William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, known as W.E.B. Du Bois, was born on February 23, 1868, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. 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. After completing his master’s degree, he was selected for a study-abroad program at the University of Berlin. While in Germany, he studied with some of the most prominent social scientists of his day and was exposed to political perspectives that he remembered for the remainder of his life. In 1895, he became the first African American to earn a doctorate from Harvard University.
A year later, Du Bois published The Philadelphia Negro, marking the beginning of his writing career. In 1903, he published The Souls of Black Folk, a collection of 14 essays. In the years following, he adamantly opposed the idea of biological white superiority and vocally supported women’s rights. In 1909, he co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and served as the editor of the association’s monthly magazine, The Crisis. Du Bois was a proponent of Pan Africanism and helped organize several Pan African Congresses to free African colonies from European powers. He died on August 27, 1963, at the age of 95 in Accra, Ghana, while working on an encyclopedia of the African Diaspora.
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