W.E.B Dubois

Civil Rights Activist, Author, & Sociologist

Early Life and College Years

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was born on February 23, 1868 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. He was born to Alfred and Mary (nee' Burghardt) Du Bois. Alfred had left their family one year after he was born. Due to this, Mary had to support the family financially, but sadly died in 1885 due to strokes that had been occurring to her through the 1880's. Once his mother had died, Du Bois was left with no money, so he earned a job at a local mill as a timekeeper. At this time, he was also the first African American man to graduate from his high school. During high school, he identified himself as a "mulatto" and attended school with whites. After High school, Du Bois attended Fisk University for three years to earn his bachelor's degree. He then went to Harvard University for eight years to earn his MA and PHD in history, language and literature, and sociology; after Harvard, he traveled to Berlin in a study abroad program and enrolled as a doctoral student at Friedrich- Wilhelms- Universitat where he wrote a thesis for economics. Despite the abandonment of his father, and death of his mother. Du Bois lived a privileged life, which can be shown through him excelling his studies and the contributes he made in the regional newspapers, the Republican and the Globe.


  • First learned about Black repression after reading the Jim Crow Laws at Fisk University.
  • This led Du Bois to campaign for equality between Blacks and Whites, initially
  • Later he morphed his revolts into equality for all, regardless of race, gender, class, etc.

Life Influences

  • High school principal, Frank Hosmer- He encouraged Du Bois, during his high school years, to pursue extensive reading and provided scholarship aid from local luminaries.
  • Historian, Albert Bushnell Hart- heavily influenced Du Bois through his historical work. Later became great friends with and a professional mentor of Du Bois.
  • Philosopher and Psychologist, William James- Influenced Du Bois through his philosophical lectures. Also was great friends and a professional mentor of Du Bois.
  • Education was a large influence in WEB Du Bois's life because it led him to understand that knowledge is essential for a person.

"Ignorance is the cure for nothing."

W.E.B Du Bois


  • Du Bois spread his cause through the use of literature, for example: The Philadelphia Negro, The Souls of Black Folk, The Crisis.
  • He wrote his first study in The Philadelphia Negro, in which he collected a series of data and statistics of the African- American Community.
  • Coined the terms "double- consciousness" and "the talented- tenth"
  • He became a large supporter of women's rights and wrote the Souls of Black Folk, 14 essays which depicted his views on the biological and political equality of people.
  • Co- founded the NAACP ( National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and became the editor of its magazine, the Crisis
  • Due to disagreements over integration with the NAACP, Du Bois resigned from the association.
  • He later returned to become a director of special research from 1944- 1948
  • He wrote the famous An Appeal to the Nation
  • A strong supporter of Pan- Africanism, Du Bois would initiate several Pan- African Congresses to help liberate African colonies from European nations.
  • He did not appreciate the fraud of Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican Black nationalist, but played no part in his jailing.
  • He traveled to China, which resulted in his passport being annulled
  • Due to his second wife Shirley Graham, he ensued an interest in Communist and leftist socialism.
  • Due to the NAACP's views of Communism, Du Bois was kicked out of the committee for the second time

Conflict with Booker T. Washington

  • Du Bois first publicly opposed Washington during the "Atlanta Compromise", a speech delivered by Washington which stated that Blacks should submit themselves as inferior to Whites, and be happy with the education and freedom in law.
  • Although he did initially agree that Blacks should receive economic opportunities, he did not agree that political and social liberties should be given up
  • Du Bois believed that Blacks should receive full equality to Whites. Due to this, he became a spokesperson for equality for every person's life, not just Black people.

Political Cartoon

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Later Life and Death

  • Traveled to Ghana to join Kwame Nkumrah on a project
  • He aspired to create the "Encyclopedia Africana" in Ghana
  • The Ghanian government had to work strenuously to revalidate his passport
  • Died August 27, 1963 in Accra, Ghana and was given a state state funeral
  • Occurred the day before Martin Luther King Junior's I Have a Dream speech



W.E.B. Du Bois

Ralph McGill wrote for the Atlantic Monthly about a time he had spent with Du Bois, which led him to realize that Du Bos is not as strong as his policies and words are. At the inception of their conversation, Du Bois immediately brought to McGill’s attention about a lynched man he had to witness on his way to see a Joel Harris. This statement had brought a silence around the room as the narrator recalls what had occurred prior to their conference. McGill shows his views on the matter of Du Bois’s personality; although his policies have brought great change and more freedom for African people, Du Bois was never truly happy, but rather conveyed a broken, old nature. Du Bois is cloaked in resentment. He was so infuriated about the lynched man he had to see that he did not complete his chore. McGill portrays Du Bois as sentimental man, who does not wish to see any pain in the world. By using diction that holds a negative connotation, McGill creates a somber and dire tone within his piece of writing. The writing then ensues talking about the conflict between Du Bois and Booker T. Washington. As McGill questions Du Bois about the leading Civil Rights leaders, Du Bois explains that Washington was one of the few people who had his mind on the right place pertaining to abolishing segregation. Du Bois explains that despite their difference in opinions, Washington is a good, sincere man. By acknowledging this, McGill shows to the audience that Du Bois was a man to judge people on their character rather than their opinions or beliefs. This admiration of Washington led McGill to question Du Bois more on why they were enemies. Du Bois explains that Washington was aiming for economic success where blacks could be taught skills, and as the small class grew they would ultimately be considered as good enough. McGill continues to characterize Du Bois as arrogant and stubborn ; however, he also describes Du Bois as a dreamer who envisioned a future in which the “talented tenth” would lead to full equality for African- American people. Overall, McGill conveys Du Bois as a man who has been broken from all his experiences through losing. Despite all the positive influence he has allotted in the world, he he was embittered and morose. This was the case for most of his life, but his irascibility is what prompted such great work to come from him because he was able to place all his emotion in his writing. And, although he did come off as sullen, he fantasized of a world in which all individuals thrived in equity.

Compare and Contrast

In today's day and age, Du Bois would be successful. He would most likely adopt the idea of equity among all including the issues of wage gaps, human trafficking and gender inequalities. These would be taken up by Du Bois because he believed everyone is equal and prejudice cannot exist within society.

Jeannie with Du Bois's Skills

With the skills of Du Bois, I would try to use my excellent literary skills to spread the idea of helping impoverished people throughout the globe by writing a book that exploits the suffer and hardships that the unfortunate must face everyday. With a degree in sociology, I could even use the science of understanding humans to my advantage by asserting it in my writing to promote people to support the cause and help make a change in the world.


W.E.B Du Bois's American Experience was compromised of a high level of education, fascinating writing, and a belief in Communism. Although Du Bois did contain a negative role in his life, he was able to influence the nation with his campaign for equality among all people. He was able to work hard and earn honorary degrees , as well as, be a life member of the American Association of the Advancement of Science and the National Institute of Arts and Letters. He primarily relied on his writing abilities and his knowledge of sociology to broadcast the reform he was planning on accomplishing. His life's labor was a success as it can be shown through the several African nations that were liberated from the grasp of European nations along with anti-segregation which exists today.