Scholar and civil rights leader W.E.B. Du Bois’ only grandchild passed away on November 15.
Yolande Du Bois Irvin, 89, died in Fort Collins, Colorado, leaving behind her children; Nina Irvin, Arthur McFarlane II and Jeffrey Peck; five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Her husband, Howard, son and stepson preceded her in death.
Her youngest son Jeffrey described his beloved mother as a “free spirit.”
“My mom was a free spirit. She liked to laugh and have fun. She loved people, genuinely, genuinely. And people tended to gravitate to her, to come talk to her,” he told the Berkshire Eagle.
Jeffrey added that Yolande was a daredevil saying, “She really loved fast sports cars. She drove a red Mustang — a convertible.”
The 89-year-old woman followed in her famed grandfather’s footsteps. She was a prominent lecturer, educator and activist. Dr. MaryNell Morgan-Brown, a scholar, biographer and friend of the Du Bois family, detailed Yolande’s life for the publication.
The brilliant woman was educated at various schools throughout the eastern part of the country. She attended a boarding school in Harlem, Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies in Massachusetts. She matriculated from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Baltimore– where Du Bois’ daughter (her mother) Nina taught.
Yolande had the honor of traveling with Du Bois after graduation. The pair attended the International Youth Conference in Germany. Yolande realized that travel was an integral part of education on that trip. She believed that it helped others learn about race and culture’s commonalities.
Jeffrey revealed that his mom was a talented storyteller and that she was incredibly proud that her grandfather showed her the world.
“She told great stories, and her history concerning her grandfather is just like out of a storybook because she traveled with him, and she stayed in palaces, and she witnessed the treatment that he received when he went abroad, and so she thought about it and talked about it quite a bit.”
Yolande went to Tennessee HBCU Fisk University, but New York University (NYU) is where she earned her bachelor’s degree. She also had a doctorate in psychology from the University of Colorado in Boulder.
She would become a prominent professor at Xavier University in 1988. In 1989, Yolande was awarded “Best Teacher” by the school.
Continuing her grandfather’s legacy of Black excellence, she was a well-known lecturer. She even gave a lecture with Booker T. Washington’s granddaughter at Spelman College.
Next year, Yolande’s life will be commemorated in Great Barrington, Mass.– Du Bois’ birthplace. She will be buried with the rest of her illustrious ancestors including, W.E.B.