Great Barrington in Berkshire County, Massachusetts — The American Northeast (New England)
W.E.B. Du Bois: Advocate for Rivers Here at Home
I was born by a golden river and in the shadow of two great hills, five years after the Emancipation Proclamation – W.E.B. Dubois
Great Barrington native W.E.B. Du Bois was an early founder of the Civil Rights movement here in the United States and father of Pan Africanism abroad. He was born on Church Street, just a few hundred feet from this spot.
Du Bois wrote fondly of his idyllic childhood surroundings, even as he took industrial polluters to task.
That river of my birth was golden because of the wooden and paper waste that soiled it. The gold was theirs, not ours; but the gleam and the glint was for all.
- W.E.B. Du Bois, Darkwater
Dr. Du Bois returned to the Berkshires in 1930 to deliver the keynote address at a reunion of Great Barrington High School. His lecture was titled “The Housatonic River.”
Rescue the Housatonic River and clean it as we have never in all the years thought before of cleaning it; restore its ancient beauty; making it the center of a town, of a valley, and perhaps – who knows? – of a new measure of civilized
- W.E.B. Du Bois, “The Housatonic River” 21 July 1930
Dr. Du Bois traveled the world, but always took the time to remember the Housatonic River.
The Housatonic River is the natural Main Street of the Town of Great Barrington. It should be a clear and limpid stream, flowing gently through grass, trees and flowers; flanked by broad roadways and parks as the lifestream of a town.
- W.E.B. Du Bois, age 93
Letter to Searles High School alumni president George P. Fitzpatrick, 13 June 1951
W.E.B. Du Bois River Park
The park was dedicated in September 2002 to honor Du Bois’s love of the Housatonic River and has lifelong campaign for environmental justice and the restoration of rivers everywhere. It is a site on the African American Heritage Trail of the Upper Housatonic Valley
For this valley, the river must be the center. Certainly it is the physical center; perhaps, in a sense, the spiritual center. perhaps from that very freeing of spirit will come other freedoms and inspirations and aspirations which may be steps toward the diffusion and diversification and enriching of culture through this land.
- W.E.B. Du Bois, “The Housatonic River”
We created a rain garden between the street and the river to help restore the river’s floodplain. Runoff velocity is slowed and dispersed.
Just as biodiversity is essential for a healthy river system, cultural diversity is the foundation of a just and civilized society, according to Du Bois.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African Americans • Environment • Parks & Recreational Areas.
Location. 42° 11.652′ N, 73° 21.511′ W. Marker is in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, in Berkshire County. Marker can be reached from River Street near near Church Street. The marker is on the Housatonic River Walk. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: WEB Du Bois River Park, Great Barrington MA 01230, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Niagara Movement (here, next to this marker); W.E.B. Du Bois: Champion of Rivers Around the World (here, next to this marker); W.E.B. Du Bois Birthsite (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); William Stanley Overlook (about 600 feet away); First Congregational Church (approx. 0.2 miles away); Laura Ingersoll Secord (approx. Great Barrington Bi-Centennial (approx. 0.2 miles away); First Court House of Berkshire County (approx. ¼ mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Great Barrington.
Also see . . . Welcome to Great Barrington's HOUSATONIC RIVER WALK. Thorough guides to both sections of the walk. (Submitted on May 7, 2020, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York.)
Credits. This page was last revised on May 14, 2020. It was originally submitted on May 7, 2020, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York. This page has been viewed 129 times since then and 34 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on May 7, 2020, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York.