W. E. B. Du Bois

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How did the Jim Crow Era impact W. E. B. Du Bois's ideas?

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As he explains in his book The Souls of Black Folk, W. E. B. DuBois saw first hand the effects of Jim Crow legislation that legalized racial segregation, especially in the South. These laws restricted where blacks could work and live, the wages they were paid, and their right to vote. DuBois also saw firsthand the effort, spearheaded by Booker T. Washington, to encourage black people to conform to this kind of second-class citizenship in return for greater economic opportunities (albeit in limited spheres).

Du Bois believed that Jim Crow was destroying the souls of black people in America. Having witnessed that accommodation was getting black people nowhere, he was strongly influenced to advocate for fighting back against segregation and second-class status. He wrote that black people could not expect white people to give them anything because they were nice: black people would have to fight and struggle with all their might to obtain the equal rights that were their due.

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