Who was W. E. B. Du Bois?
W. E. B. Du Bois was one of the most important civil rights leaders in the history of the African American community in the US. He is best known for having been a cofounder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The NAACP became the most important civil rights group of the twentieth century.
Du Bois was born in 1868 in Massachusetts. He became an intellectual and was the first African American to earn a doctorate from Harvard. He then became a professor at Atlanta University, which was a black college. It has since merged with Clark University to become Clark Atlanta University. As a professor at Atlanta, Du Bois was active both as an academic and as a civil rights activist. Academically, his most famous work is his 1903 collection of essays entitled The Souls of Black Folk. In terms of civil rights, Du Bois is famous for having been opposed to Booker T. Washington. As seen in his Atlanta Exposition speech, Washington believed that African Americans should not push for legal and political rights. He emphasized a gradual approach in which blacks would work hard and gain the respect of whites, who would eventually grant them rights. Du Bois disagreed, and argued that blacks should push for rights and equality in the short term. The NAACP was founded for this purpose.
Thus, Du Bois was an important African American academic and civil rights leader. He died in 1963.