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Professor Mehrvand Farinaz Azari

Biography: Synopsis Early Life Writing and Activisim Pan Africanism and Death Double Consciousness

Scholar and activist W.E.B. Du Bois was born on February 23, 1868, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. He studied at Harvard University and, in 1895, became the first African American to earn a doctorate from Harvard. He wrote extensively and was the best known spokesperson for African American rights during the first half of the 20th century. Du Bois cofounded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909. He died in Ghana in 1963.

william Edward Burghardt Du Bois, better known as W.E.B. Du Bois, was born on February 23, 1868, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. While growing up in a mostly European American town, W.E.B. Du Bois identified himself as "mulatto," but freely attended school with whites and was enthusiastically supported in his academic studies by his white teachers. In 1885, he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to attend Fisk University. It was there that he first encountered Jim Crow laws. For the first time, he began analyzing the deep troubles of American racism.

Du Bois at the age of four, dressed to conform to the Victorian era's idea of how well-behaved little boys should appear.

After earning his bachelor's degree at Fisk, Du Bois entered Harvard University. He paid his way with money from summer jobs, scholarships and loans from friends. After completing his master's degree, he was selected for a study-abroad program at the University of Berlin. While a pupil in Germany, he studied with some of the most prominent social scientists of his day and was exposed to political perspectives that he touted for the remainder of his life. In 1895, Du Bois became the first African American to earn a doctorate from Harvard University

Jubilee Hall at Fisk University is the oldest permanent building for the higher education of African Americans in the United States

A year later, Du Bois published his landmark study, The Philadelphia Negro, marking the beginning of his expansive writing career. In the study, he coined the phrase "the talented tenth," a term that described the likelihood of one in 10 black men becoming leaders of their race. While working as a professor at Atlanta University, W.E.B. Du Bois rose to national prominence when he very publicly opposed Booker T. Washington ‘s"Atlanta Compromise," an agreement that asserted that vocational education for blacks was more valuable to them than social advantages like higher education or political office. Du Bois criticized Washington for not demanding equality for African Americans, as granted by the 14th Amendment. Du Bois fought what he believed was an inferior strategy, subsequently becoming a spokesperson for full and equal rights in every


In 1903, Du Bois published his seminal work, The Souls of Black Folk, a collection of 14 essays. In the years following, he adamantly opposed the idea of biological white superiority and vocally supported women's rights. In 1909, he co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and served as editor of its monthly magazine, The Crisis.

Du Bois and other black leaders of similar opinions organized what became known as the Niagara Movement. It was the first organization to seek full political and economic rights for Afro-Americans at a national level. By 1910, the organization led to the founding of the NAACP.

Du Bois (2nd row, 2nd from right) in a NAACP sponsored demonstration against lynching and mob violence against blacks.

He taught for the next ten years at Atlanta University and published two of his major works, BLACK RECONSTRUCTION: AN ESSAY TOWARD A HISTORY OF THE PART WHICH BLACK FOLK PLAYED IN THE ATTEMPT TO RECONSTRUCT DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA 1860-1880 and DUSK OF DAWN. In 1951, when he was 83 years old, the federal government prosecuted Du Bois for his affiliation with the Communist Party. A judge eventually threw out the case. Disillusioned with the United States, he officially joined the Communist Party in 1961 and moved to Ghana; he renounced his

A proponent of Pan-Africanism, Du Bois helped organize several Pan-African Congresses to free African colonies from European powers. W.E.B. Du Bois died on August 27, 1963, at the age of 95, in Accra, Ghana, while working on an encyclopedia of the African Diaspora.


Double consciousness is a term coined by W.E.B DuBois. The term is used to describe an individual whose identity is divided into several facets. Du Bois saw double consciousness as a useful theoretical model for understanding the psycho-social divisions existing in the American society


It is a peculiar sensation, this doubleconsciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.

The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife — this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He does not wish to Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He wouldn't bleach his Negro blood in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of opportunity closed roughly in his face.”


African Americans struggle with a multi-faceted conception of self. This results from African slaves being torn away from their homeland and struggling to now define themselves as African American, even though they are not treated the same as other Americans. It also results from having to see themselves not only through their own eyes but through the eyes of the whites who for centuries had legal control over their lives; they are thus constantly aware of how much their own sense of identity and value conflicts with the identity and value imposed upon them by white America.

One thing alone I charge you. As you live, believe in Life! Always human beings will live and progress to greater, broader and fuller life. The only possible death is to lose belief in this truth simply because the great end comes slowly, because time is long. -- W.E.B. Du Bois in his last statement to the world, 1963