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Please note that the usual format of our DuBois Society program is described below,

however during the pandemic, meetings are held on Zoom.

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The W.E.B. Du Bois Society

- Transforming inner city neighbourhoods one child at a time -


The W.E.B. Du Bois Society is an academic and cultural enrichment program, hosted by the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute (a part of the Hutchins Center) the African and African-American Studies Department at Harvard University and the Ella J. Baker House. The Society is designed to engage academically oriented elementary and secondary students of African descent who attend public, parochial, and independent schools. The central theme of this series of seminars is the study of the history of Africa and the African Diaspora. The Du Bois Society provides young people with an opportunity to develop study and teamwork skills as they reflect on readings selected by prominent Harvard professors. While this is a co-ed program, special emphasis will be placed on addressing the culture of underachievement among adolescent black males.


The existence of a measurable academic achievement gap between middle and upper middle-class black students and whites and Asians is a well-established finding of the best empirical research on the subject. The explicit purpose of the Society is to promote and develop a counterculture of academic achievement and excellence, and to improve reading comprehension and writing skills. Students will prepare questions for a monthly seminar, which will take place at the University. Because it has been our view that the black community cannot wait for others to correct the familial and cultural sources that contribute to black academic underachievement, the W.E.B. Du Bois Society was created.



Beyond functioning as a rigorous academic experience for black students the W. E. B. Du Bois Society serves a more vital function. The most unique and important feature of the Du Bois Society is its explicit commitment to developing black leadership with a vision of high intellectual achievement connected to community service understood in global terms. In the tradition of W. E. B. Du Bois we seek to train these students of African descent to understand the moral responsibilities that accompany the privileges that they enjoy. The most important of these is the intellectual resources available to them as participants in the Du Bois Society. Their privileges are especially weighty in an era of increasing bifurcation in the black community, and of overwhelming isolation of the black poor from all other sectors of society.




In addition to providing exposure to Harvard University and some of the most distinguished scholars in the world, the Du Bois Society also provides personalized tutorial services in college essay preparation, effective study strategies, and college interview preparation. Teaching Fellows also assist parents and students in identifying the most effective SAT preparatory resources and study techniques to improve students’ performance on standardized examinations. Among the most invaluable services the W.E.B. Du Bois Society provides is teaching successful strategies to black parents and students on how to:


  • Understand and combat the racism of low expectations, and


  • Negotiate the unwritten rules of black academic success at predominately white academic institutions


Our most valuable resource is the leadership of our Founder and Director Jacqueline C. Rivers, who graduated from Harvard College with highest honors summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. She subsequently earned a Masters in Psychology from Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Her husband, Reverend Eugene F. Rivers, 3d also attended Harvard College. Their children, Malcolm and Sojourner Rivers, both attended Harvard College and were members of the Du Bois Society. Du Bois Society participants have been admitted to some of the nation’s premier colleges and universities, including: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Duke, Columbia, Bard, Howard, Spelman, Dartmouth, Morehouse, Stanford, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, Howard, University of Virginia, New York University, Northeastern, and Boston College.




  • A group of twelve to twenty 9th-12th graders of African descent will participate in seminars designed to build a peer group centered on the development of academic excellence. More specifically, our objective is to build a robust intellectual culture through the interdisciplinary study of the history of Africa and the African Diaspora.




  • The W.E.B. Du Bois Society Lower School program is currently being designed and will improve reading comprehension, build vocabulary, improve writing skills and promote an intellectual counterculture among boys and girls of African descent from 4th to 7th grade.




  • Participating professors for the Upper School Program will be drawn from Harvard University, which has access to the most extraordinary collection of scholars in the world.




In addition, undergraduate and graduate students, particularly those of African descent, will serve as Teaching Fellows as well as examples of academic achievement for participating youth.



It is imperative that parents and students recognize that the W.E.B. Du Bois Society is a privilege and opportunity for intellectual growth. Participants are therefore required to:


  • Attend all scheduled meetings


  • Complete all assigned readings and writing assignments


  • Collaborate in developing thoughtful questions, and


  • Engage in vigorous debate on the subjects under discussion


Please note that in view of the caliber of faculty involved, unexcused absences or failure to participate fully may result in a request for the student to withdraw.




Sessions will be held weekly beginning with an orientation hosted by Harvard’s Du Bois Institute. The schedule will then continue as follows; students will spend two to three Saturdays a month meeting at the Alain Locke Seminar room in the Barker Center with Harvard Teaching Fellows to read, analyze, and develop questions about passages assigned by participating professors. Once a month, students will meet with professors at Harvard for a brief presentation and an extensive discussion of the previously assigned readings.

  • Students will eat together at each weekly session, either having lunch in the Locke seminar room or eating out in Harvard Square following the monthly seminars in Cambridge

  • The last week of the program will consist of a group field trip to celebrate and conclude the end of our sessions.

  • Our goal is to facilitate a long-term academic engagement with students over a period of 2-3 years.



Students will be recruited from academically rigorous secondary and elementary schools for participation in the program. We enthusiastically encourage all students of African descent who are prepared to meet the rigorous intellectual demands of the program to apply.

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