W. E. B. Du Bois

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What was W.E.B. Du Bois's contribution to society?

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W.E.B. DuBois (1868–1963) presaged the American civil rights movement of the mid-twentieth century. This was his main contribution to society. He did this in a number of ways: his role in the NAACP, his vision for Black America, and his role as a civil rights trailblazer.

One way he achieved prominence was through his activity in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He was a co-founder and editor of its periodical, The Crisis. One of the NAACP's early accomplishments was a sharp reduction in the number of lynchings of African Americans. Today, the NAACP is still considered one of the most important civil rights organizations in America.

DuBois was not the only advocate for blacks in his time. Booker T. Washington and Marcus Garvey were also important figures. However, DuBois had different goals than his contemporaries. Washington merely wanted blacks to be economically self-sufficient. Garvey headed a "back to Africa" campaign.

Martin Luther King was influenced by DuBois, and he gave a stirring speech to honor him in 1968: "One idea he insistently taught was that black people have been kept in oppression and deprivation by a poisonous fog of lies that depicted them as inferior, born deficient and deservedly doomed to servitude to the grave."

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Born in 1868 in a progressive, northern, middle-class neighborhood, W.E.B. Du Bois was able to dedicate himself to an education in a less restricted manner than his lower-income black peers, who had to face the heavy burden of poverty. Du Bois became a professor, a sociologist, writer and editor of various publications, and a bold, progressive activist for the rights of black people. One of Du Bois's great contributions to society was in his sociological studies that were rooted in fieldwork. Du Bois was one of the first American sociologists to bring sociology outside the realm of theory. He focused his sociological field studies in black communities in northern cities and southern rural towns to reveal the ways in which racism and poverty impacted black Americans. Du Bois argued that black Americans should focus on obtaining education and material wealth as the solution to the oppression they faced. Many black scholars and activists disagreed with Du Bois and argued that he put too much of the burden of racism on black people rather than on fighting to push for fundamental structural changes through social movements.

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