Born in 1868 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was an author, intellectual and revolutionary advocate of black rights. The first black to graduate from Harvard, Du Bois went on to become a professor of economics, history and sociology at Wilberforce College and Atlanta University. Author of numerous literary works, Du Bois was the first black to be elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters. Two of his more significant discourses include The Philadelphia Negro (1899) and Souls of Black Folk (1903). With Souls of Black Folk; Du Bois began his intellectual revolt against the accommodationist principles of Booker T. Washington by demanding equal economic and social status for blacks. “One ever feels his twoness,” he wrote, “an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” Two years later, Du Bois helped found the Niagara Movement to espouse his ideals. Under Du Bois’ strong leadership, the organization developed into the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Du Bois’ advocacy efforts for black advancement directly foreshadowed and influenced the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.
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