W.E.B. Dubois would eventually emerge as a founder of the NAACP, a leading human rights activists and the most important African American intellectual of the 20th Century. However those developments lay in the future when the 32-year-old DuBois gave the closing address at the first Pan African Convention. He used the occasion to utter one of his most quoted statements, The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line... DuBoiss remarks given on July 25, 1900 at the convention meeting site, Westminster Hall in London, appear below.
In the metropolis of the modern world, in this the closing year of the nineteenth century, there has been assembled a congress of men and women of African blood, to deliberate solemnly upon the present situation and outlook of the darker races of mankind. The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line, the question as to how far differences of race-which show themselves chiefly in the color of the skin and the texture of the hair-will hereafter be made the basis of denying to over half the world the right of sharing to utmost ability the opportunities and privileges of modern civilization.
To be sure, the darker races are today the least advanced in culture according to European standards. This has not, however, always been the case in the past. And certainly the worlds history, both ancient and modern, has given many instances of no despicable ability and capacity among the blackest races of men. In any case, the modern world must remember that in this age when the ends of the world are being brought so near together the millions of black men in Africa, America and the Islands of the Sea, not to speak of the brown and yellow myriads elsewhere, are bound to have a great influence upon the world in the future, by reason of sheer numbers and physical contact.
If now the world of culture bends itself towards giving Negroes and other dark men the largest and broadest opportunity for education and self-development, then this contact