Yolande Du Bois

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Yolande Du Bois (October 21, 1900- 1961) was an American teacher, author, and activist known for her involvement in the Harlem Renaissance.

Early life[edit]

Yolande Du Bois was born October 21, 1900 in Atlanta Georgia to W.E.B. and Nina Du Bois.[1] Growing up, Yolande and Du Bois did not have a close relationship. He was often away on business or living in a different city all together.[2] Yolande was often ill. A family physician diagnosed her with inadequate levels of lime. However, it was thought that Yolande faked these illnesses to gain her father's attention.[2] As a child, Yolande was defiant towards her parents. She was aggressive and passionate in nature. Her father described their relationship as one in which she held the power. To gain some control, her parents sent her to Bedales, a British boarding school.[3] While having trouble due to her race and gender, she finished her high school career at Brooklyn's Girls' High School.[2]

She began attending Fisk University in 1920. In her sophomore year she fell ill and spent the entire month of February in the hospital due to serious inflammation of the gums.[2] While at Fisk University, Yolande was pursuing a loving romance with jazz musician Jimmie Lunceford. However, her father determined that he was unsuitable. Defying her parents' wishes, she continued to see Lunceford for some time. The relationship ended when she conceded to her father's wish that she marry Countee Cullen.[3]

Cullen - Du Bois wedding[edit]

Du Bois first met Cullen in 1923, when she will still a student at Fisk.[4] She married Countee Cullen on April 9, 1928 at Salem Mehodist Episcopal Church in Harlem. The two were introduced by Cullen’ close friend, and later alleged lover, Harold Jackman in the mid 1920s . With the support of W.E.B. Du Bois, Cullen proposed during the holiday season of 1927. Cullen and Du Bois spent the next couple of months planning the wedding, with little input from Yolande. The wedding became the social event of the time and became known as the single most important social event of the Harlem Renaissance. Every detail of the wedding, including the rail car used and the number of people in the wedding party was published by the public African American press. Cullen was pressure by W.E.B. Du Boise to pick up the marriage certificate early to prevent any problems or delays. Cullen received the marriage license 4 days before the wedding. The wedding was treated as if it was a royal wedding. 1,200 people were invited, but 3,000 people attended the ceremony. Yolande had 16 bridesmaids and Cullen had 9 groomsmen, with Jackman serving as the best man.[5][6]

After the wedding Yolande and Cullen visited Philadelphia, Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Great Barrington, Massachusetts. In June 1928 Cullen and Jackman, went away to their more extensive honeymoon destination, Europe, with Yolande joining them in August. During the honeymoon Yolande reached out to her dad, saying she is unsure about her marriage and her intimate relationship with her husband. Du Bois responded by saying she only need more experience.[6] It was implied the Du Bois knew of Cullen’s sexual preference from the very beginning. By September 1928, Du Bois was counseling Cullen on maintaining the marriage. Later Cullen writes Yolande telling her of his homosexuality leading to their separation. The divorce was completely negotiated between Cullen and Du Bois and became final in France in the spring of 1930.

Later life[edit]

After Yolande’s divorce from Cullen, she fell ill and moved back to Baltimore. She entered the American Hospital where she was treated for an undisclosed treatment.[7] After she was well she returned to her teaching position. She took a job at Dunbar High School, teaching both english and history.[3] While teaching, she met a man that would become her second husband: Arnette Williams. The two met when Williams began attending a night school at the school that Yolande worked. Yolande married Arnette Williams in September 1931. In October 1932 the couple welcomed a baby girl. The family called her baby Du Bois. Soon after, Williams went to Pennsylvania and Yolande and her mother moved back to New York where she began taking classes at Columbia University’s Teachers College.[8] The union ended with a divorce in 1936.[3]

Yolande died in Baltimore, Maryland in 1961. During this time her father was visiting Nigeria. When he heard of the news he returned to the United States. Yolande was buried in Great Barrington, Massachusetts beside her mother, Nina Du Bois, and brother, who had died as an infant before she was born.[7]


  1. ^ Randolph, Ryan P. (2005). W.E.B. Du Bois: The Fight for Civil Rights. The Rosen Publishing Group. ISBN 9781404226562.
  2. ^ a b c d Lewis, David L. (2009-08-04). W.E.B. Du Bois: A Biography. Macmillan. ISBN 9780805087697.
  3. ^ a b c d Ogbar, Jeffrey O. G. (2010-05-28). The Harlem Renaissance Revisited: Politics, Arts, and Letters. JHU Press. ISBN 9780801894619.
  4. ^ Anthony., Summers, Martin (2004). Manliness and its discontents : the Black middle class and the transformation of masculinity, 1900-1930. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. p. 188. ISBN 0807855197. OCLC 57706672.
  5. ^ Wintz, Cary D.; Finkelman, Paul (2004). Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance: A-J. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9781579584573.
  6. ^ a b K., English, Daylanne (2004). Unnatural selections : eugenics in American modernism and the Harlem Renaissance. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. pp. 58–59. ISBN 0807855316. OCLC 57707299.
  7. ^ a b Horne, Gerald; Young, Mary (2001). W.E.B. Du Bois: An Encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9780313296659.
  8. ^ Bolden, Tonya (2008). Up Close, W.E.B. Du Bois: A Twentieth-century Life. Penguin. ISBN 9780670063024.