- William Edward Burghardt "W. E. B." Du Bois (pronounced /duːˈbɔɪz/ doo-boyz; February 23, 1868 – August 27, 1963) was an American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author and editor. Born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, Du Bois grew up in a relatively tolerant and integrated community. HP 052907A CPU FAN
After graduating fromHarvard, where he was the first African American to earn a doctorate, he became a professor of history, sociology and economics at Atlanta University. Du Bois was one of the co-founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909. HP 13.V1.B3403.GN CPU FAN
Du Bois rose to national prominence as the leader of the Niagara Movement, a group of African-American activists who wanted equal rights for blacks. Du Bois and his supporters opposed the Atlanta Compromise, an agreement crafted by Booker T. Washington which provided that Southern blacks would work and submit to white political rule, HP 13.V1.BJ195.F.GN CPU FAN
while Southern whites guaranteed that blacks would receive basic educational and economic opportunities. Instead, Du Bois insisted on full civil rights and increased political representation, which he believed would be brought about by the African-American intellectual elite. HP 344872-001 CPU FAN
He referred to this group as the talented tenth and believed that African Americans needed the chances for advanced education to develop its leadership.
Racism was the main target of Du Bois's polemics, and he strongly protested against lynching, Jim Crow laws, anddiscrimination in education and employment. HP 367795-001 CPU FAN
His cause included colored persons everywhere, particularly Africans and Asians in their struggles against colonialism and imperialism. He was a proponent of Pan-Africanism and helped organize several Pan-African Congresses to free African colonies from European powers. Du Bois made several trips to Europe, Africa and Asia. HP 384622-001 CPU FAN
After World War I, he surveyed the experiences of American black soldiers in France and documented widespread bigotry in the United States military.
Du Bois was a prolific author. His collection of essays, The Souls of Black Folk, was a seminal work in African-American literature; HP 3MLX6TATPH0 CPU FAN
and his 1935 magnum opus Black Reconstruction in America challenged the prevailing orthodoxy that blacks were responsible for the failures of the Reconstruction era. He wrote the first scientific treatise in the field of sociology; and he published three autobiographies, each of which contains insightful essays on sociology, politics and history. HP 3MLX8TATP20 CPU FAN
In his role as editor of the NAACP's journal The Crisis, he published many influential pieces. Du Bois believed that capitalism was a primary cause of racism, and he was generally sympathetic to socialist causes throughout his life. He was an ardent peace activist and advocated nuclear disarmament. HP 3MLX8TATP40 CPU FAN
The United States' Civil Rights Act, embodying many of the reforms for which Du Bois had campaigned his entire life, was enacted a year after his death.
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was born on February 23, 1868, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, to Alfred and Mary Silvina (née Burghardt) Du Bois. HP 3MLX9TATP70 CPU FAN
Mary Silvina Burghardt's family was part of the very small free black population of Great Barrington, having long owned land in the state; she was descended from Dutch, African and English ancestors. William Du Bois's maternal great-grandfather was Tom Burghardt, a slave (born in West Africa around 1730) who was held by the Dutch colonist Conraed Burghardt. HP 407862-001 CPU FAN
Tom briefly served in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, which may have been how he gained his freedom.Tom's son Jack Burghardt was the father of Othello Burghardt, who was the father of Mary Silvina Burghardt.
William Du Bois's paternal great-grandfather was an ethnic French-American, HP 414226-001 CPU FAN
James Du Bois of Poughkeepsie, New York, who fathered several children with slave mistresses. One of James' mixed-race sons was Alexander, who traveled to Haiti, and fathered a son, Alfred, with a mistress there. Alexander returned to Connecticut, leaving Alfred in Haiti with his mother. HP 418409-001 CPU FAN
Alfred moved to the United States sometime before 1860, and married Mary Silvina Burghardt on February 5, 1867, in Housatonic, Massachusetts. Alfred left Mary in 1870, two years after William was born. William's mother worked to support her family (receiving some assistance from her brother and neighbors), until she experienced a stroke in the early 1880s. She died in 1885. HP 431312-001 CPU FAN
Great Barrington's primarily European American community treated Du Bois generally well. He attended the local integrated public school and played with white schoolmates, though the racism he experienced even in this context would be one of the subjects of his later adult writing. Teachers encouraged his intellectual pursuits, HP 434678-001 CPU FAN
and his rewarding experience with academic studies led him to believe that he could use his knowledge to empower African Americans. When Du Bois decided to attend college, the congregation of his childhood church, the First Congregational Church of Great Barrington, donated money for his tuition. HP 441137-001 CPU FAN
Relying on money donated by neighbors, Du Bois attended Fisk University, a historically black college in Nashville, Tennessee, from 1885 to 1888. His travel to and residency in the South was Du Bois's first experience with Southern racism, which encompassed Jim Crow laws, bigotry, and lynchings. HP 448016-001 CPU FAN
After receiving a bachelor's degree from Fisk, he attended Harvard College (which did not accept course credits from Fisk) from 1888 to 1890, where he was strongly influenced by his professor William James, prominent in American philosophy. Du Bois paid his way through three years at Harvard with money from summer jobs, an inheritance, scholarships, and loans from friends. HP 450933-001 CPU FAN
In 1890, Harvard awarded Du Bois his second bachelor's degree, cum laude, in history. In 1891, Du Bois received a scholarship to attend the sociology graduate school at Harvard.
In 1892, Du Bois received a fellowship from the John F. Slater Fund for the Education of Freedmen to attend the University of Berlin for graduate work. HP 456605-001 CPU FAN
While a student in Berlin, he traveled extensively throughout Europe. He came of age intellectually in the German capital, while studying with some of that nation's most prominent social scientists, includingGustav von Schmoller, Adolph Wagner and Heinrich von Treitschke. After returning from Europe, Du Bois completed his graduate studies; HP 480481-001 CPU FAN
in 1895 he was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University.
In the summer of 1894, Du Bois received several job offers, including one from the prestigious Tuskegee Institute; he accepted a teaching job at Wilberforce University in Ohio. At Wilberforce, HP 486799-001 CPU FAN
Du Bois was strongly influenced by Alexander Crummell, who believed that ideas and morals are necessary tools to effect social change. While at Wilberforce, Du Bois married Nina Gomer, one of his students, on May 12, 1896.
After two years at Wilberforce, Du Bois accepted a one-year research job from the University of Pennsylvania as an "assistant in sociology" in the summer of 1896. HP 486844-001 CPU FAN
He performed sociological field research in Philadelphia's African-American neighborhoods, which formed the foundation for his landmark study, The Philadelphia Negro, published two years later while he was teaching at Atlanta University. It was the first case study of a black community. HP 489126-001 CPU FAN
While attending the Negro Academy in 1897, Du Bois presented a paper in which he rejected Frederick Douglass' plea for black Americans to integrate into white society. He wrote: "we are Negroes, members of a vast historic race that from the very dawn of creation has slept, but half awakening in the dark forests of its African fatherland". HP 493001-001 CPU FAN
In the August 1897 issue of Atlantic Monthly, Du Bois published "Strivings of the Negro People", his first work aimed at the general public, in which he enlarged on his thesis that African Americans should embrace their African heritage.
In July 1897, Du Bois left Philadelphia and took a professorship in history and economics at the historically black Atlanta University. HP 495079-001 CPU FAN
His first major academic accomplishment was the 1899 publication of The Philadelphia Negro, a detailed and comprehensive sociological study of the African-American people of Philadelphia, based on the field work he did in 1896–1897. The work was a breakthrough in scholarship, because it was the first scientific sociological study in the U.S., and the first scientific study of African Americans. HP 517749-001 CPU FAN
In the study, Du Bois coined the phrase "the submerged tenth" to describe the black underclass, anticipating the "talented tenth" term he would popularize in 1903 to describe society's elite class. Du Bois's terminology reflected his opinion that the elite of a nation, black and white, was the critical portion of society that was responsible for culture and progress. HP 532141-001 CPU FAN
Du Bois's writings of this era were often dismissive of the underclass, employing characterizations such as "lazy" or "unreliable", but he – in contrast to other scholars – attributed many societal problems to the ravages of slavery.
Du Bois's output at Atlanta University was prodigious, in spite of a limited budget: HP 532613-001 CPU FAN
He produced numerous social science papers and annually hosted the Atlanta Conference of Negro Problems. Du Bois also received grants from the U.S. government to prepare reports about African-American workforce and culture. His students considered him to be a brilliant, but aloof and strict, teacher. HP 532614-001 CPU FAN
In the first decade of the new century, Du Bois emerged as a spokesperson for his race, second only to Booker T. Washington.Washington was the director of the Tuskegee Institute, and wielded tremendous influence within the African-American community.Washington was the architect of the Atlanta Compromise, HP 532617-001 CPU FAN
an unwritten deal he struck in 1895 with Southern white leaders who had taken over government after the failure of Reconstruction. The agreement provided that Southern blacks would submit to discrimination, segregation, lack of voting rights, and non-unionized employment; HP 533736-001 CPU FAN
that Southern whites would permit blacks to receive a basic education, some economic opportunities, and justice within the legal system; and that Northern whites would invest in Southern enterprises and fund black educational charities.
Many African Americans opposed Washington's plan, including DuBois, Archibald H. Grimke, Kelly Miller, HP 535438-001 CPU FAN
James Weldon Johnson and Paul Laurence Dunbar – representatives of the class of educated blacks that Du Bois would later call the "talented tenth". Du Bois felt that African Americans should fight for equal rights, rather than passively submit to the segregation and discrimination of Washington's Atlanta Compromise. HP 535439-001 CPU FAN
Du Bois was inspired to greater activism by the lynching of Sam Hose, which occurred near Atlanta in 1899. Hose was tortured, burned and hung by a mob of two thousand whites. When walking through Atlanta to discuss the lynching with a newspaper editor, Du Bois encountered Hose's burned knuckles in a storefront display. HP 535441-001 CPU FAN
The episode numbed Du Bois, and he resolved that "one could not be a calm cool, and detached scientist while Negroes were lynched, murdered, and starved." Du Bois realized that "the cure wasn't simply telling people the truth, it was inducing them to act on the truth."
In 1901, Du Bois wrote a review critical of Washington's book Up from Slavery, HP 535442-001 CPU FAN
which he later expanded and published to a wider audience as the essay "Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others" in The Souls of Black Folk. One of the major contrasts between the two leaders was their approach to education: Washington felt that African-American schools should limit themselves to industrial education topics such as agricultural and mechanical skills. HP 535766-001 CPU FAN
However, Du Bois felt that black schools should also offer a liberal arts curriculum (including the classics, arts, and humanities), because liberal arts were required to develop a leadership elite.
In 1905, Du Bois and several other African-American civil rights activists – including Fredrick L. McGhee, Jesse Max Barber and William Monroe Trotter – met in Canada, near Niagara Falls. HP 537613-001 CPU FAN
There they wrote a declaration of principles opposing the Atlanta Compromise, and incorporated as the Niagara Movement in 1906. Du Bois and the other "Niagarites" wanted to publicize their ideals to other African Americans, but most black periodicals were owned by publishers sympathetic to Washington, HP 538340-001 CPU FAN
so Du Bois bought a printing press and started publishing Moon Illustrated Weekly in December 1905. It was the first African-American illustrated weekly, and Du Bois used it to attack Washington's positions, but the magazine only endured for about eight months.Du Bois soon founded and edited another vehicle for his polemics, The Horizon: A Journal of the Color Line, which debuted in 1907. HP 576837-001 CPU FAN
The Niagarites held a second conference in August 1906, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of John Brown's birth, at the site of Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry. Reverdy Cassius Ransom spoke and addressed the fact that Washington's primary goal was to provide employment to blacks: "Today, two classes of Negroes, HP 580696-001 CPU FAN
... are standing at the parting of the ways. The one counsels patient submission to our present humiliations and degradations; ... The other class believe that it should not submit to being humiliated, degraded, and remanded to an inferior place ... it does not believe in bartering its manhood for the sake of gain." HP 580718-001 CPU FAN
In an effort to portray the genius and humanity of the black race, Du Bois published The Souls of Black Folk, a collection of 14 essays, in 1903. The book's import to African Americans, according to James Weldon Johnson, was comparable to that of Uncle Tom's Cabin. The introduction famously proclaimed that "... HP 582139-001 CPU FAN
the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line." Each chapter begins with two epigraphs – one from a white poet, and one from a black spiritual – to demonstrate intellectual and cultural parity between black and white cultures. A major theme of the work was thedouble consciousness that African Americans faced: Being both American and black, HP 582141-001 CPU FAN
a unique identity which, according to Lewis, had been a handicap in the past, but could be a strength in the future: "Henceforth, the destiny of the race could be conceived as leading neither to assimilation nor separatism but to proud, enduring hyphenation.
Two calamities in the autumn of 1906 shocked African Americans, and helped Du Bois's struggle for civil rights to prevail over Booker T. HP 602472-001 CPU FAN
Washington's accommodationism. First, President Teddy Roosevelt dishonorably discharged 167 black soldiers because they were accused of crimes as a result of the Brownsville Affair. Many of the discharged soldiers had served for 20 years and were near retirement. HP 603690-001 CPU FAN
Second, in September, riots broke out in Atlanta, precipitated by unfounded allegations of black men assaulting white women, which compounded interracial tensions created by a job shortage and employers playing black workers against white workers. Ten thousand whites rampaged through Atlanta, beating every black person they could find, resulting in over 25 deaths. HP 603691-001 CPU FAN
In the aftermath of the 1906 violence, Du Bois urged blacks to withdraw their support from the Republican party, because Republicans Roosevelt and William Howard Taft did not support blacks. Most African Americans had been loyal to the Republican party since the time of Abraham Lincoln. HP 6043B0034801A02 CPU FAN
Du Bois wrote the essay, "A Litany at Atlanta", which asserted that the riot demonstrated that the Atlanta Compromise was a failure because, despite upholding their end of the bargain, blacks had failed to receive legal justice. The Compromise was no longer effective because, according to historian David Lewis, HP 606013-001 CPU FAN
white patrician plantation owners that originally agreed to the compromise had been replaced by aggressive businessmen who were willing to pit blacks against whites. These two calamities were watershed events for the African-American community, and marked the downfall of Washington's Atlanta Compromise and the ascendancy of Du Bois' vision of equal rights. HP 606574-001 CPU FAN
In addition to writing editorials, Du Bois continued to produce scholarly work at Atlanta University. In 1909, after five years of effort, he published a biography of John Brown. It contained many insights, but also contained some factual errors. The work was strongly criticized by The Nation, which was owned by Oswald Villard, an author who was writing a competing biography of John Brown. HP 606575-001 CPU FAN
Du Bois' work was largely ignored by white scholars. After he published a piece in Collier's magazine warning of the end of "white supremacy", he had difficulty getting pieces accepted by major periodicals; however, he continued to publish columns regularly in The Horizon magazine. HP 606609-001 CPU FAN
Du Bois was the first African American invited by the American Historical Association (AHA) to present a paper at their annual conference. He read his paper, Reconstruction and Its Benefits, to an astounded audience at the AHA's December 1909 conference. The paper went against the mainstream historical view that Reconstruction was a disaster, HP 608378-001 CPU FAN
caused by the ineptitude and sloth of blacks; to the contrary, Du Bois asserted that the brief period of African-American leadership in the South accomplished three important goals : democracy, free public schools, and new social legislation. The paper further asserted that it was the federal government's failure to manage the Freedman's Bureau, HP 608772-001 CPU FAN
to distribute land, and to establish an educational system, that doomed African-American prospects in the South.When Du Bois submitted the paper for publication a few months later in the American Historical Review, he asked that the word Negro be capitalized. The editor,J. Franklin Jameson, refused, and published the paper without the capitalization. HP 610773-001 CPU FAN
The paper was subsequently ignored by white historians. Du Bois' paper would later evolve into his ground-breaking 1935 book Black Reconstruction. The AHA did not invite another African-American speaker again until 1940.
In May 1909, Du Bois attended the National Negro Conference in New York. HP 610774-001 CPU FAN
The meeting led to the creation of the National Negro Committee, chaired by Oswald Villard, and dedicated to campaigning for civil rights, equal voting rights, and equal educational opportunities. The following spring, in 1910, at the second National Negro Conference, the attendees created the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). HP 610777-001 CPU FAN
At Du Bois's suggestion, the word "colored", rather than "black", was used to include "dark skinned people everywhere." Dozens of civil rights supporters, black and white, participated in the founding, but most executive officers were white, including Mary Ovington, Charles Edward Russell, William English Walling, and its first presidentMoorfield Storey. HP 622028-001 CPU FAN
NAACP leaders offered Du Bois the position of Director of Publicity and Research. He accepted the job in the summer of 1910, and moved to New York after resigning from Atlanta University. His primary duty was editing the NAACP's monthly magazine, which he namedThe Crisis. HP 622029-001 CPU FAN
The first issue appeared in November 1910, and Du Bois pronounced that its aim was to set out "those facts and arguments which show the danger of race prejudice, particularly as manifested today toward colored people." The journal was phenomenally successful, and its circulation would reach 100,000 in 1920. HP 622330-001 CPU FAN
Typical articles in the early editions included one that inveighed against the dishonesty and parochialism of black churches, and one that discussed the Afrocentric origins of Egyptian civilization.
An important Du Bois editorial from 1911 helped initiate a nationwide push to induce the Federal government to outlaw lynching. HP 637607-001 CPU FAN
Du Bois, employing the sarcasm he frequently used, commented on a lynching in Pennsylvania: "The point is he was black. Blackness must be punished. Blackness is the crime of crimes ... It is therefore necessary, as every white scoundrel in the nation knows, to let slip no opportunity of punishing this crime of crimes. HP 646578-001 CPU FAN
Of course if possible, the pretext should be great and overwhelming – some awful stunning crime, made even more horrible by the reporters' imagination. Failing this, mere murder, arson, barn burning or impudence may do."
The Crisis carried editorials by Du Bois that supported the ideals of unionized labor but excoriated the racism demonstrated by its leaders, who systematically excluded blacks from membership. HP 657529-001 CPU FAN
Du Bois also supported the principles of the Socialist party (he was briefly a member of the party from 1910–12), but he denounced the racism demonstrated by some socialist leaders. Frustrated by Republican president Taft's failure to address widespread lynching, Du Bois endorsed Democratic candidate Woodrow Wilson in the 1912 presidential race, in exchange for Wilson's promise to support black causes. HP AB0505HX-J0B CPU FAN
Throughout his writings, Du Bois supported women's rights, but he found it difficult to publicly endorse the women's right-to-vote movement because leaders of the suffragism movement refused to support his fight against racial injustice. A Crisis editorial from 1913 broached the taboo subject of interracial marriage: HP AB5205HB-EBB CPU FAN
Although Du Bois generally expected persons to marry within their race, he viewed the problem as a women's rights issue, because laws prohibited white men from marrying black women. Du Bois wrote "[anti-miscegenation] laws leave the colored girls absolutely helpless for the lust of white men. It reduces colored women in the eyes of the law to the position of dogs. HP AB5505HX-K0B CPU FAN
As low as the white girl falls, she can compel her seducer to marry her ... We must kill [anti-miscegenation laws] not because we are anxious to marry the white men's sisters, but because we are determined that white men will leave our sisters alone."
During the years 1915 and 1916, some leaders of the NAACP – disturbed by financial losses at The Crisis, HP AB5505HX-OBB CPU FAN
and worried about the inflammatory rhetoric of some of its essays – attempted to oust Du Bois from his editorial position. Du Bois and his supporters prevailed, and he continued in his role as editor.
The 1910s were a productive time for Du Bois. In 1911 he attended the First Universal Races Congress in London and he published his first novel, The Quest of the Silver Fleece. HP AB7205HX-GC1 CPU FAN
Two years later, Du Bois wrote, produced, and directed a pageant for the stage, The Star of Ethiopia. In 1915, Du Bois published The Negro, a general history of black Africans, and the first of its kind in English. The book rebutted claims of African inferiority, and would come to serve as the basis of much Afrocentric historiography in the 20th century. HP AB7205HX-GC3 CPU FAN
The Negro predicted unity and solidarity for colored people around the world, and it influenced many who supported the Pan-African movement.
In 1915, Atlantic Monthly carried an essay by Du Bois, "The African Roots of the War", which consolidated Du Bois' ideas on capitalism and race. HP AB7805HX-L03 CPU FAN
In it, he argued that the scramble for Africa was at the root of World War I. He also anticipated later Communist doctrine, by suggesting that wealthy capitalists had pacified white workers by giving them just enough wealth to prevent them from revolting, and by threatening them with competition by the lower-cost labor of colored workers. HP CWTT8 CPU FAN
Du Bois used his influential role in the NAACP to oppose a variety of racist incidents. When the silent film The Birth of a Nation premiered in 1915, Du Bois and the NAACP led the fight to ban the movie, because of its racist portrayal of blacks as brutish and lustful. The fight was not successful, and possibly contributed to the film's fame, but the publicity drew many new supporters to the NAACP. HP DFS450805M10T CPU FAN
The private sector was not the only source of racism: under President Wilson, the plight of African Americans in government jobs suffered. Many federal agencies adopted whites-only employment practices, the Army excluded blacks from officer ranks, and the immigration service prohibited the immigration of persons of African ancestry. HP DFS531205HC0T CPU FAN
Du Bois wrote an editorial in 1914 deploring the dismissal of blacks from federal posts, and he supported William Monroe Trotter when Trotter brusquely confronted Wilson about Wilson's failure to fulfill his campaign promise of justice for blacks.
The Crisis continued to wage a campaign against lynching. HP DFS551305MC0T CPU FAN
In 1915, it published an article with a year-by-year tabulation of 2,732 lynchings from 1884 to 1914. The April 1916 edition covered the group lynching of six African Americans in Lee County, Georgia. Later in 1916, the "Waco Horror" article covered the lynching of Jesse Washington, a mentally impaired 17-year-old African American. HP F5S6-CW CPU FAN
The article broke new ground by utilizing undercover reporting to expose the conduct of local whites in Waco, Texas.
The early 20th century was the era of the Great Migration of blacks from the Southern United States to the Northeast, Midwest and West. HP F787 CPU FAN
Du Bois wrote an editorial supporting the Great Migration, because he felt it would help blacks escape Southern racism, find economic opportunities, and assimilate into American society.
Also in the 1910s the American eugenics movement was in its infancy, and many leading eugenicists were openly racist, defining Blacks as "a lower race". HP F9C5 CPU FAN
Du Bois opposed this view as an unscientific aberration, but still maintained the basic principle of eugenics: That different persons have different inborn characteristics that make them more or less suited for specific kinds of employment, and that by encouraging the most talented members of all races to procreate would better the "stocks" of humanity. HP GB0507PGV1-A CPU FAN
As the United States prepared to enter World War I in 1917, Du Bois' colleague in the NAACP, Joel Spingarn, established a camp to train African Americans to serve as officers in the United States military. The camp was controversial, because some whites felt that blacks were not qualified to be officers, and some blacks felt that African Americans should not participate in what they considered a white man's war. HP GC055515VH-A CPU FAN
Du Bois supported Spingarn's training camp, but was disappointed when the Army forcibly retired one of its few black officers, Charles Young, on a pretense of ill health. The Army agreed to create 1,000 officer positions for blacks, but insisted that 250 come from enlisted men, conditioned to taking orders from whites, rather than from independent-minded blacks that came from the camp. HP GC057015VH-A CPU FAN
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