William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (February 23, 1868 – August 27, 1963) was an American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author, writer and editor.
Considered ahead of his time, Du Bois was an early champion of using data to solve social issues for the black community, and his writing – including his groundbreaking The Souls of Black Folk – became required reading in African-American studies.
Du Bois and family moved to Atlanta University, where he taught sociology and worked on his additional Bureau of Labor Statistics studies.The Souls of Black Folk is a work of American literature by W. E. B. Du Bois.Among the books written during this period was The Souls of Black Folk, a collection of sociological essays examining the black experience in America. Partially derived from his Atlantic article, it embraced Du Bois’ personal history in his arguments.
It is a seminal work in the history of sociology, and a cornerstone of African-American literary history.
The book, published in 1903, contains several essays on race, some of which the magazine Atlantic Monthly had previously published. To develop this work, Du Bois drew from his own experiences as an African American in the American society. Outside of its notable relevance in African-American history, The Souls of Black Folk also holds an important place in social science as one of the early works in the field of sociology.
In The Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois used the term "double consciousness", perhaps taken from Emerson ("The Transcendentalist" and "Fate"), applying it to the idea that black people must have two fields of vision at all times. They must be conscious of how they view themselves, as well as being conscious of how the world views them.
Racism was the main target of Du Bois's polemics, and he strongly protested against lynching, Jim Crow laws, and discrimination in education and employment.
His cause included people of color everywhere, particularly Africans and Asians in colonies. He was a proponent of Pan-Africanism and helped organize several Pan-African Congresses to fight for the independence of African colonies from European powers. Du Bois made several trips to Europe, Africa and Asia. After World War I, he surveyed the experiences of American black soldiers in France and documented widespread prejudice in the United States military.
Du Bois was a prolific author. His collection of essays, The Souls of Black Folk, was a seminal work in African-American literature; and his 1935 magnum opus, Black Reconstruction in America, challenged the prevailing orthodoxy that blacks were responsible for the failures of the Reconstruction Era. Borrowing a phrase from Frederick Douglass, he popularized the use of the term color line to represent the injustice of the separate but equal doctrine prevalent in American social and political life. He opens The Souls of Black Folk with the central thesis of much of his life's work: "The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line."
Du Bois believed that capitalism was a primary cause of racism, and he was generally sympathetic to socialist causes throughout his life.
He wrote one of the first scientific treatises in the field of American sociology, and he published three autobiographies, each of which contains essays on sociology, politics and history. In his role as editor of the NAACP's journal The Crisis, he published many influential pieces. He was an ardent peace activist and advocated nuclear disarmament. The United States' Civil Rights Act, embodying many of the reforms for which Du Bois had campaigned his entire life, was enacted a year after his death.