Doley: Du Bois Museum will bring more diasporan Africa home
President of the W.E.B. Du Bois Museum Foundation, Ambassador Harold Doley Jr., believes the coming of a state-of-the-art museum complex honouring the legacy of world-renown black intellectual and civil rights pioneer, Dr. W.E.B Du Bois, in Ghana, is an important, symbolic monument that will spur the movement of African Diaspora back home. He spoke to GREGORY AUSIN NWAKUNOR after the land marking signing of the contract in New York City, where the U.S. foundation is headquartered, on Monday, September 20, said after the museum’s construction, those who come to Ghana will also be looking forward to go to other African countries.
We had an interesting event. President Nana Akufo-Addo signed the agreement between William Edward Burghardt Du Bois Museum Foundation and the government of Ghana. The president, as you know, is chairman of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), so, he flew in from Conakry, Guinea, where he was negotiating peace and the release of Alpha Condé, which they did not accomplish. But the museum, which had been a concept, began two years ago, September 2019, when we proposed to President Addo that we would be moving towards a relationship, where the museum foundation would take over the complex to build a structure and renovate existing structures to bring them up to the standards that we want all in recognition of W.E.B Du Bois’ his life work and, you know, with his remains being at the site along with his widow’s ashes, surely, now, we retained David Adjaye, a world-renowned architect.
Adjaye, who is also the architect of the American Museum in Washington, which is part of the Smithsonian institutions. And we did display some renderings of what is proposed of that facility at the MOU signing. Accra, and Ghana, itself, is a destination, where you have two American carriers fly direct from the US to Accra — Delta Airlines and United Airlines. That is significant. And it shows these airlines anticipate and they know their flight loads and for them to make that kind of commitment is significant we feel. What will happen going forward? Well, let me say a few things about the museum. Hopefully, the Du Bois’ Museum will be a sister organisation and an affiliate. Robert Smith, the multi African American billionaire, gave money to that Washington museum. And one of the functions and obvious contributions was that an African American could put in background information on their family. And they should be able to trace it back to the ship that those people came to America on. And logs, which show the port they departed from. And what would be significant, and I’m talking about the future of the new museum. Perhaps, the significance of that is
We would like to work with Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) specialists for them to gather information on West African tribes, and get DNA from the larger tribe, so, that someone from rural Georgia can find out not only what ship their forefathers came to America on, but they can connect with the actual tribe and the concrete from which their ancestry can be traced. And that’s significant, because people have to know whom they are and from whence they came. And we will be a part of that and we will be living up to the dreams and aspiration of Du bois in terms of uniting and solidifying the African diaspora. I can remember standing in the door of no return and on Goree Island, and I’m not a person easily moved. But I was shaken when I stood in that door, because I knew that some of my ancestors had been in that door and took that last step from the continent. And I’ve tried to return to the continent, as often as I could to connect with my brethren throughout the continent. We’re going to be assisting scholars in their research and to make this Inside of the complex a destination for Americans to visit Ghana and visit the museum complex and as an international heritage destination. We are working with a renowned scholar in our efforts to have that designation given us to the new museum, a renowned professor from Columbia University, Dr. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, and she has agreed to work with us to secure from UNESCO that designation.
We’re going to be using Ghanaian professionals working with attorneys, accountants, and consultants. To get this done, we want to move expeditiously. And we’re prepared to move expeditiously. When you deal with a sovereign nation, as a career professional, this often takes a lot of time. The foundation is committed to a timetable where we can have this done and functional in a reasonable period of time. That’s kind of the overview.
What is the importance of this museum to tourism, academics and diaspora studies?
In your order, for tourists, this would be, I believe, of a huge cultural, historic and ethnic importance. When Europeans or Asians or Indians, Russians and Chinese go home, they go to specific places. And with the Du Bois Museum, we are saying, ‘Come to Ghana’, Come to Accra, and use it, find out your history. And from there, we can look at people going to the different parts of West Africa, because that’s where the primary slave trading was done. On the African continent that connected with the new world — With the US, the Caribbean, Brazil and other South American countries. And people want to go home. And this is the starting point to going home and finding home for the African diaspora.
A great deal of Du Bois’ papers or library is still intact and with proper management and programmatic links, we will bring together Du Bois’ life work. And this should be not only for scholars I met with over the weekend, a major worldwide major real estate and financing company just to conceptually broach the idea of being involved with the construction of a hotel complex. A five star hotel complex. And then I would think that would spur development of other complexes.
So, what is the importance of Du Bois in African history? And what is his legacy today?
Well, that’s a great question. And then the things I like to raise about Dubois are the things that are less known about them. There are a few people realise that Dubois received credentials at the Versailles treaty, signing and negotiations during those proceedings, he was credentialed and participated in raising the issues of independence for African nations. And he was a true force at Versailles. And those negotiations he fought for. And they, you know, this takes different connotations today, but he wanted to see more of a united diaspora and he wanted the major powers of the world to recognise these free African states, independent states. And to see that the ties don’t have to be lonely or don’t have to be so tight that they strangle their former colonies. And that is some of what he did, what he did just at Versailles was just monumental. After he moved to Ghana, he was a fixture in Nkrumah’s office and Nkrumah wanted him in his office, I mean literally in his office, not the expanse of the office, but he sat in a big cushion chair and he would dialogue with Nkrumah about what strategies to use and that was very insightful in Nkrumah to have such a mentor and the thing that we must recognise is once you are a sovereign state, that is powerful and you need But see, I just got a message from zoom okay. The as all new nations and as a reach the point of sovereign status, which is the granting of independence, you have often a transition, you know, where do we go from here?
Who do we align with? Do we remain as a satellite state of Britain, France or Portugal, and much to a lesser extent, Spain. At one point, you had German colonies in Africa. But there was, you know, and I don’t like to use labels.
But you know, do you move left? Or do you move right? What is the best for my people, for my country? Do we go towards socialism, capitalism, and some of the countries and the leaders. Or were searching just as Dubois searched he, he was friendly, and visited China and was received by Mao. And he went to Russia. And the US had taken his passport and his citizenship from him. That’s how he ended up in Ghana. And as a result, he loved America, but he felt that America had been unjust to him. So I think today, we have come out on the other side of that searching period, and we know where we’re headed. And today, I say, basically, that he was a communist in the world today. And we really shouldn’t go down that path.
So why was Sir David Adjaye chosen to design the museum?
Well, he’s a known quantity to some of the board members individually, and we know of his work. And we have visited his structure in Washington, and which is an incredible structure which speaks really to purpose of capturing in one facility as much of the history as one could gather for what has transpired over 400 years of the average, sensitive beginning of the app African slaves. You know, what, you know; I’m a businessman. That’s my background. That’s where I come from. I think what is important is and I gave served on UN Commission, and when I spoke to the UN, the name of my table was piece through profits are engaged with you. You want an environment where you can do business and that is important and it serves all concerned, advantageously. So what the new sound will represent as well, the opportunity for more trade between the US and Africa. We’re saying to China to the African stage, you know, okay. And I have to admit it as a diplomat, I was guilty of this as well, where a, when you want to do business or trade with Africa, or the rest of the world, this was the US as approach that what you do is you begin with a checklist, well, you know, and, you know, so you have a question and answer checklist to begin with, before you started talking business. And the, you know, it’s a new day and that different competitors in the marketplace, and the Chinese don’t come with a checklist, this may come with check box. That is something new. And it is something that is in the equation now. People want to do business and they want to trade I mean, people don’t realise.
Because when I say people, non-Africans, don’t realise the value of having Africa as an African countries as trading partners, we tend to be most interested in extraction. And, you know, that’s Africa represents more than base, metals and other minerals, the greatest asset that Africa has to offer to the rest of the world is the resource the natural resource of the Africans you know, Guinea, small country, bow stands. And you have a, a political dispute with them. Anywhere so many major companies use the off site from getting into as a central product, and the creation of a phenomena, which creates a moment. I mean, if Africa and African nations and I say Africa collectively, the nations collective was awful we all went to war toward better business dealings with bodies.