William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, known as W.E.B. Du Bois, was born on February 23, 1868, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.
While growing up in a mostly European American town, he identified himself as "mulatto," but freely attended school with whites and was enthusiastically supported in his academic studies by his white teachers. In 1885, he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to attend Fisk University. It was there that he first encountered Jim Crow laws. For the first time, he began analyzing the deep troubles of American racism.After earning his bachelor's degree at Fisk, Du Bois entered Harvard University. He paid his way with money from summer jobs, scholarships and loans from friends.
After completing his master's degree, he was selected for a study-abroad program at the University of Berlin. While a pupil in Germany, he studied with some of the most prominent social scientists of his day and was exposed to political perspectives that he touted for the remainder of his life. In 1895, he became the first African American to earn a doctorate from Harvard University.William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (better known as W. E.
B. Du Bois) is primarily remembered today for two of his achievements: he was the first African-American to earn a PhD from Harvard (in 1895); and then, in 1903, he published The Souls of Black Folks. Part sociological study, part philosophical reflection on race, part moving and poetic autobiography, Souls introduced the idea of “double-consciousness,” which refers to the divided experience and vision of African-Americans. This concept, and others stemming from it, actively influence both popular and academic discussions of race in America today.
Still taught regularly, The Souls of Black Folks is one of the most honest and profound discussions of race ever published.In 1951, when he was 83 years old, the federal government prosecuted Du Bois for his affiliation with the Communist Party. A judge eventually threw out the case. Disillusioned with the United States, he officially joined the Communist Party in 1961 and moved to Ghana; he renounced his American citizenship more than a year later.
Major Influence In 1905 Du Bois was one of the founders and leaders of the Niagara Movement, an early civil rights group considered radical in its time. Six years later the Niagara Movement's biracial membership was absorbed into the new National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), of which Du Bois was also a founding member. He founded, wrote and edited the NAACP's journal The Crisis for almost twenty-five years, with circulation peaking at well past 100,000. With such a wide and influential readership, Du Bois probably had more impact on black audiences than Washington, but in white-controlled media Washington was still portrayed as America's preeminent black leader.