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W.E.B. Du Bois’ Only Grandchild, Yolande Du Bois Irvin, Dead at 89

Yolande Du Bois Irvin, the only grandchild of Pan-Africanist scholar and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois, has passed away. The longtime educator, who took on a life role similar to her grandfather’s, died this month in Fort Collins, Colorado. She was 89 years old. 

According to the Berkshire Eagle, Du Bois Irvin, who died on Monday, Nov. 15, will be buried alongside her mother and other family members in the hometown of their grandfather, Great Barrington, Massachusetts. The outlet reported that Du Bois Irvin spent her life promoting civil rights, empathy, and community. Her youngest child, Jeffrey Peck, referred to his mother as “a free spirit.” 

Yolande Du Bois Irvin with her grandfather W.E.B Du Bois (Photo Credit: Jeffrey Peck via Berkshire Eagle)

Peck revealed that the family intends on celebrating his mother’s life and legacy in the notable town in February 2022 as it correlates with his great-grandfather’s birthday, which is Feb. 23, 1868. Du Bois Irvin requested that her body be used for medical research before being cremated, Peck. 

Her son said that eventually, her remains would be interred at the Mahaiwe Cemetery, where a gravestone will also be placed in her honor. Many members of the Du Bois lineage are buried at the same graveyard, including the revered historian’s 2-year-old son Burghardt, whom he first laid to rest there in 1899.  

He later buried his first wife, Nina Gomer Du Bois, there in 1950. Du Bois would finally bury his only daughter and mother to Du Bois Irvin, Nina Yolande Du Bois, in that same cemetery.

Dr. MaryNell Morgan-Brown, a Du Bois scholar, family biographer, and friend, provided insight into Du Bois Irvin’s life, including attending the International Youth Conference in Germany. The scholar’s worldly activities subsequently helped harvest a philosophy she often shared that argued the importance of travel and its role in education. More specifically, it exposes a person to the similarities across cultures and races. 

In 1989 she reportedly earned the “Best Teacher Award” as an instructor in the psychology teacher at Xavier University of Louisiana. “Her life’s work,” Peck explained, “was to help guide young people and help influence them to reach their dreams. 

He continued, “She purposely wanted to teach at a predominantly African-American school so she could continue with what her grandfather had started. She would tell young people that they could achieve anything they wanted if they put their minds to it and they gave the effort, and she would help shape them to reach those goals.”

She is survived by her children, Nina Irvin, Arthur McFarlane II, and Jeffrey Peck, five grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren, Skylar Young, Lloyd Richardson II, Summer Young, and Kai Delatorre. She is predeceased by her son Mark Adam Peck; her stepson, Andre Peck; and her husband, Howard Irvin.


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