Du Bois and His Rivals:
"W. E. B. Du Bois was the preeminent black scholar of his era. He was also a
principal founder and for twenty-eight years an executive officer of the nation's
most effective civil rights organization, the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Even though Du Bois was best
known for his lifelong stance against racial oppression, he represented much
more. He condemned the racism of the white world but also criticized African
Americans for mistakes of their own. He opposed segregation but had
reservations about integration. Today he would be known as a pluralist." In Du
Bois and His Rivals, Raymond Wolters provides a distinctive biography of this
great pioneer of the American civil rights movement. Readers are able to
follow the outline of Du Bois's life, but the book's main emphasis is on discrete
scenes in his life, especially the controversies that pitted Du Bois against his
principal black rivals. He challenged Booker T. Washington because he could
not abide Washington's conciliatory approach toward powerful whites. At the
same time, Du Bois's pluralism led him to oppose the leading separatists and
integrationists of his day. He berated Marcus Garvey for giving up on America
and urging blacks to pursue a separate destiny. He also rejected Walter
White's insistence that integration was the best way to promote the
advancement of black people.
Du Bois, W(illiam) E(dward) B(urghardt)
This gives an overview of W.E.B. Du Bois' life and contributions to American history
and scholarship, and to the struggle for Black Liberation. In the near future, I hope to
offer brief working papers on specific aspects of Du Bois' life and work.
William Edward Burghardt DuBois, to his admirers, was by spirited devotion and
scholarly dedication, an attacker of injustice and a defender of freedom.
A harbinger of Black nationalism and Pan-Africanism, he died in self-imposed exile in
his home away from home with his ancestors of a glorious past—Africa.
Labeled as a "radical," he was ignored by those who hoped that his massive contributions
would be buried along side of him. But, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, "history
cannot ignore W.E.B. DuBois because history has to reflect truth and Dr. DuBois was a
tireless explorer and a gifted discoverer of social truths. His singular greatness lay in his
quest for truth about his own people. There were very few scholars who concerned
themselves with honest study of the black man and he sought to fill this immense void.
The degree to which he succeeded disclosed the great dimensions of the man."
His Formative Years
W.E.B. DuBois was born on February 23, 1868 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. At
that time Great Barrington had perhaps 25, but not more than 50, Black people out of a
population of about 5,000. Consequently, there were little signs of overt racism there.