W.e.b. Du Bois Views On Civil Rights
During the first half of the 20th century, the Civil Rights Movement was in full action. During the 1900s, white and black Americans were segregated. The Jim Crow laws were laws that enforced racial segregation between African Americans and white Americans in the southern states. Many African Americans disagree with the laws and considered them unfair and unequal. The Jim Crow laws included the separation in buses, schools, businesses, and many other public places. The law was meant to be considered as “separate but equal,” but the concept turned out to be a failure. In 1905, an organization called the Niagara Movement was founded by a group led by W.E.B. Du Bois and William Monroe Trotter. The organization aimed for full political, civil, and social rights for African Americans. William Edward Burghardt Du Bois knew as W.E.B Du Bois had an impactful role in the history of African Americans and is considered to be the most important black protest leader during the first half of the century.
On February 23, 1868, W.E.B. Du Bois was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. William was raised in Massachusetts, where he received encouragement from his teacher in his local high school. He was largely unaware of racism where he lived and had a good early childhood. Du Bois’ mother, Mary Silvina Du Bois, worked as a domestic worker and his father, Alfred Du Bois, worked as a barber. Du Bois’ father left the family when he was still very young and his mother died when he was just 16 years old. To meet his needs, he worked as a timekeeper in a local mill. He also became the first African American to graduate from his high school that same year. He then went on to college at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee for three years. During his attendant at Fisk University, it had a heartfelt effect on him. He experienced racism, segregation, and unequal rights between colored and uncolored people. The experiences he had shaped his outlooks, beliefs, and ideas on race which would last his whole life (W.E.B. Du Bois, Growing Up 2-3). After he attended Fisk University, he went to Harvard University to earn his B.A. and Ph.D. In 1890, he earned his B.A. in philosophy. 2 years later, he was awarded a grant to study at Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin. William received his Ph.D. in 1895 and was the first African American to receive the award (Morse).
In 1897, Du Bois moved to Atlanta University to teach economic sciences and history. During his time in Atlanta Du Bois published a book called The Souls of the Black Folk which he is best known for. In the book, he wrote, “the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line” (The Souls of the Black Folk 5). This book was very important to African Americans because of the way it emphasizes their humanity and strength despite mistreatment. The book also calls out Booker T. Washington for his belief that if African Americans focused on education and the need to be taught economics, there would be less discrimination. Du Bois wrote many books about the situation of African Americans which he tries to get through the mind of his readers to make them see the importance of being black in America.
A few years after writing The Souls of the Black Folk, he created a group with other black leaders called the Niagara Movement, which pursued the abolishment of all differences based on race, but the movement’s main purpose was the resistance of Booker T. Washington’s philosophy (W.E.B. Du Bois). Booker T. Washington had a plan where he believed that African Americans should restrict themselves to industrial education and manual labor rather than political protest. The organization was named after the location where the group met which is on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. The movement urged African Americans to protest the limitations of civil rights and the denial of equal economic opportunity. The movement was soon to be short-lived which lasted from 1905-1909 because the movement was unable to attract supporters due to lack of funds. Booker also prevented newspapers that advertised the Niagara Movement which caused the lack of supporters. The principles of the Niagara Movement soon led to the creation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) which adopted many goals from the movement.
In 1910, Du Bois became the co-founder of the NAACP and became a popular spokesman for the black cause. He served as the director of publicity and research for the organization from 1910 to 1934. Du Bois led organization efforts to bring groups together such as social workers, abolitionist descendants, and black churches. In 1911, the organization issued its mission statement, “to promote equality of rights and to eradicate caste or race prejudice among the citizens of the United States; to advance the interest of colored citizens; to secure for them impartial suffrage…” (NAACP). The NAACP became the most successful protesting organization with Du Bois its leading figure. In 1911, the organization establishes its official monthly news publication called “The Crisis” which was founded and edited by Du Bois. In 1915, “The Birth of a Nation” was released throughout the United States – the movie idealized the Ku Klux Klan. Du Bois reviewed the film in “The Crisis” and criticized its racist propaganda which resulted in a boycott of the film in many cities. On July 28, 1917, the organization organized a civil rights protest beginning on 59th Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City called the “Silent Parade”. The protest became the largest civil rights protest in United States history with an estimated 10,000 marchers moving silently up the streets with signs that raised awareness about lynching, Jim Crow laws, and attacks against African Americans (Lewis). Many peaceful protests erupted throughout the United States which was organized by the NAACP.
In 1934, Du Bois resigned from the NAACP and The Crisis because of his new argument for an African American nationalist strategy that resisted the NAACP’s commitment to integration. After their resignation, Du Bois was a chairman of the department of sociology at Atlanta University. Du Bois published a few books while working in Atlanta such as Black Reconstruction, Black Folk, Then and Now, and a revision of The Negro. His most significant work during his time in Atlanta is Black Reconstruction; the book details the role of African Americans in American society during the reconstruction period. His book was criticized for using Marxist concepts and the attack of a racist character. The book remains one of his best single sources on its subject.
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