Biography of W.E.B. DuBois

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Biography of W.E.B. DuBois

WEB Du Bois was born a free man in his small village of Great Barington, Massachusetts, three years after the Civil War. For generations, the Du Bois family had been an accepted part of the community since before his great-grandfather had fought in the American Revolution. Early on, Du Bois was given an awareness of his African-heritage, through the ancient songs his grandmother taught him. This awareness set him apart from his New England community, with an ancestry shrouded in mystery, in sharp contrast to the precisely accounted history of the Western world. This difference would be the foundation for his desire to change the way African-Americans co-existed in America.
As a student, Du Bois was considered something of a prodigy who excelled beyond the capabilities of his white peers. He found work as a correspondent for New York newspapers, and slowly began to realize the inhibitions of social boundaries he was expected to observe every step of the way. When racism tried to take his pride and dignity, he became more determined to make sure society recognized his achievements. Clearly, Du Bois showed great promise, and some influential members of his community. Although Du Bois dreamt of attending Harvard, these influential individuals arranged for his education at Fisk University in Nashville. His experiences at Fisk changed his life, and he discovered his fate as a leader of the black struggle to free his people from oppression. At Fisk, Du Bois became acquainted with many sons and daughters of former slaves, who felt the pain of oppression and shared his sense of cultural and spiritual tradition. In the South, he saw his people being driven to a status of little difference from slavery, and saw them terrorized at the polls. He taught school during the summers in the eastern portion of Tennessee, and saw the suffering firsthand. He then resolved to dedicate his life to fighting the terrible racial oppression that held the black people down, both economically and politically.
Du Bois’s determination was rewarded with a scholarship to Harvard, where he began the first scientific sociological studies in the United States. He felt that through science, he could dispel the irrational prejudices and ignorance that prevented racial equality. He went on to create great advancements in the study of race relations, but oppression continued with segregation laws, lynching, and terror tactics on the rise.

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Du Bois then formed the Niagara Movement, and in 1909, was a vital part in establishing the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He was also the editor of the NAACP magazine The Crisis from 1910 to 1934. In this stage of his life, he encouraged direct assaults on the legal, political, and economic system, which he felt blossomed out of the exploitation of the poor and powerless black community. He became the most important black protest leader of the first half of the 20th century. His views clashed with Booker T. Washington, who felt that the black people of America had to simply accept discrimination, and hope to eventually earn respect and equality through hard work and success. Du Bois wrote The Souls of Black Folk in 1903, criticizing Booker, claiming that his ideas would lead to a perpetuation of oppression instead of freeing the black people from it. Du Bois criticism lead to a branching out of the black civil rights movement, Booker’s conservative followers, and a radical following of his critics. Du Bois had established the Black Nationalism that was the inspiration for all black empowerment throughout the civil rights movement, but had begun during the progressive era.
Although the movement that germinated from his ideas may have taken on a more violent form, WEB Du Bois felt strongly that every human being could shape their own destinies with determination and hard work. He inspired hope by declaring that progress would come with the success of the small struggles for a better life.


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