W.E.B. Du Bois
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (February 23, 1868 – August 27, 1963) was an American sociologist, socialist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author, writer, and editor. Raised in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, Du Bois grew up in a fairly tolerant and integrated community, and after finishing graduate work at the University of Berlin and Harvard, where he was the first African American to achieve a doctorate, he became a professor of history, sociology, and economy at Atlanta University. Du Bois was one of the creators of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.
Racism was the main target of Du Bois's polemics, and he heavily protested against lynching, Jim Crow laws, and discrimination in education and employment. His cause involved individuals of color everywhere, particularly Africans and Asians in colonies. He was a proponent of Pan-Africanism and helped arrange several Pan-African Congresses to fight for the freedom of African colonies from European powers. Du Bois made several travels to Europe, Africa, and Asia. After World War I, he surveyed the experiences of American black troops in France and documented widespread discrimination and racist in the United States military.
Du Bois was a prolific author. His collection of essays, The Souls of Black Folk, is a seminal work in African-American literature; and his 1935 magnum opus, Black Reconstruction in America, challenged the prevailing orthodoxy that blacks were responsible for the failures of the Reconstruction Era. Borrowing a phrase from Frederick Douglass, he popularized the use of the term color line to represent the injustice of the separate but equal doctrine prevalent in American social and political life. He opens The Souls of Black Folk with the central thesis of much of his life's work: "The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line."
His 1940 autobiography Dusk of Dawn is regarded as one of the first scientific treatises in American sociology. He published two other life stories, all three containing essays on sociology, politics, and history. In his role as editor of the NAACP's journal The Crisis, he published many influential pieces. Du Bois believed that capitalism was a primary cause of racism, and he was generally sympathetic to socialist causes throughout his life. He was an ardent peace activist and advocated nuclear disarmament. The United States' Civil Rights Act, embodying many of the reforms for which Du Bois had campaigned his entire life, was enacted a year after his death.