W.E.B. (William Edward Burghardt) Du Bois is remembered for his many roles as a journalist, educator, African-American sociologist, and Civil Rights activist. He was born in 1868 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Du Bois excelled at school, receiving two bachelor’s degrees from Fisk University (a historically black college in Nashville) and Harvard College, where he studied under the philosopher William James. Following a fellowship from the John F. Slater Fund for the Education of Freedmen in 1982, Du Bois continued his studies at the University of Berlin. Upon his return from Berlin, he became the first African American to earn a Ph.D from Harvard University. These degrees led to his various teaching positions at Wilberforce University in Ohio, University of Pennsylvania and Atlanta University.
The influence of Du Bois extended far beyond his academic career. He co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1910 and published pivotal works about racism and segregation. Du Bois published a book of essays called The Souls of Black Folk in 1903, drawing from his experiences as an African American. In 1915, Du Bois, along with the NAACP, worked to ban the silent film The Birth of a Nation with featured blacks in a negative, horrific light.
The History Channel explains that Du Bois “sought to place African-American experience in its world historical context. Out of this mix evolved his dual projects of building an African socialism and publishing a work of scholarship on the African diaspora.”
In 1961, Du Bois moved to Ghana where he began working on his Encyclopedia of Africana which documented information about Africans and people of African descent around the world. He died in 1963, the same year he became an official citizen of Ghana, at the age of 95.
The 1963 March on Washington honored W.E.B. Du Bois with a moment of silence. While he wasn’t around to see the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it embodied everything Du Bois spent his life fighting for.
Video: W.E.B. Du Bois – Mini Biography from Bio.