I’m a recent transplant to Berkshire county, and I’m proud to call Great Barrington my home. On an initial trip to visit the town when I was considering moving here, I was pleased to be greeted by a sign, which read: “Birthplace of W.E.B. Du Bois.”
To me, this sign helped convey the kind of town that Great Barrington wants to be- a community that honors its roots and values this region’s historic contributions to the Civil Rights movement. This last impression was one of the reasons why I ended up moving to the area.
I’m proud to be in a community that will be celebrating the 150th birthday of one of its most illustrious native sons. W.E.B Du Bois was the first African American student to receive a doctorate from Harvard, Du Bois was one of the co-founders of the NAACP, and Du Bois was the author of many books and essays chronicling the history and sociology of the United States of the 20th century.
This past year, communities across the country are struggling with the harmful legacy of monuments and memorials that do not reflect our values. In New Orleans, Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s public remarks on why New Orleans removed Confederate civil war statues still resonate with me today. He describes the importance of memorials, history, and the impact on the people that live with them. From his speech: "This is, however, about showing the whole world that we as a city and as a people are able to acknowledge, understand, reconcile and most importantly, choose a better future for ourselves making straight what has been crooked and making right what was wrong."
As we grapple with the question of what statutes need to come down, we must also ask ourselves: Whose histories have been erased, ignored and made invisible? How can we come together to better honor the forgotten heroes of our country? In essence: What monuments are missing, from our town and from our country?
2018 brings the 150th birthday anniversary of one of the greatest people to come out of this town: W.E.B. Du Bois. Great Barrington has a unique opportunity to lead the nation in re/claiming our local vibrant, inspiring and profound history in advancing civil rights. I enthusiastically support the idea of putting up a statue of Du Bois, visible to all residents and visitors of Great Barrington, that would commemorate our history and share Du Bois’s important legacy. This act would demonstrate our community’s commitment to changing the narrative, and honoring one of this country’s historic champions of civil rights, equity and justice.