By: Rocky White
Speakers you Need (SyN) salutes W.E.B. Du Bois, the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University, for his ongoing quest for equal access to higher education for himself and for all people. Born William Edward Burghardt Du Bois in Great Barrington, MS, in 1868, Du Bois identified himself as “mulatto,” freely attended school with whites, and was supported in his academic studies by his white teachers. However, in 1885, when he moved to Nashville, TN, to attend Fisk University, Du Bois encountered Jim Crow laws that dominated the post-Civil War South. For the first time, he began analyzing the deep troubles of American racism.
After earning his bachelor’s degree at Fisk, Du Bois entered Harvard University, paying his way with money earned 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 earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University and went on to enroll as a doctoral student at Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität (now Humboldt-Universität). He would be awarded an honorary doctoral degree from Humboldt decades later, in 1958.
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Not long after completing completing his Ph.D., Du Bois published his landmark study — the first case study of an African-American community — The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study (1899), marking the beginning of his expansive writing career. 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 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 realm of a person’s life.
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.
Speakers you Need (SyN) applauds Dr. Du Bois for blazing an educational trail. SyN is a professional training company headquartered in Kansas City with over 100 subject matter experts positioned throughout North America. For more information about SyN’s professional development and continuing education programs, contact Rocky White at 913.815.1494 or check out: http://speakersyouneed.com/