February 23, 1868 – August 27, 1963
Born on this day back in 1868, William Edward Burghardt “W.E.B.” Du Bois was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Du Bois grew up in a mostly European American town and identified himself as mulatto. He was able to attend schools with whites and was supported in his studies by his white teachers. In 1885 he moved to Nashville to pursue a degree at Fisk University and it was there that he encountered Jim Crow laws and racism.
After received his bachelor’s degree from Fisk, Du Bois went on to study at Harvard University and was the first African-American to earn a doctorate at the prestigious institution.
Du Bois is well known for his written work and the publication of his study, The Philadelphia Negro, marked the beginning of his extensive writing career. In the study, he coined the term “talented tenth,” which described the likelihood of one in 10 black men becoming leaders of their race. In 1903, he published The Souls of Black Folk, a collection of 14 essays and in 1909, he co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and served as the editor of its monthly magazine, The Crisis.
W.E.B. Du Bois died in 1963 at the age of 95 in Accra, Ghana while working on an encyclopedia of the African Diaspora.