W.E.B. Du Bois Papers: Special Collections & University Archives University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts.


Background: W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt) Du Bois (1868-1963) was a scholar, writer, editor of The Crisis and other journals, co-founder of the Niagara Movement, the NAACP, and the Pan African Congresses, international spokesperson for peace and for the rights of the oppressed, he articulated the strivings of African Americans and developed a trenchant analysis of the problem of race in the twentieth century.

After receiving his bachelor's degree from Fisk in 1888, Du Bois continued his studies at Harvard, enrolling as a junior and receiving his second bachelor's degree in 1890, followed by his MA in 1891 and PhD in 1895. At the University of Berlin between 1892 and 1894, he was introduced to contemporary German social scientific theory.

In 1894, he accepted an appointment on faculty of Wilberforce University; in 1895, he completed his dissertation; and in 1896, he got married--to Nina Gomer (d.1950), with whom he had two children, Burghardt (1898-1900) and Yolande (1901-1960)--and published his first book, The Suppression of the African Slave Trade to the United States, 1638-1870, the first volume published in the Harvard Historical Series (1896). In 1896, he moved to an appointment as assistant instructor in sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, undertaking an intensive analysis of the African American population of Philadelphia. The resulting publication, The Philadelphia Negro (1899), is often considered his most original and compelling scholarly contribution, and it is a foundational work in the field of urban sociology.

Moving next to Atlanta University to teach history and economics, from 1897 to 1910, Du Bois built a Department of Sociology with a national reputation. Perhaps the key to this reputation was the series of annual conferences Du Bois established in 1896. Each year, he and his colleagues focused on a single issue confronting African Americans, publishing the results in the Atlanta University Publications series.

Not all of Du Bois' work was purely academic. He wrote numerous articles for the popular press and his book The Souls of Black Folk (1903) brought him national attention, a book that spotlights the growing tensions in the African American community between the accommodationism of Booker T. Washington and Du Bois' more radical demand for full and immediate equal rights. Du Bois helped found the Niagara Movement in 1905 which pave the way for the establishment in 1909 of the National Association for...

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