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W. E. B. Du Bois Biography | Poet

Photo of W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois was born on the 23rd of February in 1868 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts and died on the 27th of August in 1963 in Accra, Ghana. W. E. B. Du Bois was as important to the world of civil rights as he was to the world of poetry, if not more so. He was the first African American to have earned a P.h.D. from Harvard University and he helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), an organization that is still active today. His work the Souls of Black Folk is one of the most important pieces of African American literature today. He was also a strong supporter of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920's.

The Education of W. E. B. Du Bois

Du Bois was famously the first African American to have earned a doctorate at Harvard University. He managed to receive his education initially in a very liberal part of Massachusetts, which kept him strangely insulated from the truly virulent racism that was in full force at the time. He attended Fisk University and the University of Berlin as well, giving him a rounded and solid education which was unusual for all people at the time, especially black people.

Life and Times

It is difficult to underestimate the importance of W. E. B. Du Bois's contributions to civil rights. He was a sociologist, and activist, and a writer who created some of the most important works of African American literature. W. E. B. Du Bois was able to challenge a lot of the prevailing views of the day, such as the notion that the failure of the Southern Reconstruction was somehow the fault of black people. The histories that he produced related to the lives of black people in America and throughout helped stop certain sections of African American history from being lost entirely.

The Recognition of W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois is more famous as a sociologist, a novelist, and an historian than a poet. However, he has written some very notable poems, including Ghana Calls, My Country ’Tis of Thee and The Song of the Smoke. People today will be familiar with My Country 'Tis of Thee, given its riff on the lyrics from Samuel Francis Smith, and the fact that it is easy to adapt the song in question to use the poem rather than the original lyrics. W. E. B. Du Bois was an extremely prolific writer, so it isn't surprising that he was able to produce so much in the way of fiction and nonfiction. He won the Spingarn Medal in 1920 and the Lenin Peace Prize in 1959. However, the success of W. E. B. Du Bois should be measured in his effect on society, especially the society of his day, and not on the awards that he was able to achieve.

The Importance of W. E. B. Du Bois's Work

W. E. B. Du Bois's poem My Country 'Tis of Thee itself manages to bring to the forefront the purpose of a great deal of his work. The Samuel Francis Smith lyrics paint this extremely idealized portrait of America. Extreme nationalism was becoming more and more popular throughout the nineteenth century, and it was causing too many white Americans to forget just how bloody America's legacy really was. W. E. B. Du Bois was trying to stop the black voices of history from being erased, as well as the black struggles of history from being erased.

He had quite the talent with language, and he was able to use that talent to reach an audience that may not have otherwise been receptive to his message. The Souls of Black Folk was not well-received in its time, but it has become a classic today, and it has had a tremendous influence on all of the right people since then. W. E. B. Du Bois did an excellent job of more or less using all of his skills in order to improve his efforts towards fighting the good fight. His support for the Harlem Renaissance and the fact that he helped so many black artists only helped strengthen his contribution to American letters. 

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