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 Boisfamily had been an accepted part of the community since before hisgreat-grandfather had fought in the American Revolution. Early on, Du Bois wasgiven an awareness of his African-heritage, through the ancient songs hisgrandmother taught him.
This awareness set him apart from his New Englandcommunity, with an ancestry shrouded in mystery, in sharp contrast to theprecisely accounted history of the Western world. This difference would be thefoundation for his desire to change the way African-Americans co-existed inAmerica. As a student, Du Bois was considered something of a prodigy whoexcelled beyond the capabilities of his white peers. He found work as acorrespondent for New York newspapers, and slowly began to realize theinhibitions of social boundaries he was expected to observe every step of theway.
When racism tried to take his pride and dignity, he became more determinedto make sure society recognized his achievements. Clearly, Du Bois showed greatpromise, and some influential members of his community. Although Du Bois dreamtof attending Harvard, these influential individuals arranged for his educationat Fisk University in Nashville.
His experiences at Fisk changed his life, andhe discovered his fate as a leader of the black struggle to free his people fromoppression. At Fisk, Du Bois became acquainted with many sons and daughters offormer slaves, who felt the pain of oppression and shared his sense of culturaland spiritual tradition. In the South, he saw his people being driven to astatus 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 sawthe suffering firsthand. He then resolved to dedicate his life to fighting theterrible racial oppression that held the black people down, both economicallyand politically. Du Boiss determination was rewarded with a scholarship toHarvard, where he began the first scientific sociological studies in the UnitedStates. He felt that through science, he could dispel the irrational prejudicesand ignorance that prevented racial equality. He went on to create greatadvancements in the study of race relations, but oppression continued withsegregation laws, lynching, and terror tactics on the rise.
Du Bois then formedthe Niagara Movement, and in 1909, was a vital part in establishing the NationalAssociation for the Advancement of Colored People. He was also the editor of theNAACP magazine The Crisis from 1910 to 1934. In this stage of his life, heencouraged direct assaults on the legal, political, and economic system, whichhe felt blossomed out of the exploitation of the poor and powerless blackcommunity. He became the most important black protest leader of the first halfof the 20th century.
His views clashed with Booker T. Washington, who felt thatthe black people of America had to simply accept discrimination, and hope toeventually earn respect and equality through hard work and success. Du Boiswrote The Souls of Black Folk in 1903, criticizing Booker, claiming that hisideas would lead to a perpetuation of oppression instead of freeing the blackpeople from it. Du Bois criticism lead to a branching out of the black civilrights movement, Bookers conservative followers, and a radical following ofhis critics. Du Bois had established the Black Nationalism that was theinspiration for all black empowerment throughout the civil rights movement, buthad begun during the progressive era.
Although the movement that germinated fromhis ideas may have taken on a more violent form, WEB Du Bois felt strongly thatevery human being could shape their own destinies with determination and hardwork. He inspired hope by declaring that progress would come with the success ofthe small struggles for a better life.American History