Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Virginia Hamilton, in W. E. B. Du Bois: A Biography, tells more than the story of Du Bois’ life; the book is also the history of the struggle for equal rights for African Americans and of the profound influence that Du Bois had on that process. Du Bois lived for ninety-five years, so the biography is able to portray the progress and setbacks that occurred over a considerable period of time. Struggles within the African-American community itself are also shown; the debates between Du Bois and Booker T. Washington became a crossroads in the unification of African Americans. Hamilton provides an objective account by drawing upon diary entries and quotations from Du Bois’ speeches and other writings. The reader follows Du Bois in his struggle to obtain the rights for Southern African Americans to vote, to achieve equal access to public facilities, and to end the separation of blacks and whites.

Du Bois believed that education was the road from poverty for African Americans. He went to college, obtaining his B.A. from Fisk University and his Ph.D. from Harvard University; Harvard, however, first made him repeat his junior and senior B.A. program because it would not recognize a degree from a black Southern college. Du Bois was the first sociologist in the field of African-American studies to use experiment and observation as a basis of his research. His program for a scientific study of blacks was finally undertaken by Atlanta University. In 1897, Du Bois believed that the scientific study of his people—the gathering of knowledge of their past and present—was of paramount importance. Assuming that...

(The entire section is 664 words.)