WILLIAM EDWARD BURGHARDT DU BOIS
(1868 – 1963)
“It is, then, the strife of all honorable men and women… to see that in the future competition of the races the survival of the fittest shall mean the triumph of the good, the beautiful, and the true.”
William Edward Burghardt (W. E. B.) Du Bois became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. at Harvard University in 1895. A renowned Pan-Africanist and historian, Du Bois has also been acknowledged as a father of modern sociology. His social study “The Philadelphia Negro,” published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 1899, was the first empirical social study of a Negro community.
Du Bois was born in West Barrington Massachusetts to Haiti native Alfred Du Bois, and a free Black woman named Mary Burghardt. By 1903, he published the groundbreaking collection of essays, “The Souls of Black Folk.” It challenged the civil rights strategies of black leaders, while inspiring emerging activists and scholars to combat the structures of racial oppression.
In 1909, he co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and served as the editor of its magazine, “The Crisis.” In 1943, Du Bois became the first Negro member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters. A mentor to generations of leaders across the African Diaspora, Du Bois died at the age of 95 in Accra, Ghana on August 27, 1963.