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Profile of the Day: W.E.B. Du Bois

On this day in 1868, civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Du Bois is often considered one of the most influential proponents of civil rights during the first half of the 20th century.

Image: W.E.B. Du Bois / Library of Congress

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was born on February 23, 1868 to Alfred Du Bois and Mary Silvina Burghardt. His mother’s family was a part of a small, free black community in Great Barrington and had long owned land in the state. In 1895, Du Bois became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University.

Specializing in sociology, Du Bois spent much of his time studying African-American communities and the depths of racism in American society. His publication of The Souls of Black Folks, a collection of essays, thrusted Du Bois into the national spotlight. His work has since become a cornerstone of African-American literature. In 1909, Du Bois co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Du Bois died on August 27, 1963, one day before Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech.” He was 95.

Explore W.E.B. Du Bois’s family tree on Geni and share your connection to the civil rights icon.

View W.E.B. Du Bois’s Geni Profile

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