[Du Bois applied for membership in the CPUSA in 1961. That same year he left for Ghana with his second wife, Shirley Graham Du Bois. The letter was released at a press conference organized by James and Esther Jackson, who were friends and comrades of Du Bois. The letter appeared in the Worker on Nov. 26, 1961.]
On the first day of October, 1961, I am applying for admission to membership in the Communist Party of the United States. I have been long and slow in coming to this conclusion, but at last my mind is settled.
In college I heard the name Karl Marx, but read none of his works, nor heard them explained. At the University of Berlin, I heard much of those thinkers who had definitively answered the theories of Marx, but again, we did not study what Marx himself had said. Nevertheless, I attended the meetings of the Socialist Party and considered myself a Socialist.
On my return to America, I taught and studied for sixteen years. I explored the theory of Socialism and studied the organized social life of American Negroes; but still I neither read or heard much of Marxism. Then I came to New York as a official of the new NAACP and editor of the Crisis Magazine. The NAACP was capitalist oriented and expected support from rich philanthropists.
But it had a strong Socialist element in its leadership in persons like Mary Ovington, William English Walling and Charles Edward Russell. Following their advice, I joined the Socialist Party in 1911. I knew then nothing of practical socialist politics and in the campaign of 1912, I found myself unwilling to vote the Socialist ticket, but advised Negroes to vote for Wilson. This was contrary to Socialist Party rules and consequently I resigned from the Socialist Party.
For the next twenty years I tried to develop a political way of life for myself and my people. I attacked the Democrats and Republicans for monopoly and disenfranchisement of Negroes; I attacked the Socialists for trying to segregate Southern Negro members; I praised the racial attitudes of the Communists, but opposed their tactics in the case of the Scottsboro boys and their advocacy of a Negro state. At the same time I began to study Karl Marx and the Communists; I read Das Kapital and other Communist literature; I hailed the Russian Revolution of 1917, but was puzzled at the contradictory news from Russia.
Finally in 1926, I began a new effort; I visited Communist lands. I went to the Soviet Union in 1926, 1936, 1949, and 1959; I saw the nation develop. I visited East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Poland. I spent ten weeks in China, traveling all over the land. Then this summer, I rested a month in Romania.
I was early convinced that Socialism was an excellent way of life, but I thought it might be reached by various methods. For Russia, I was convinced she had chosen the only path open to her at the time. I saw Scandinavia choosing a different method, half-way between Socialism and Capitalism. In the United States I saw Consumers Cooperation as a path from Capitalism to Socialism, while England, France, and Germany developed in the same direction in their own way. After the depression and the Second World War, I was disillusioned. The Progressive movement in the United States failed. The Cold War started. Capitalism call