William Edward Burghardt Du Bois

One of the most influential and important leaders of the African American protest movements in the U.S. During the first half of the 1900's, he became the leading black opponent of racial discrimination. His thoughts and idea's are still used for research on blacks in American society.

Born in Great Barrington Massachusetts, he graduated from Fisk University in 1888. In 1895, he became the first African American to receive a Ph.D from Harvard University. He taught history and ecomonics at Atlanta University from 1897 to 1910.

Du Bois was the first African American to express the idea of Pan-Africanism. The basic tenet of Pan-Africanism is that all people of African descent have common interests and should work togethor to conquer prejudice.

He also opposed the views of Booker T. Washington, a more moderate contemorary of his. Washington believed that blacks could advance themselves faster through hard work than through the demands of equal rights. Du Bois stance was that African Americans should speak out against discrimination at every opportunity and that the best way to defeat prejudice was for college educated blacks to lead the fight against it.

To fight against discrimination, Du Bois founded the Niagra Movement in 1905. In 1909 he helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). From 1910 to 1934 he was the editor of the NAACP's magazine, The Crisis. He left the NAACP in 1934 and returned to teaching at Atlanta Univerisity. He rejoined the NAACP in 1944 but soon became dissatisfied with the slow progress that of race relations in the United States. He came to believe that Communism was the solution to the problems that black Americans were experiencing. In 1961, he joined the Communist Party and moved to Ghana.

Many of Du Bois ideas appear in a series of essays called The Souls of Black Folk (excerpt of which to follow) published in 1903. Some of his other works are Black Reconstruction in America (1935) and The Autobiography of W.E.B. Du Bois (1968)

Excerpt from The Souls of Black Folk

"So far as Mr. Washington preaches thrift, patience, and industrial training for the masses, we must hold up his hands and strive with him, rejoicing in his honors and glorying the strength of this Joshua called of God and of man to lead the headless host. But so far as Mr. Washington apologizes for injustices, North or South, does not rightly value the privileges and duty of voting, belittles the emasculating effects of caste distinctions, and opposes the higher training and ambition of our brighter minds - so far as he, the South, or the nation, does this - we must unceasingly and firmly oppose them."

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