at majority institutions are being charged with discrimination for highlighting black history, and young white people moving into inner cities are not showing respect for the institutions and culture of original residents–black people.

No, we cannot just all get along because the majority refuses to admit that race matters and that racial discrimination and inequality are still prevalent in society. No, we cannot just all get along because to too many people, getting along means subservience for people of a darker hue. We cannot just all get along because we are not all starting from the same place. We cannot just all get along because there is no real communication between the races. No, we cannot just all get along because people in the U.S. want to be able to wish away racial problems, by closing their eyes and by some type of magic, we would all just get along.

Visit to the W.E.B. DuBois Center in Accra, Ghana

By Dr. Elsie L. Scott
Director, Ronald W. Walters Leadership and Public Policy Center
Howard University

When I visited Ghana last month (March 2014), I made certain that the W.E. B. DuBois Center was on our list of places to visit. I contacted a person I knew in Ghana and asked her to arrange our visit. Apart from my academic and intellectual interest in Dr. DuBois, I wanted to see if any improvements had been made since Dr. Ron Walters visited there in 2007. I recall Dr. Walters speaking with me about his disappointment with the condition of the Center. It was only after I returned from Ghana that I read a column he wrote about the DuBois Center. I have included some excerpts in this blog. Members of my delegation made some of the same observations made by Dr. Walters. I concluded that the state of the Center has not improved since 2007—in fact, things have probably gotten worse.

We visited the DuBois Center on our first full day in Accra. We were all looking forward to the visit and were very disappointed when the person sent to greet us was a tour guide with a rehearsed speech. Our expectation of meeting with the Center’s director or a professional staff member was not realized.

In the first room we entered, there was a wall of famous African Americans, but all the pictures in the display were drawings like you would find on an elementary school bulletin board for Black History Month. Throughout the Center, we found poor quality presentations of the artifacts and a paucity of material and items on display. We had the same observation as Dr. Walters about the state of preservation for DuBois’ books. Without professional quality museum preservation, the books and other documents on display probably will not last very long.

“On my recent trip to Ghana, I visited the W. E. B. Du Bois Center in Accra, to lecture on the importance of African unity in the 21st century. I was guided through the grounds by its new, hard-working director, Dr. Anne Adams, who recently retired from Cornell University. There, I saw one building on the grounds with a well-kept mausoleum that held Dr. Du Bois’ and his wife’s remains. In the small main building a minimal staff heroically conducted programs, showing visitors to an equally small museum where Du Bois’ various university gowns are displayed. But I was horrified to see the small room where his books were kept in glass cases that were neither professionally bound nor protected from the salt sea air”.

Dr. Ronald W. Walters, 2007

We were pleased that the mausoleum was well kept, but we were not pleased with the cheap artificial wreaths placed around the tomb. To the two Clark Atlanta graduates in the group, we were saddened to see a worn Clark Atlanta University rug at the head of the tomb that seemed to serve no purpose. The “spider web” mounted over the tomb looked homemade and amateurish.

Dr. Walters was so stunned by the condition of the Center that he, for the first time, used his column to make an emotional appeal for funding for the Center from African Americans. He felt that scholars and others who have benefited from the works of DuBois should make a financial investment in preserving his legacy.

There was big contrast in the memorial to Nkrumah and the memorial to DuBois. The Nkrumah memorial has great historical artifacts, and it is well maintained. Of course, Nkrumah was the President of Ghana; DuBois was an American expatriate. Nevertheless, it is a national memorial and should be maintained as such. Additional documents and artifacts could probably be found and donated to the Center, if the proper appeal is made. Computers that allow for interactive engagement would be just one good addition. Even though Dr. Walters noted that the electricity went out during his time at the Center, I do not feel that should be a factor in deciding to place computers at the Center. The country seems to have energy challenges, but we only experienced power outages in the evenings at our hotel, and the outages were not for long periods of time.

“In this country, there are many organizations, schools and other institutions that are named after Dr. Du Bois and among black scholars at least, there is genuine love of the man for and appreciation for his contribution to the intellectual richness of our history and culture. He died in Ghana on Aug. 27, 1963, ironically the day before the March on Washington was being held in Washington, DC. There the word circulated among the leaders that “the old man is gone.”
But his work is still celebrated. In the last few years, Dr. David Levering Lewis (Fisk Class of 1956), the distinguished Black scholar at New York University, won two consecutive Pulitzer prizes for his two books on the biography of Dr. Du Bois, and Dr. Skip Gates of Harvard University’s African American Studies Department pioneered his own version of the Encyclopedia and has advised the Du Bois Center. His work lives in the thinking and writing of scholars all over the world.
So, why have we not sufficiently supported the Du Bois Center which houses his legacy? Perhaps it is because his papers are at the University of Massachusetts and there is an air of satisfaction that his intellectual legacy will be preserved there. Perhaps because there is little physical presence, even though there is a magnificent statue at Fisk University.
Du Bois originally came to Ghana to assist its first president, Kwame Nkrumah, further his vision of forging Pan Africanism among the newly independent African states, and to work on the Encyclopedia Africana. He lies in a compound in Ghana, a physical reminder of the persistent project of Pan Africanism and the government of Ghana graciously maintains that commitment, even to funding a working group in Accra on the Encyclopedia. The programming that occurs in the Center is devoted to keeping this concept alive through his legacy, but a great deal of the responsibility for refurbishing the Center’s work falls on our shoulders.”

Dr. Ronald W. Walters, 2007

The onus is not, and should not be, on African Americans alone. The Center’s leadership has to take responsibility and leadership for maintaining the Center and doing outreach to seek funds and other support. How many universities and scholars in the U.S. have been contacted by the Center to discuss how they can be engaged with the Center? The person in our group who was representing Clark Atlanta University came prepared to speak with the director of the Center about partnerships and collaborations, but there was no one there to speak with us. I wonder how many other missed opportunities come through the Center every year.

A better job should be done of taking advantage of the tourists who visit the center. A quality bookstore and gift shop could generate needed revenue to augment the admissions fee that is presently charged. The Center needs to maintain a website that provides its international audience with up-to-date information on the mission of the Center, its programs and activities, as well as, internship and fellowship opportunities. The website could be a source of revenue, selling books, tapes, etc.

There is evidence of the involvement of African American organizations, such as Alpha Phi Alpha and Clark Atlanta University, with the Center. I am certain that with the right outreach, there would be more involvement in and support from the African American community. Many would help to make the Center a place where scholars can come to spend time researching and writing about Dr. DuBois, and generations born well after his death could learn about DuBois the man, scholar and activist. The DuBois Center can become “a place where Africa and Black America and the rest of the African Diaspora can meet on a consistent basis and continue the dialogue on how to further practical aspects of our common destiny” as Dr. Walters envisioned.

We are hoping to connect with the director of the Center to convene a virtual discussion of these and other ideas we have for making the Center a true memorial to the greatness of Dr. W.E.B. DuBois.