Web DuBois

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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 Boiss 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. 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, Bookers 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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