William Burghardt DuBois is rightfully remembered for his scholarly achievement and his social activism, and his most familiar image is one of gravitas, like this formal portrait taken by photographer Cornelius Battey in 1919. But he was not always an elder statesman or a cultural icon.
In 1885, as a 17-year-old student at Fisk University, he fell "hopelessly in love," as he later recalled. Lena Calhoun was sixteen and not only beautiful; she was the daughter of the wealthiest black man in Reconstruction Atlanta, Moses Calhoun. She would become great-aunt to Lena Horne, and DuBois, who had occasion to observe them both, later wrote that "as fair as Lena Horne is, Lena Calhoun was far more beautiful."
He loved in vain. In 1888, Lena Calhoun married Frank G. Smith, another Fisk classmate, and Willie, as he was known at the time, had to nurse a broken heart.
The quotes from DuBois and the story (as well as photographs of Lena Calhoun) can be found in Gail Lumet Buckley's family history and memoir, The Black Calhouns: From Civil War to Civil Rights.