Haverford College and UPenn Collaborate on the Du Bois Project

UPenn professor Amy Hillier works with Haverford College students to resuscitate a seminal study of race relations: W.E.B. Du Bois’ 1899 book, The Philadelphia Negro.

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Last year, Hillier also began screening A Legacy of Courage: W.E.B. Du Bois and The Philadelphia Negro, the project’s 20-minute documentary. The film stars Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter; Tukufu Zuberi, Penn’s sociology department chair and the star of PBS’ History Detectives; and Elijah Anderson, a former Penn professor and now sociology professor at Yale University. The experts document how important Du Bois and his research were. The film also features the story of a black woman whose grandmother was born at 418 Camac St. Purely by chance, she meets the white man who now lives there.

The documentary includes songs from Ghana and black spirituals sung by the Haverford Chamber Singers. Alfred Goodrich, of Silverstone Studios in Ardmore, helped with the soundtrack. Haverford’s John B. Hurford ’60 Center for the Arts and Humanities funds the college’s involvement in the Du Bois project. “[Hillier] always provides both the training and the freedom for students to learn and do significant work,” says Emily Cronin, the center’s director. “Our students have benefited in so many ways.”

Much of the material for the project has been culled from newspaper reports, census records, archival material and data from all over the city. Interns have conducted historical and ethnographic research, scouring archives at churches, businesses and cultural organizations. They’ve dabbled in filmmaking, editing, website design and more. They’ve also navigated their way through various parts of urban Philadelphia. “It’s a project that raises issues about urban planning and race, and the history of place and neighborhood,” says Cronin.

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