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William Edward Burghardt or W.E.B. Du Bois was an African American humanist, civil rights activist, and writer in the 1860s to the 1960s. He grew up in a tolerant, at least for it’s time, community, where he was able to receive an education and even get his graduate degree, being the first African American to receive a doctorate. He was a co-founder of the National Association for Advancement Of Colored People, leader of the Niagara Movement, and a huge Anti-war activist.
Du Bois was born in the 1860s to a family of free black folks in Great Barrington who gained their freedom during the American Revolutionary War. Records of this incident have been lost as tracking slave records where not kept in the utmost care so many of his relatives and ancestors are known as simple speculation. His father died early in his life and it was through his mother he received his name and heritage. But it was known that he had white heritage in his bloodline from white setterlesmant forcing themselves on their slaves, one of these was of French descent giving his last name of Du Bois. He was treated fairly well, living in a majority European American community. He went to the local public school where he was able to play with white children. His teachers supported him in his efforts to learn and was able to attend college with the help of the town raising money for his tuition. He was able to attend Fisk University, a black college in Tennessee where he first experienced Southern racism. He bared witness to first hand the effects of Jim Crow laws, lynching, and bigotry for the next decade of his life till he moved to Harvard. He moved out of country to Berlin which changed his views as he traveled around Europe. He studied at some of the most prominent schools in Germany and was the first African American to earn a Ph. D. from Harvard university.
Once he come back to America, he started teaching at a University in Ohio. He found that the best way to compare the racism in America was to teach new ideas and morals to influences social change. He performed several sociological studies in the field of search that devalued African Americans. He documented the conditions and retrospect of African American neighborhoods finding out how and why their formation came about. The black community was an untested field of study and he found knowing how it came to be about is the best way to know how to make it better. He wrote The Philadelphia Negro as a report of his findings in that field, creating the foundation for his future studied and making his name into the humanity field of studies. This was in fact the first case study done over any black community in the United States as Philadelphia has been notorious for its crime, poverty, and low mortality. Du Bois proved to destroy this stereotype with the evidence and data he first handedly collected. He saw that it was due to the long standing racial separation that was destroying these communities like Philadelphia. He planned to show that by breaking the stereotypes and racial prejudices in America was the only way towards true equality in the United States. He wrote a paper rejecting the idea that blacks need to integrate with white but rather it is the whites who should be accepting. Blacks should not have to change for the white man in order to be seen as humans, they have always been human and should be treated as such. Southern states have been trying to keep blacks from voting for years, he saw the injustices all around the world for the treatment of blacks. He used his writings to speak against the United States and the Imperial Europe to start giving blacks the respect they deserve and to acknowledge their rights.
He was strongly opposed to the Atlanta compromise which was supported by another spokesperson for black people, Booker T. Washington. The deal promised black workers an education and to work as long as they unquestioningly followed white plantation owners again. Despite congratulating Washington at first, Du Bois saw through this re-installment of slavery and fought for black representation in politics. He wrote about these objections throughout his book as well, highlighting his points that blacks should demand for more than education, but basic human decency. While he does wish for the use of black schools like Washington, he is not willing to sell the dignity of his race in order to get it. He used his writing skills to start speaking against the United States government and the Imperial Europeans nations as well for blacks of all nations in his book, The Souls of Black Folk. He believed that there could be African-American intellectual elites if they fought for a chance to have leadership roles. He was extremely active in this endeavor as he wrote essays about the prejudice and racism still alive in America. He wrote about how the Reconstruction Era utterly failed to settle the race dispute that was in the south and even in the north. Blacks were promised the sweet chance of freedom; a “promised land” they have never seen before yet it was all in vain as they were still trapped. He wrote about the uselessness of the Separate but Equal Act and how it still caused more racism in America. It lead to a passive America where it refused to not only give African Americans rights, but make it so that they should not ask for more rights. In hiss other essays, he even approached the topic of Capitalism in America where it is the major, if not the sole cause of racism itself. He was considered a socialist throughout his life which painted him in a negative light.
Throughout this book he was seen as the figurehead of the social movement for race in the United States. Through the Nigeria Movement, he helped in the fight against the south’s racism for blacks and fought for equal rights. This was the 1800s where lynching and the Jim Crows laws were the norm of society, especially in the south. He was against all forms of discrimination, even for other minorities like Asians were included in his protests. He wanted to help the African colonies fight for their independence from Europe’s imperial control in the Pan-African Congresses. Under this movement, various of other writers and himself wrote several opposing principles to the Atlanta Compromise and self-published their work. He wrote 14 essays in the hopes that black folks intellect would be seen by the public. He points out the great hardships the blacks have faced, being denied education, being denied jobs, and being denied freedom would make it hard for anyone to start a new life. These drawbacks are due to the American culture not because of any fault of African Americans being any less human than their white counterparts.
In World War I, he made a stand for black soldiers in France. There he documented the horrible treatment black soldiers had to face under the United States military. He was against war from the very beginning. He believed in peace and that there should be a disarmament of all nuclear weapons all around the world. Some of the whites believed that blacks did not have the qualification to be proper officers. Even the black community did not want blacks to be in what they considered to be ‘a white man’s war.’ Du Bois set up a camp in order to help train black soldiers for the war but once there was show of discrimination in the military he started to vocalize his protest against the U.S. military and the war itself. After the war, Du Bois discouraged any African Americans from joining the army as many of the soldiers were treated as laborers and even give suicide missions. He wrote his edition “Returning Soldier” on how blacks coming back from the war had a newfound confidence among them. Many tried to get jobs in the north which only lead to more disaster. His actions here will also be seen in World War II were he outworldly spoke against the war as well.
Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk has made its impression throughout the passage of time as one of the most influenction pieces of work. It has inspired African Americans throughout history looking for social scientific evidence from a black person’s perspective, which was hard to come by in the 1800s. Du Bois experimented in sociology making it so that his studies would show the injustice and inhumanity shown to the black people of America. He even wrote his own experiences of dealing with racism comparing both what he had to deal with in America and what he had to deal with in Europe. He saw that while whites were certainly the ones to cause this kind of thinking it was also due to blacks passiveness. He dubbed the concept “Double consciousness” where black people must no longer see themselves as white people look at them. They have to demand for respect and see them as deserving of civil rights. They have to see that the way the world looks at them is wrong and should be changed.
In each chapter of his book he writes poems and paragraphs of his respective findings within his lifetime. His unusual way of writing has been described as musical and harmonious like the religious writings in Christian writings. He used poetic devices to describe the way America has treated black people, using metaphors to describe their despair. He used many similes in reference to minorities on how America has not only disappointed her people but disappointed herself as well. Du Bois finds that blacks live within their own society where no outsider could ever understand, and by that he means white people. He sees himself as rejecting the world of the white people. He finds that Christianity had been tainted in a way by white culture, leading to one of the major causes of suffering. He wanted to focus on the present, on the living nature around them, and not on the life ahead of them.
The Souls of Black Folks has made its point in history as being one of the few books written from the perspective of the victim. People have made note of this as being a book not only about the suffering of a whole race but that race having an argument for their side. In most cases there are pieces of literature from the victims side but rarely does it provide an intelligent argument to show the injustices at the time. While not applying to any religion he does use the argument of black people having “souls” as their right for civil rights. For being human there should be given a opportunity for higher education and better dignity in their value. Du Bois made several predictions about the future, claiming the color-line, there being social constructs drawing the line of racism, all leading to a revolution within the colonies. There was constant force placed on people who live in poverty and discrimination, but he believed that sooner or later the people will rise up in arms and take it upon themselves to fight for their rights. He takes a view of learning how the world has been described for white people. That all information and education has been tainted for them to be in their favor.
When he published his book to the public he found that there was a considerable amount of backlash as well. The Nashville Banner described the book of being dangerous, describing events that could never happen and should never be thought of either. There were reports for the New York Times how this was a different point of view being given to the American people, a “negro” point of view of the system of America. There is a valued place in Du Bois’s stories and poems in that they have inspired many revolutions later on, after his time, inspiring people to rise up and demand the respect that they know they deserve, intellectually and morally.
This book has been considered a treasure to historians in this modern time. As having books written by slaves in the time of slavery was near impossible until the abolition of slavery in 1865. The mere thought of destroying the black prejudices in the south was an impossible dream, that no one would ever be able to change their mindset and that they were in the right. Now they have the direct perspective of a black person from this time to give his account for such prejudice. While there have been other, just as rare, accounts of living in the black community these accounts are of those who had escaped to the north. Rather Du Bois was one to fight for the wrongness in the south, rather than singing praises of the north. He directly fought with the Black Belt of the South and demanded retribution for their injustice brought to millions of blacks. Other writers find that there is a “white world” and a “black world” and that Du Bois breaks the world with his double consciousness saying these settings are set in stone.
Du bois obviously shows his concern with how race and people interact with one another, trying to find a middle ground but he points that there are more masculine undertones for this to happen. He describes this progress as more of a male perspective as it male is the defiant human. He points out the tension between the internal conflict of the nation compared to the social construct of what is considered to be dominant in their society. Dub Bois finds the he is not looking to get rid of people being proud of their race but trying to find a methods for races to be compatible with one another. However in order to have these races to be in harmony with one another he finds that intelligence minority males should be in charge. This would be in case saying that people like Du Bios himself would be in charge of a nation in order for there to be world peace.
Du Boise continues this line for thinking saying that their reproduction of colored men is also needed in order for their line of leadership could survive. Other males should in fact embrace a more submissive role in society, letting for other better more intelligent men take over. Du Bois believed that if men could be allowed to have a more rounded characters cnad embrace their more feminine features this would lead to a great civilization. In Du Bois other works like “Of the Coming of John” the main character has a lack of traditional masculinity and therefore must be queer. This book is thought to show how disillusion and impossible it would to live in a world where queerness could be accepted and allowed dispute Du Buis strong belief in it.
Du Bois gives a lot of personal opinions about what he think to the strong black religion and how the cultural significance had on its people. Du boise has blamed this religious attitude to the view that black people over over themselves, leading them to this passive attitude for denading of civil rights. Several professors have taken into account the cultural criticisms that Du bois has made in their writings, trying to decipher what he was trying to convey in this worlds. Du Boise makes a demand of the black community to have a sense of self-conscious. It is almost a demand for the black community to take into question everything aournd them a very Enlgishmentment point of veiw. Rather there is very the black community is still part of the world but due to their suffering has actually reached a different way of thinking that does not align with the natural world. They are to be considered exiles in a foreign land and that this accepting of differences is a good thing and not harming them like Du Bois implies. She believes that this type of reflection goes beyond the progressiveness that Du Bois claims to be the best solituite. Whether it is the acceptance of religion or finding the religion is the force holding a community back is still a debate even by today’s stands. She sees the self-consciousness of the world as “either-or” rather than her preferred method as “both-and.” In one hand there has to be a conscious choice but on the other they can be a unification of both. Du Bois had been described choosing between modernism and the church to cause great suffering within people while others find that one can both with the church and look for modernization at the same time.
The Civil Rights Acts used many of the reforms that Du Boise fought for his entire life. He was never able to see this change as it was created a year after his death. Du Bois still made a huge impact in his life, speaking out against World War II and provider to be a spokesperson for the black race his entire life. In the 1960s he was able to visit Ghana where he got support to fund his encyclopedia project, Encyclopedia Africana. Being refused entry back into America and become a citizen of Ghana were we died two years later at the age 95.
In my opinion, W. E. B. Du bois was a very great man who saw the world for what it truly was and knew he had to do something about it. He did what so many African Americans were afraid to do and went on to succeed where so many had failed. His book truly captures what Du Bois and so many others blacks had to go through just to be seen as equals. Du Bois didn’t take any from nobody and that is admirable in itself. He left behind a legacy that so many follow to this day and I wish there were more men like him today.


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