W.E.B. Du Bois
Few men have influenced the lives of African-Americans as much as William Edward Burghardt (W.E.B.) Du Bois is considered more of a history-maker than a historian(Aptheker, "The Historian"). Dr. Du Bois conducted the initial research on the black experience in the United States. Civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. have referred to Du Bois as a father of the Civil Rights Movement. Du Bois conducted the initial research on the black experience in the United States, and paved the way for the Pan-African and Black Power movements. This paper will describe his life, work, influence in the black community, and much publicized civil dispute with another black leader, Booker T. Washington.
Du Bois was born in the western Massachusetts town of Great Barrington. His family roots were French Huguenot on his father's side and Dutch and African on his mother's side. His father, Alfred Du Bois, left his family when W.E.B. was a young boy. W.E.B. lived with his mother Sylvina until her death in 1884. This same year, Du Bois graduated from high school as the valedictorian and only black in his graduating class of twelve. He was awarded a scholarship to attend Fisk University in
Nashville, Tennessee. He had grown up with more privileges and advantages than most blacks living in the U.S. at the time, and suffered no severe economic hardship or racism.
Du Bois continued his education at Fisk University. He received his bachelor's degree in 1885 and won a scholarship to attend Harvard University. He received his second bachelor's degree in 1890, and then enrolled in Harvard's graduate school. He earned his master's degree and then doctoral degree in 1895. He became the first black to receive a doctoral degree from Harvard. His doctoral dissertation, The Suppression of the African Slave Trade was published in 1896 as the initial volume in the Harvard Historical Studies Series. The same year the dissertation was published, Du Bois began to teach Latin, Greek, German, and English at Wilberforce University in Ohio. After teaching for several years, Du Bois conducted an exhaustive study of the social and economic conditions of urban blacks in Philadelphia in 1896 and 1897. The results were published in the Philadelphia Negro (1899). This was the first sociological text on a black community published in the United States.
In 1897 Du Bois moved to Atlanta University, where he taught economics and history for more than a decade. His most widely acclaimed work, The Souls of Black Folk (1903) was published during his time in Atlanta. With The Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois had begun to challenge the leadership of Booker T. Washington, a fellow educator who was then the most influential and admired black in the United States.
Washington, who had faith in the future of his race in the country, believed that hard work, patience, and self pride would build their character and eventually earn them their civil...