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W.E.B. Du Bois Biography
The Washington/Du Bois Clash

Biography and Main Philosophical Points

Information on Dubois

W.E.B. Du Bois, pronounced doo BOYS, was one of the most important leaders of African American protest in the United States. During the first half of the 1900's, he became the leading black opponent of racial discrimination. He also won fame as a historian and sociologist. Historians still use Du Bois' research on blacks in American society.

Du Bois was probably the first African American to express the idea of Pan-Africanism. Pan-Africanism is the belief that all people of African descent have common interests and should work together to conquer prejudice. In 1900, Du Bois predicted that humanity's chief problem of the new century would be "the color line."

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was 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. degree at Harvard University. From 1897 to 1910, Du Bois taught history and economics at Atlanta University. He attended the First Pan-African Conference in London in 1900. He later organized Pan-African conferences in Europe and the United States. Du Bois received the Spingarn Medal in 1920.

Du Bois strongly opposed the noted African American educator Booker T. Washington. Washington believed that blacks could advance themselves faster through hard work than by demands for equal rights. However, Du Bois declared that African Americans must speak out constantly against discrimination. According to Du Bois, the best way to defeat prejudice was for college-educated blacks to lead the fight against it. Many of Du Bois' ideas appear in a collection of essays called The Souls of Black Folk (1903). Du Bois' other works include Black Reconstruction in America (1935) and The Autobiography of W. E. B. Du Bois (1968).

To fight racial discrimination, Du Bois founded the Niagara Movement in 1905. In 1909, he helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). From 1910 to 1934, he was editor of the NAACP magazine The Crisis. Du Bois left the NAACP in 1934 and returned to the faculty at Atlanta University. From 1944 to 1948, he again worked for the NAACP. After 1948, Du Bois became increasingly dissatisfied with the slow progress of race relations in the United States. He came to regard Communism as a solution to the problems of blacks. In 1961, Du Bois joined the Communist Party and moved to Ghana.

Contributor: Elliott Rudwick, Ph.D., Former Professor of Sociology and History, Center for Urban Regionalism, Kent State University.

W. E. B. Dubois

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