Article

W.E.B. Du Bois

Rashawn Ray

in Sociology

ISBN: 9780199756384
Published online July 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0063
W.E.B. Du Bois

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William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (b. 1868–d. 1963) was a pioneering social theorist, methodologist, public sociologist, and social activist. It is estimated that he wrote over four thousand articles, essays, and books during his ninety-five years. Although Du Bois has university and government institutes named after him, is the namesake of the American Sociological Association’s Distinguished Career of Scholarship Award, and even has a Facebook appreciation group, he experienced professional marginalization and social isolation from whites and blacks during his professional life. Du Bois’s theoretical concepts and empirical findings were trend setting as he challenged ideologies about black inferiority. However, this path less traveled meant standing alone and making theoretical claims that individuals on both sides of the aisle pragmatically disagreed with. Unlike others during his era, Du Bois supplemented his theoretical suppositions on black plight, the urban and rural environment, and the black middle class with empirical research documenting structural racism as the main culprit of racial inequality. Du Bois, who pronounced the final s in his name, was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. During his teenage years, Du Bois developed an interest in race relations and became the local correspondent for the New York Globe. Upon graduating as valedictorian of his high school, Du Bois attended the historically black Fisk College (now Fisk University) in Nashville. After three years, Du Bois graduated from Fisk in 1888 and enrolled in Harvard on a scholarship as a junior. Du Bois received his bachelor’s degree in 1890 (as one of the selected commencement speakers) and his master’s in 1891. With a grant from a federal education fund for blacks headed by former president Rutherford Hayes, Du Bois spent two years at the University of Berlin in Germany studying economics and history. During his study abroad, Du Bois saw the pervasiveness of racism in a globalized context. While Du Bois wanted to complete his PhD at Berlin, he was refused additional funding and finished at Harvard in 1895 as the first African American to obtain a PhD from the university. Du Bois worked in various capacities at Wilberforce University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Atlanta University and was a founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the editor of the Crisis. In his later years, Du Bois married Shirley Graham in 1951, after his first wife passed away; immigrated to Ghana; and became a Ghanaian citizen, dying there on 27 August 27 1963, on the eve of the March on Washington.

Article.  11953 words. 

Subjects: Sociology ; Comparative and Historical Sociology ; Economic Sociology ; Gender and Sexuality ; Health, Illness, and Medicine ; Population and Demography ; Race and Ethnicity ; Social Movements and Social Change ; Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility ; Social Theory

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