Pignatelli honors 150th anniversary of the birth of Great Barrington native Du Bois

'Du Bois has had a lasting influence on the 21st century and it’s fantastic that we can still celebrate his work today.' --Rep William 'Smitty' Pignatelli, D-Lenox

Pignatelli honors 150th anniversary of the birth of Great Barrington native Du Bois

W.E.B. Du Bois.

Boston — On Wednesday, Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli, D-Lenox, in coordination with Speaker Robert DeLeo and the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, honored the 150th birthday of W.E.B. Du Bois, the civil rights pioneer and native of Great Barrington.

The event took place during formal session in the House chamber and featured a keynote speech from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning Du Bois biographer David Levering Lewis. Following the event, Gov. Charlie Baker joined DeLeo, Pignatelli, Lewis and the Black and Latino Caucus for a reception.

Massachusetts House of Representatives Speaker Robert A. DeLeo

The event began with opening remarks from DeLeo followed by Rep. Frank Moran, chair of the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus; and Pignatelli, who introduced Lewis. A resolution commemorating the extraordinary life of Du Bois and recognizing Great Barrington as his birthplace was adopted as the first action of the day. DeLeo and the entire Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus joined Pignatelli in signing the resolution.

Rep. William ‘Smitty’ Pignatelli, D-Lenox

“I am proud that W.E.B. Du Bois was born and raised in my district in Great Barrington,” Pignatelli said. “It is an honor to celebrate the incredible impact this leader has had on our society, and the event could not have come at a better time. Du Bois has had a lasting influence on the 21st century and it’s fantastic that we can still celebrate his work today. I want to thank the Speakers office and the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus for their partnership on this historic event.”

David Levering Lewis. Photo courtesy University of Massachusetts Amherst

Lewis, a prominent American historian and recipient of the 2009 National Humanities Medal from former President Barack Obama, reflected on the life and works of Du Bois and his impact on civil rights and progressive ideals in America and across the globe.

“Du Bois intended that his life would exemplify the American race problem,” Lewis said. “Du Bois at age 95 was more radically reformed than virtually any other engaged intellectual, black or white, of the 20th century.”

Assistant Majority Leader and Rep. Byron Rushing, D-Boston

The closing remarks were given by Assistant Majority Leader Rep. Byron Rushing, D-Boston, who introduced a rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the African-American national anthem.

“I was pleased that we were able to end this commemoration with all the legislators and guests singing ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing,’” Rushing said. “These words were written by James Weldon Johnson, who was a lawyer, diplomat, songwriter, novelist and poet, and civil rights activist and, as the first African American executive secretary of the NAACP, worked with DuBois. The words and tune spread throughout the black communities of America and became known as the ‘Negro National Anthem.’”

Rep. William ‘Smitty’ Smitty Pignatelli, third from left, poses with VIPs during a reception at the Statehouse Wednesday, including Gov. Charlie Baker and Du Bois biographer David Levering Lewis.