W.E.B Du Bois


"One ever feels his two-ness. An American, a Negro; two souls, two
thoughts, two warring ideals in one dark body whose dogged strength alone keeps
it from being torn asunder." This was how William E. B. Du Bois described how
it felt to be a Negro in the beginning of the twentieth century in his book The
Souls of Black Folk. W.E.B. Du Bois, was a black editor, historian, sociologist,
and a leader of the civil rights movement in the United States. He helped found
the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and was
its spokesman in the first decades of its existence.
William Edward Bughardt Du Bois was born three years following the Civil
War, on February 23, 1868, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. His paternal
side was French, settling in America in 1674 and, the Burghardts\', his maternal
side, were descendants of slaves who fought in the Civil War.
William\' father died when he was a child and was reared by his mother,
and judgmental aunts. Massachusetts was predominately white and so were Du Bois
friends. As William grew he realized some people thought that his black skin
was a disadvantage. In high school, his teachers encouraged him as a
student and school work always came easy to him. Du Bois excelled in Latin and
Greek and participated in active discussions about the meaning of Love and Life.
At the age of 15, William began to write weekly columns in the New York Globe
and Springfield Republican.
Attending Harvard was W.E.B.\'s longtime dream, however after receiving a
scholarship to Fisk University in Nashville he gladly accepted. Du Bois was
amazed by the South, he felt a home on the campus of Fisk. William had never
been surrounded by fellow blacks, and he began to understand the plight of the
Negro. He enjoyed concerts given by Fisk\'s Jubilee Singers, giving him faith
about blacks, and how they will have a better life to come. However, after
visiting back home he saw that Tennessee deprived Negroes of citizenship rights,
and that Negroes were the blunt of jokes. W.E.B. realized the discrimination
and knew something had to happen to improve the lives of Negroes. "I am a
Negro, and I glory in the name!," claimed Du Bois in one of his pep speeches at
Fisk.
Upon graduation at Fisk, William received a scholarship to Harvard. He
never felt as if he belonged at Harvard as he had at Fisk. While at Harvard Du
Bois was not allowed to join clubs and dances due to his skin color. With his
background and study in philosophy, W.E.B. was driven to write The Suppression
of the African Slave- Trade. This was the first volume in the Harvard
Historical Series, and William was the first Negro to receive a Doctor of
Philosophy degree from Harvard.
Although Du Bois was qualified for any teaching position, no white
university would hire him. After a two year fellowship in Europe, he obtained a
teaching position in Latin and Greek at Wilberforce, in Ohio. Two years were
spent at Wilberforce, when William married Nina Gomer.
The University of Pennsylvania asked Du Bois to do a study of the
Negroes of Philadelphia. After living in the slums of Pennsylvania, he
published Philadelphia Negro about the lifestyle of a Negro in Philadelphia. Du
Bois spent the next 13 years teaching history and economics at Atlanta
University, writing many books including: The Negro in Business, The Negro
Artisan, Notes on a Negro Crime, and many others. All his books at this time
dealt with Negro history and their living conditions in the late 1890\'s to
1910\'s.
In 1900, W.E.B. Du Bois attended the first Pan-African Conference in
London. After attending the conference in London, he later created the Pan-
African Conferences in the United States and in Europe. For this extraordinary
accomplishment, he received the Springarn Medal in 1920.
Booker T. Washington felt that Negroes should gain rights slowly,
however Du Bois wanted immediate rights for the Negro. The split between
Washington and Du Bois reflected a bitter division of opinion among these two
prominent black leaders. In 1905, at Niagara Falls, Canada, Du Bois joined the
more militant leaders to demand equal voting rights and educational
opportunities for blacks and an end to racial discrimination. However the
Niagara Movement lost momentum within a few years, when he helped form another
group, in 1910 which became the National Association for the Advancement of
Colored People. He edited the NAACP\'s journal, the Crisis, in which he often
wrote that blacks should develop farms, industries, and businesses separate from
the white economy. NAACP officials, who