Du Bois Day keynote speaker spoke to over 50 people in the Commonwealth Honors College Building Events Hall on Friday, discussing W.E.B. Du Bois and how he has impacted our thinking today.
Tinson is a 10-year associate professor of Africana Studies and History at Hampshire College. He earned his Ph.D. from the W.E.B. Du Bois department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, and last week, his book, “Radical Intellect: Liberator Magazine and Black Activism in the 1960s,” was released.
Before he started his lecture, “Between the World and Us: Du Bois, Critical Education, and Imagination in Fragile Times,” he explained how the slideshow playing behind him containing historic images related indirectly to what he would be speaking about.
In his talk, Tinson explained how he believes Du Bois is exemplar of insurrectional knowledge, which is “knowledge that is designed and intended to publically assert the right to Black life here and anywhere else in the universe by any means necessary.” He also believes that Du Bois represents an example of fugitive study.
Tinson then argued that Africana studies represents insurrectional knowledge, and that Du Bois is central to that frame. “Africana studies does not exist without Du Bois,” he said.
He went on to explain why students should study Du Bois and his work, saying not only that his old age alone makes him worthy of being studied, but also that his intellectual contributions are not to be ignored. Du Bois was influential to the history of sociology and the field of history itself, according to Tinson; however, his contributions are routinely disregarded.
Throughout the lecture, Tinson read several excerpts from essays and literary works to give context to Du Bois and his impact.
Sophomore Siobhan Moynihan did not know much about the topics discussed, but she thought the lecture was a “very educational and positive event” and enjoyed the question and answer session the most, especially when an elder spoke about the struggles of Black activists in the past versus Black activists today.
Her favorite part of the of the lecture was when Tinson explained how Du Bois utilized several art forms to spread his messages.
“Hearing that Du Bois tried every single possible forum or strategy to get thoughts on to paper…inspires me to want to write,” Moynihan said.
GiaDon Smith, a high school student from Springfield Central High School, attended the event to learn more about W.E.B. Du Bois, a familiar name to him.
“I’ve heard about Du Bois all my life when I was younger…In like fifth or sixth grade I went to a camp where that was the name of it, but we never learned anything about him,” Smith said.
Meredith Feltus, director of development and external relations at the Commonwealth Honors College, attended the lecture. While she made mention that she didn’t know a lot about Du Bois, she said she came to hear Tilson speak and to learn more about Du Bois.
“It was interesting to me to see…the work that has come out of Du Bois’ own work,” Feltus said.
This lecture was a part of Du Bois Day, a day-long event, where students from Greenfield Community College, Roxbury Community College, Bunker Hill Community College, Springfield Technical Community College and Holyoke Community College were invited to participate in the Commonwealth Honors College’s “Ideas that Change the World” course. Students were also invited to tour the Du Bois archives.
Du Bois Day is part of the Andrew W. Mellon Grant for the W. E. B. Du Bois Center at UMass. Collaborators include Special Collections and University Archives and the Commonwealth Honors College.
Abigail Charpentier can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @abigailcharp.