Throughout his career as a sociologist, historian, educator, and sociopolitical activist, William Edward Burghardt (W.E.B.) Du Bois argued for immediate racial equality for African-Americans. His emergence as an African-American leader paralleled the rise of Jim Crow laws of the South and the Progressive Era.
One of Du Bois most famous quotes encapsulates his philosophy, “Now is the accepted time, not tomorrow, not some more convenient season.
It is today that our best work can be done and not some future day or future year. It is today that we fit ourselves for the greater usefulness of tomorrow. Today is the seed time, now are the hours of work, and tomorrow comes the harvest and the playtime.”
Du Bois was born in Great Barrington, Mass on February 23, 1868. Throughout his childhood, he excelled in school and upon his graduation from high school, members of the community awarded Du Bois with a scholarship to attend Fisk University. While at Fisk, Du Bois experienced racism and poverty that was very different to his experiences in Great Barrington.
As a result, Du Bois decided that he would dedicate his life to ending racism and uplifting African-Americans.
In 1888, Du Bois graduated from Fisk and was accepted to Harvard University where he earned a master’s degree, a doctorate and a fellowship to study for two years at the University of Berlin in Germany. Following his studies in Berlin, Du Bois argued that through racial inequality and injustice could be exposed through scientific research. However, after observing the remaining body parts of a man who was lynched, Du Bois was convinced that scientific research was not enough.
Souls of Black Folk: Opposition to Booker T. Washington:
Initially, Du Bois agreed with the philosophy of Booker T. Washington , the preeminent leader of African-Americans during the Progressive Era. Washington argued that African-Americans should become skilled in industrial and vocational trades so that they could open businesses and become self-reliant.
Du Bois, however,