Du Bois as sociologist?
why did du bois get involved with sociological research and is this approach relevant for you today
February 23, 1868 – August 27, 1963
Considered one of the most influential black intellectuals of the 20th century, W.E.B. Du Bois encouraged intellectual development, economic independence, and helped found the NAACP. In his early career he experienced great success, but as his views moved toward Black Nationalism and socialism, support for his ideas waned. By the end of his life he had renounced his United States citizenship and moved to Ghana.
Du Bois was born in the small town of Great Barrington, Massachusetts. He began his college education at Fisk University, and then transferred to Harvard University where he received his bachelor’s in 1890. He began his graduate work at Harvard University, and after a short stint at the University of Berlin from 1892 to 1894, he returned to Harvard University and received his Ph.D.
In 1896, his dissertation, “The Suppression of the African Slave-Trade to the United States of America, 1638-1870,” was published in the Harvard Historical Studies series.
After receiving his Ph.D., Du Bois began teaching at Wilberforce College in Ohio. In 1896, he left for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he conducted a study of black neighborhoods for the University of Pennsylvania. The result of his study was published in his book, The Philadelphia ***** (1899).
In 1897, he joined the faculty at Atlanta University. In 1903, his collection of essays was published in his most famous work, The Souls of Black Folk. In it he argued the “the color line” was the central problem of the 20th century. He also rejected Booker T. Washington’s argument for accommodation and for the promotion of training blacks to work in trades. While Washington promoted industrial training, Du Bois focused on intellectual advancement.
In 1905, Du Bois and William Monroe Trotter, editor of the Boston Guardian, formed the Niagara Movement. The organization sought to obtain civil and political rights for blacks and challenged Booker T. Washington’s ideas. It existed for only a short time.
Despite the failing of the Niagara Movement, in 1909 Du Bois helped found the interracial organization, the NAACP. Du Bois served as the director of research and was the editor of its magazine, The Crisis.
In addition to his work for the NAACP, Du Bois also had an interest in Black Nationalism and socialism. As an advocate of Pan-Africanism, he organized the first Pan-African Conference in 1900 and another in 1919. Du Bois encouraged the intellectual development of blacks and promoted the idea of a group economy as a way to fight discrimination and poverty. In 1912, he joined the Socialist party for a brief time.
In 1920, he published the controversial book, Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil. As his views changed, so did his vision on the direction that the NAACP should take. Du Bois believed the organization should focus on black economic development as opposed to fighting discrimination. In 1934, he resigned as editor of The Crisis.
He returned to Atlanta University where he began teaching again. Also, during this time he published several books, including Black Reconstruction (1933), Dusk of Dawn: An Essay Toward an Autobiography of a Race Concept (1940), and Color and Democracy, Colonies and Peace (1945). In 1939 he also founded, Phylon, a somewhat radical journal that explored racial issues. In 1944, he was forced to resign from Atlanta University. He returned to the NAACP in 1944 where he served in a research position. After renewed disagreement with the NAACP, he was dismissed in 1948.
In 1951, Du Bois and four others were indicted under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and charged with not registering as agents of a foreign government. Du Bois and the others were acquitted. However, the government and colleagues shunned him because of his socialist leaning, and he remained disconnected from the civil rights movement.
In 1961, he moved to Ghana where he began to work on the Encyclopedia Africana and he also became a citizen of Ghana. He died in 1963 before he could finish his encyclopedia.