Who Was W. E. B. Du Bois?

Have you ever experienced a sense of injustice? How did you respond? Today’s Wonder is about W. E. B Du Bois—a man who recognized the unfair treatment of Black people and dedicated his life to addressing this issue. Curious about who W. E. B. Du Bois was? Keep reading!

W. E. B. Du Bois was born in Massachusetts in 1868. (His full name was William Edward Burghardt Du Bois.) Du Bois was the first member of his family to attend high school. He later pursued higher education and studied at Fisk University, a college for Black individuals. After graduating, he sought further knowledge and obtained additional degrees from Harvard. In 1895, he successfully earned his Ph.D. in History from Harvard, becoming the first African American to achieve this feat.

Initially, Du Bois worked as a researcher and sociologist. As a sociologist, he examined the living and working conditions of various groups of Black individuals. He wrote reports detailing their challenges and proposed solutions to help them.

Furthermore, he authored a renowned book titled The Souls of Black Folk. In this book, he provides insights into the experience of being Black in America. One of the essays recounts the death of his son. When his son fell seriously ill, no white doctor was willing to treat him. Du Bois expressed gratitude that his son would never have to experience racism. The book also introduces the concept of “double consciousness,” which refers to the idea that Black people must consider how they perceive themselves and how others, particularly white individuals, perceive them. The Souls of Black Folk held significant importance then and continues to be influential today.

Du Bois believed that he, along with other Black individuals, needed to demand equal rights. He protested against lynching, discriminatory laws, and prejudice. These laws were known as “Jim Crow” laws, which enforced racial segregation in schools, the military, and most aspects of life and work. Discrimination entailed the mistreatment of Black people in comparison to their white counterparts. Other Black intellectuals of the time, such as Booker T. Washington, also advocated for improved treatment. However, they had different approaches to achieving equality. They believed that Black people should strive for equality through education and paid employment.

In 1910, Du Bois played a role in establishing the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), an organization dedicated to promoting equality for Black individuals in America. Du Bois served as the editor of the group’s magazine, where he discussed Black issues, culture, and more for many years. He continued to write numerous other books as well.

Furthermore, Du Bois demonstrated an interest in the conditions of Black people worldwide. He believed that individuals of African heritage could unite to fight for freedom for all. This concept is known as Pan-Africanism. However, some members of the U.S. government viewed his ideas as dangerous. In fact, in 1951, Du Bois was accused of being a “foreign agent” or spy. The charges were eventually dismissed by a judge, but the government confiscated his passport, preventing him from leaving the country. As a result, Du Bois grew dissatisfied with living in America.

After receiving his passport back after a span of eight years, Du Bois and his wife embarked on a journey to explore different parts of the world. Kwame Nkrumah, an African leader, extended an invitation to Du Bois to reside in Ghana. From that point on, Du Bois made Ghana his home until his demise in 1963.

Throughout his entire life, W. E. B. Du Bois dedicated his efforts to improve the lives of Black people, not just in America but also globally. What actions will you take to contribute towards making the world a better place?

Ready to take action? Join forces with a friend or family member and delve deeper into the life of one of the most renowned Black Americans in history!

– Consider different perspectives! With the assistance of an adult, utilize the internet or visit your local library to conduct research on both sides of the disagreement between W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington. What were their arguments and reasons? To get started, you may find this video helpful. Employ Canva or any available materials to create a Venn diagram that illustrates their areas of agreement and disagreement. Finally, share your work with a friend or family member!

– W.E.B. Du Bois actively protested for equal rights, against war, and discrimination. If he were alive today, how do you think he would perceive the changes in American society? Utilize your knowledge about W.E.B. Du Bois and your imagination to compose a letter addressing this question. Elaborate on what might have changed and what could still be the same. Share your letter with a friend or family member!

– Have you noticed any issues in your school or community? How can you contribute towards finding a solution? Seek guidance from an adult and conduct further research on the internet or at your local library to gain more insight into the problem. Utilize Canva or any available materials to create an informative poster that educates others about the issue and suggests ways they can help. Share your newfound knowledge with your friends and family!

Sources of inspiration:

– https://www.britannica.com/dictionary (accessed 23 Feb., 2023)

– https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/w-e-b-du-bois (accessed 31 Jan., 2023)

– https://www.britannica.com/biography/W-E-B-Du-Bois (accessed 31 Jan., 2023)

– https://kids.kiddle.co/W._E._B._Du_Bois (accessed 31 Jan., 2023)

– https://kids.kiddle.co/Jim_Crow_laws (accessed 31 Jan., 2023)

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