W.E.B. Du Bois
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, on February 23, 1868. He studied at Fisk University, graduating with a bachelors degree in 1888, and at Harvard University, where he earned a bachelors degree in philosophy in 1890 and a PhD in history in 1895. Du Bois dissertation, entitled "The Suppression of the African Slave Trade to the United States, 1638-1870" was chosen to be the first publication of the Harvard Historical Series.
After teaching Greek and Latin at Wilberforce University in Ohio, he became assistant instructor in sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, where he began the research for his sociological study, The Philadelphia Negro (1899). While working as a professor of economics and history at Atlanta University (1897-1910), he organized annual conferences for African Americans, the proceedings and research from which was published as the Atlanta University Studies (1896-1914). Du Bois helped found the Niagara movement, an all-black organization working toward achieving full civil rights for African Americans, and was active in the movement from 1905 to 1909. In 1909, he joined several African American leaders and liberal white Americans to form the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He went on to found Phylon, a journal of social science and culture.
Du Bois joined the Socialist Party in 1911, but left in 1912. He led a silent march in New York in 1917 to protest lynching, very much foreshadowing the nonviolent protests which would become more widespread in later decades. He ran for the US Senate in 1950, but was unsuccessful. The next year, he was indicted by the federal government as an agent of a foreign power, but was acquitted. In 1961, Du Bois joined the American Communist Party. That same year, having been active for a long time in Pan-African movement, he left the United States and became a citizen of Ghana. In Ghana, he was editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia Africana, working in that capacity until his death.
Du Bois was very much an original, a man of great talent and strong convictions. He dedicated his life to freedom and the advancement of African Americans. Although he shared the same goals and the same dedication as leaders like Booker T. Washington and Marcus Garvey, he expressed strongly his disagreement with their methods. He favored an approach to African American development that was considered more confrontational and radical than the gradualist approach of a Booker T. Washington. Early in his career, Du Bois developed the concept of the "talented tenth," the idea that the most talented of African Americans ought to be trained and educated to become an elite that could "elevate" the entire race. Later, however, he became concerned about the temptations to which a black elite would be susceptible, and placed greater emphasis on the role of the working class in advancing the African American community. He wrote twenty-one books, among which are collections of essays entitled The Souls of Black Folk (1903) and Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil (1920); the historical studies Black Reconstruction (1935) and The World and Africa (1947); and the novels The Quest of the Silver Fleece (1911) and Dark Princess: A Romance (1928). Du Bois died on August 27, 1963, in Accra, Ghana.