Du Bois And The Soul Of The Black People Research Paper Sample
“The problem of the twentieth century is the color line; the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia, Africa, Americas, and the islands of the sea.”
-Du Bois, ‘The Souls of the Black People,’ p. 19
The purpose of this paper is to analyze the life and works of William Edward Burghardt Du Bois or commonly known to many readers as Willie Du Bois was a Black American freethinker of the early twentieth century. He was an interesting figure, both in history and sociology due to his contributions in uplifting the Black people and eradicating the color discrimination prevalent in the Americas during his time. He wrote political and criticisms which opposes the racial discrimination against the Black American. He believed that Black Americans should be treated as equal of the Whites, mainly because both races are official citizens of the nation. After close examination of his accounts, I would like to argue that Du Bois was an influential figure who led the debate regarding the racial inequality in the United States. As a carte blanche, I will attempt to elaborate the empirical facts that I have found based on my research about his life, works and his contributions in the field of Sociology and his aggressive attempt to change the way the society views the other races, especially the Blacks. During the time of racial inequality in America, he bravely stood and fought for his beliefs and even lifted himself as an ‘educated negro,’ which was truly rare at that time.
According to Lewis, Willie Du Bois was born on the 23rd of February in the year 1868 on a small town of Church Street, Great Barrington in Massachusetts (11). His parents were Alfred Duboise and Mary Burghardt (Broderick, 1) and their wedding was documented in the Berkshire Courier (Lewis, 11). Willie’s surname has been the subject of continuous debate, whether he had a French ancestry or not. Based from the written accounts about his life, Du Bois was actually pronounced as ‘due boys,’ instead of following the original French reading. Broderick claims that Du Bois was actually a mulatto of French Huguenot, Dutch and Negro ancestry (1). Even at a tender age, young Willie was already aware of the division between the Whites and the Blacks; wherein the White race dominates the society which is entirely separated from the Negro community (Broderick, 1). William Du Bois attended the local grammar school. However, his intellectual pursuits led to many criticism and hostility among his White classmates. He used this experience to provide an accurate detail of a life of an African-American and the extent of discrimination they experience. His teachers encouraged his love for wisdom without any hesitation. Du Bois eventually attended the Fisk University located in Nashville, Tennessee which provided him a great backdrop for direct observation of racial discrimination. Biographical accounts detailing his life state that he also attended the prestigious Harvard University in 1888 as a junior student. In 1890 he took up a bachelor’s degree in the same institution and even gained a position as one of Harvard’s most respected speakers (NAACP.org, n.p.). Most of his life was spent outside the United States. During his time, he was probably one of the few African-Americans ever to study in the Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin, Germany. After two years of intense studying, he was eager to return to his country to use his education (Stafford and Davenport, 1). Despite his intelligence and high educational background, Du Bois faced much discrimination in terms of finding a suitable employment. Most employers of the early twentieth century discouraged the Blacks from getting any positions in their companies and government posts. The extent of this racial discrimination encouraged Du Bois to attack the racial segregation by directing bitter comments towards the Whites, in response to their cruel treatment of African-Americans. According to Stafford and Davenport, Willie faced an uncertain future. Numerous biographical accounts stated that upon returning to America, he faced challenges in obtaining a respectable position in the society. He sent letters of application to every Black University until one late summer; he was accepted at Wilberforce University in Ohio, where he taught Black people Latin and Greek. Afterwards, he transferred to the University of Pennsylvania and joined the sociology faculty (3). Scholars and modern day sociologists consider DuBois as a catalyst for the abomination of racial discrimination in America. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People claims that DuBois was an excellent scholar who published 21 books such as The Souls of the Black Folks (1903), and a novel entitled, The Quest of the Silver Fleece (1911). Aside from this, he also published over a hundred essays and articles arguing various topics: The Negro in Business (1899), Economic Cooperation among Negro Americans (1907), and The Negro American Family (1908). Since 1897 up to 1910, William DuBois served as a faculty member of the Atlanta University; meanwhile, in 1934 up to 1944 he was elected as a chairman of Sociology Department in Atlanta University (NAACP.org, n.p.). Despite the challenges he faced during his attempts to liberate the rights of the African-Americans, one of his notable contributions is the creation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909. NAACP is an organization devoted for the rights of African-Americans. Furthermore, DuBois died in Ghana on August 27, 1963 and given a state funeral for his contributions for the welfare of the people (NAACP.org, n.p.).
African-American History Program. William E.B. Dubois, Scurlock Studio Records, Archives
Center, National Museum Of American History, Smithsonian Institution. 2015. Web. 16 Jan. 2015.
Broderick, Francis. W. E. B. Du Bois, Negro Leader in a Time of Crisis, Volume 2. California: Stanford University Press, 1959. Print.
DuBois, W.E.B. The Souls of Black Folk. Maryland: Arc Manor, 2008. Print.
Lewis, David Levering. W. E. B. Du Bois, 1868-1919: Biography of a Race. New York: Henry
Holt and Company, 1993. Web. 12 Jan. 2015.
NAACP.org. 'NAACP History: William Edward Burghardt Du Bois'. n.p., 2015. Web. 13 Jan.
Stafford, Mark, and John Davenport. W.E.B. Du Bois. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2005. Print.
Figure 1: William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (1868-1963) - Pan-Africanist, Activist, Reformer, Author and Sociologist. Pride of the African-Americans. (Image Source: African-American History Program).
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