W. E. B. Du Bois? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: W. E. B. Du Bois was a prominent sociologist, historian, and civil rights activist. He spoke about the unstoppable force of a person resolved to rise, and he said:
The human soul cannot be permanently chained.
Would you please help me to find a citation?
Quote Investigator: In 1910 W. E. Burghardt Du Bois was a Professor of Sociology at Atlanta University, and he published an essay titled “The Economic Aspects of Race Prejudice” in which he decried an attitude of bigotry and stated the following. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
And when a group, a nation or a world assumes this attitude, it is handling dynamite. There is in this world no such force as the force of a man determined to rise. The human soul can not be permanently chained.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
Also in 1910 W.E.B Du Bois spoke at a conference of the Republican Club held in New York, and he employed the vivid metaphor with dynamite: 2
When you try to repress a human soul that’s trying to struggle upward, you’re handling dynamite.
The powerful words of Du Bois were recalled decades later in a 1994 short item published in “The Orlando Sentinel” of Orlando, Florida under the title “Inspiration”: 3
There is in this world no such force as the force of a man determined to rise. The human soul cannot be permanently chained.
In 2006 the statement appeared in the “The Arizona Republic” of Phoenix, Arizona as the “Thought of the day” with a crucial update. The word “man” was changed to “person”: 4
There is in this world no such force as the force of a person determined to rise. The human soul cannot be permanently chained. — WEB Du Bois, civil rights activist, sociologist (1868-1963)
In conclusion, W. E. B. Du Bois deserves credit for the passage he wrote in 1910.
(Great thanks to Mary Wilkes Towner whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Thanks also to discussant S. M. Colowick and the members of Project Wombat.)
Image Notes: Broken chain from Nemo at Pixabay. Portrait of W.E.B. Du Bois circa 1911 from photographer Addison N. Scurlock; accessed via Wikimedia Commons. Images have been resized and cropped.
- 1910 May, The Editorial Review, Volume 2, The Economic Aspects of Race Prejudice by W. E. Burghardt Du Bois, (Professor of Sociology, Atlanta University), Start Page 488, Quote Page 493 The Editorial Review Company, New York. (HathiTrust) link ↩
- 1910 March 19, The Christian Work and the Evangelist, Volume 88, Editorial Notes, Start Page 384, Quote Page 385, Column 2, New York. (Google Books Full View) link ↩
- 1994 February 9, The Orlando Sentinel, Inspiration (Filler item), Quote Page A3, Column 5, Orlando, Florida, (Newspapers_com) ↩
- 2006 February 3, The Arizona Republic, Thought of the day, Quote Page A2, Column 5, Phoenix, Arizona. (Newspapers_com) ↩