Yes, W. E. B. Du Bois’s father, Alfred Du Bois, was born in Haiti and was a Haitian mulatto!

Yes, W. E. B. Du Bois’s father, Alfred Du Bois, was born in Haiti and was a Haitian mulatto!

Du Bois, in his third autobiography, discusses that his grandfather attended the Trinity Parish of the Episcopal church, and that he was one of the “few colored communicants” (“The Autobiography of W.E.B. DuBois,” pp. 67, 65-68); Du Bois’s great grandfather, Dr. James Du Bois, was a physician in Poughkeepsie. He was born in 1750. Du Bois wrote, “Whether, as is probable, he took a slave as a concubine, or married a free Negro man–in either case two sons were born, my grandfather Alexander in 1803 and a younger brother, John” (p. 65). By consequence, Alexander Du Bois, W.E.B. Du Bois’s grandfather was a mulatto, a man of a mixed raced: from a French man (James Du Bois) and an African woman. After their African mother died in Saint-Domingue-Haiti, Du Bois’s great grandather (Dr. James Du Bois, who died in 1820) moved with both of his sons to New York, in 1810. Du Bois wrote, “Both were white enough to ‘pass,” and their father entered them in the private Cheshire School in Connecticut” (p. 65). In other words, both John and Alexander were members of the Saint-Dominguan gens de couleur class, that is, they were mulattoes, men of two mixed races: White and African. Du Bois also remarked, “Just what happened to John, I do not know. Probably he continued as white, and his descendants, if any, know nothing of their colored ancestry” (p. 66).

Du Bois’s grandfather (Alexander) went back to Haiti around 1820s; he married a woman there, most likely a mixed woman or black woman. He and his wife gave birth to a son, Alfred Du Bois (W.E.B. Du Bois’s father) in 1825. In the next sentence, Du Bois tells us that His father “may have married into the family of Elie Du Bois, the great Haitian educator” (p.66). Du Boi’s grandfather left Haiti in 1830 with his son, Alfred, for New Haven. Alfred was only five years old. Moreover, In Du Bois’ second autobiography, “Dusk of Dawn,” which he published in 1940 (“The Souls of Black Folk,” as being his first autobiography was published in 1901; “The Autobiography of W.E. B. Du Bois,” his third autobiography, which he published in 1968), asserted, “My father, a light mulatto, died in my infancy so that I do not remember him” (p. 12).

Finally, in an article from an online archive about Du Bois’s mother, Mary Silvina Burghardt, associated with the University of Massachusetts’ research library, the writer discusses the mother’s family and her mulatto-husband Alfred Bu Bois in this way: “According to family tradition, Adelbert’s father was Mary Silvina’s first cousin, John Burghardt, but Adelbert himself later claimed that his father was Charles Craig. Either way the fact that he was illegitimate tarnished Mary’s reputation and probably limited her future choices. Certainly by the time she met Alfred Du Bois—light skinned with Franco-Haitian ancestry, an appealing and exotic combination—she was ready to marry with the hope of improving her station in life” (…). The point is this: Alfred Du Bois, W.E.B. Du Bois’s father, was a Haitian man and mulatto!!!


2 thoughts on “Yes, W. E. B. Du Bois’s father, Alfred Du Bois, was born in Haiti and was a Haitian mulatto!

  1. […] The writer and political activist Hubert Henry Harrison was born in St. Croix. Roy Innis, who served as the National Chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), was also from St. Croix. J.C. St. Clair Drake, who was from Barbados, was an active member of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in the United States. Drake’s son St. Clair Drake became a prominent sociologist and anthropologist, as well as an advocate of Pan-Africanism. Shirley Chisholm is remembered for her historic presidential campaign. Shirley Chisholm’s parents were from Barbados and Guyana. W.E.B. Du Bois’ father was born in Haiti. […]


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