Intellectual Biography on Dubois William Edward Burghardt 1868-1963 Term Paper

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intellectual biography of William Edward DuBois. The writer takes the reader on an exploratory journey that details the life of Dubois and his contributions to society and the field of social work. There were five sources used to complete this paper.

Since the nation's inception the movement to better understand social sciences has been a driving force behind many of the changes that have taken place. Social sciences provide a foundational groundwork for the discovery of why human behavior is what it is and how members of mankind interact with each other. Understanding this is one of the most important components of understanding human nature and it can open the door to guiding society in positive and constructive decisions for the future. In addition to the understanding of how people interact social work and social sciences provide clues to the workings within targeted populations. This understanding can assist in the move toward world peace and cohesive living. History has provided the world with many prominent names in the field of social work and social science. One of the most influential and forward thinkers in the field of social work is W.E.B. Dubois.

One biographer wrote about the famed social work expert;" Few intellectuals have done more to shape the twentieth century than W.E.B. Du Bois (DuBois Biography (" Dubois's life was filled with movements and activities geared toward changing the plight of many populations including the plight of the African-Americans. Dubois left his mark on the world through his work as an intellectual and his application of that intellect to the field of social work (DuBois Biography ( had the ability to move thousands of people to take action and change the way things happen. He was someone who held an elite point-of-view when it came to philosophy. He became so emotionally involved in his beliefs and his frustration that he renounced is American citizenship and died in exile but during his life he moved mountains to bring an understanding of human nature to the humans who lived it (DuBois Biography (


Dubois was born three short years after the act of slavery was declared illegal with the thirteenth amendment. While he did not live as a slave he was born close enough to the end of the practice that he was a front row witness to the lingering racism and attitudes that were still in practice. As a small child his family was several generations removed from actual bondage but he did have an opportunity to grow up listening to stories that were handed down about what it was like to be owned by another human being (DuBois Biography (

As a small child Dubois was shielded for the most part from the ugly views of racism. He grew up in a town that had very few black families and as a small child his teachers considered him a favorite. He was extremely intelligent and the teachers appreciated his intellect and love or learning. Dubois grew up in an almost perfect setting. This upbringing may have helped him become a social activist when he became a young man in college and discovered that the color of his skin was considered a problem to many that he encountered.


Dubois led a peaceful and happy childhood where he loved education and encountered success and admiration by those he worked with. When he became a young man and went off to Nashville, TN to attend Fisk University he had the rude awakening that racism was a fact in America and his skin color meant he would be treated as a second class citizen regardless of his brain and accomplishments. It was at Fisk University that he discovered his Black identity and it changed his life forever. It was that discovery that spurned him to become the great social leader that he became.

He spent his summers teaching in rural schools. It was there that he met "the real seat of slavery." Never before had he encountered such overwhelming poverty (DuBois Biography ("I touched intimately the lives of the commonest of mankind -- people who ranged from barefooted dwellers on dirt floors, with patched rags for clothes, to rough hard-working farmers, with plain clean plenty." Unlike Massachusetts, Nashville was a southern town that exposed Du Bois to the everyday bigotry he had escaped growing up. He accidentally bumped into a white woman who spurned his apology: "How dare you speak to me, you impudent nigger! (DuBois Biography (" By the end of his college years Du Bois had begun to take pride in his heritage. "I am a Negro; and I glory in the name (DuBois Biography ("

Dubois became a pioneer for the cause of many. He not only worked through the development of his personal philosophy, he led the way by example. Dubois felt that the true way out of the plight of prejudice was education. He entered and was the first African-American to graduate with a doctorate from Harvard University. While working for his doctorate he did his dissertation on the efforts of suppression on the African slave trade. He began his post degree life as a teacher and taught black students in Ohio at Wilberforce University. While he was teaching he also studied the life of African-American immigrants and published several papers including "The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study in 1899, the first serious sociological study of the emerging black urban population. " In 1897 Dubois was hired at Atlanta University. It was while he was there that he began his venture into what would become his life long love and tie to political activism. He spent the rest of his life immersed in the field of political and social activism. Dubois had spent several years traveling the nation, and he had grown up in a peaceful setting. He had witnessed first hand the changing and growing racism and discrimination that was taking hold in America and he began to devote his life to the education of Black Americans in questioning the practice and working for change.

Dubois was an alternative to the famed Booker T. Washington. Many believed that Booker T. wanted to keep the Blacks as subservient people. He is famous for saying that there was nothing wrong with the Blacks doing manual labor because a hard days work is still a days work. Dubois offered an alternative for those who believed Booker T. was an Uncle Tom in sheep's clothing and wanted more strength in the power of the race. Dubois presented an alternative by way of the theory that "with freedom, Negro leadership should have begun at the plow and not in the Senate (DuBois Biography ("

Critics of Booker T. Washington believed that he was actually playing into the hand of the white man and keeping his people in second class citizen status on the societal rung of success. They believed along with Dubois that the proof was in the fact that blacks did not gain strength or power until educated Blacks began to run for office and change the laws. "Du Bois met with black critics of Washington, who were calling themselves "anti-Bookerties (DuBois Biography (" In 1905 they met on the Canadian side of the Niagara River, and created the "Niagara Movement." They declared that all discrimination is "barbarous." Their solution was to call for "persistent manly agitation." They denounced legal segregation, the exclusion of black people from labor unions, and the denial of voting and civil rights (DuBois Biography ("

In 1909 Dubois joined an interracial group that became the NAACP. It was through this organization that he gained the ability to reach thousands. He did this through editing the newsletter that the organization sent out around the world. By 1914 there were over 6,000 members, which provided quite an audience for the social philosophies of W.E.B. Dubois. By the end of that decade there were so many members more than 100,000 people were reading that Dubois. He crossed the many boundaries that he was presented with and demanded that white people accept blacks as equals across the board and in all ways. His contribution to the field of social sciences took flight here because of the large audience he reached and the power with which he wrote his words.

The reason Dubois was such an asset to the world of social work and social science is that he did not only devote himself to the rights of Blacks, or whites. He devoted his life to the rights of all who were oppressed. He devoted many writings of the magazine to the rights of women and supporting the women's movement. He saw the women's suffrage movement working in action and he supported that action. He believed that for true equality to occur there must be true equality and the only way that would happen was to emancipate blacks and females. Dubois contributed greatly to the world of social work by his work…

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