Black History Month: William Edward Burghardt Du Bois is born February 23, 1868
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, who the world would come to be known as W.E.B. Du Bois, was born in Barrington, Massachusetts, where he spent his time learning and mingling within European-American neighborhoods until heading off to attend college at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.
It was Du Bois’ experiences in college that opened his eyes to the severity of racial discrimination and unjust laws in the South. Du Bois graduated from Fisk and traveled back up north to attend Harvard University, but still remained troubled by Jim Crow segregation. Du Bois earned his doctorate from Harvard in 1895 — the first African-American to do so.
Du Bois, steadfast in his beliefs, drew inspiration from Pan-African movements. In one of his first published essays in a 1903 book, The Negro Problem, Du Bois spoke in depth about The Talented Tenth, a group of elite intellectual African-Americans who would provide leadership for other African-Americans in communities. Du Bois spoke his mind without hesitation, calling out educator Booker T. Washington in one instance for what Du Bois interpreted as Washington not demanding equality for his own. Du Bois pushed others to publicly protest the injustices in America.
Du Bois would go on to write a slew of books and essays. On Aug. 27, 1963, at the age of 95, he died in Accra, Ghana, one day before Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington.