Du Bois, William Edward Burghardt (1868-1963) By Haddad, Vincent; Moore, Paul S.; Paravantes, Andrew
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was the most significant critical writer on race and culture in the twentieth century. Du Bois characterized the issue of race in the United States as ‘the problem of the color line,’ a term that itself points to the nuance of Du Bois’s thinking; the problem was not one race or the other, but the abstract barrier between races that needed to be addressed. Over the course of his illustrious career, Du Bois’s thinking on race evolved from writing in the social sciences to writing political propaganda, and from thinking of the ‘Negro problem’ regionally (Philadelphia and Atlanta) to nationally and globally (‘Pan-Africanism’). Du Bois is popularly credited as the founder of modern civil rights movement because, co-founding the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), he espoused tactics of active agitation and civil disobedience as the more effective route to gain rights and recognition. However, because he ultimately considered capitalism incapable of offering true equality and freedom for minorities, Du Bois’s pivot late in life towards Marxist ideology (he joined the Communist party in 1961) ultimately contributed to a murky legacy in the United States. Du Bois eventually self-exiled to Ghana, which became his final resting place in 1963.