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W. E. B. Du Bois

Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt Du Bois)dəboisˈ, 1868–1963, American civil-rights leader and author, b. Great Barrington, Mass., grad. Harvard (B.A., 1890; M.A., 1891; Ph.D., 1895). Du Bois was an early exponent of full equality for African Americans and a cofounder (1905) of the Niagara Movement, which became (1909) the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Unlike Booker T. Washington, who believed that unskilled blacks should focus on economic self-betterment, and Marcus Garvey, who advocated a "back to Africa" movement, Du Bois demanded that African Americans should achieve not only economic parity with whites in the United States but full and immediate civil and political equality as well. Also, he introduced the concept of the "talented tenth," a black elite whose duty it was to better the lives of less fortunate African Americans.

From 1897 to 1910, Du Bois taught economics and history at Atlanta Univ. In 1910 he became editor of the influential NAACP magazine, Crisis, a position he held until 1934. That year he resigned over the question of voluntary segregation, which he had come to favor over integration, and returned to Atlanta Univ. (1934–44). His concern for the liberation of blacks throughout the world led him to organize the first (Paris, 1919) of several Pan-African Congresses. In 1945, at the Fifth Congress in Manchester, England, he met with the African leaders Kwame Nkrumah and Jomo Kenyatta. In 1961 he became a member of the American Communist party, and shortly thereafter he renounced his American citizenship. In the last two years of his life Du Bois lived in Ghana. His books include The Souls of Black Folks (1903), The Negro (1915), Black Reconstruction in America (1935), Color and Democracy (1945), The World and Africa (1947), and In Battle for Peace: The Story of My 83rd Birthday (1952).

Bibliography

See his autobiography, ed. by H. Aptheker (1968); selected writings, ed. by N. Huggins (1986); correspondence, ed. by H. Aptheker (3 vol., 1973–78); biography by D. L. Lewis (2 vol., 1993–2000); studies by G. Horne (1985), M. Marable (1987, repr. 2005), A. Reed, Jr. (1997), and L. Balfour (2011).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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