Celebrating Black History Month: Wiliam Edward Burghardt Washington

"I believe in Liberty for all men; the space to stretch their arms and their souls;
the right to breathe and the right to vote, the freedom to choose their friends,
enjoy the sunshine and ride on the railroads, uncursed by color; thinking,
dreaming, working as they will in a kingdom of God and love."

The Souls of Black Folk (1903)

Reading Comprehension: Du Bois's Early Years (Upper Intermediate)
On February 23, 1868, W. E. B. Du Bois was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Soon after, Du Bois's father left his wife and son. So his mother, Mary, had to rear her son alone.

Mary was poor. She was also an invalid. But she did not let the family's poverty or her ill health interfere with her son's education. She insisted that William attend elementary school through high school in Great Barrington's integrated school system.

Du Bois was the first African-American to graduate from his local high school. He was also the valedictorian of his class.

Shortly after graduation, Du Bois's mother died. Du Bois knew he would have to pay his own way through college. Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, offered him a scholarship. He accepted.

Nashville, Tennessee, proved quite different from Du Bois's home in Massachusetts. While Great Barrington, Massachusetts, had been an integrated community, Nashville was segregated. Among other things, blacks and whites had to attend separate schools. Du Bois was upset because the schools for black children were inferior to those for white children.

After graduating from Fisk, Du Bois was accepted into Harvard. In only two years, he earned a second bachelor's degree. Then, he began work on a doctorate in sociology at Harvard.

Du Bois remembered the struggles African-American people faced in the South. He wondered whether discrimination was as much of a problem in other countries. So he spent three semesters touring Europe. He also studied at the University of Berlin. As his studies came to an end, he decided that discrimination was greater in the United States than in other countries.

After leaving Harvard, Du Bois became a professor at Wilberforce University in Ohio. There he taught English, German, Greek, and Latin. Next, he taught foreign languages at the University of Philadelphia. He also wrote The Philadelphia Negro. Because of this work, Du Bois was recruited by Atlanta University to teach history and economics. In Atlanta, Du Bois continued to research, write, and publish works about black life in America.

In 1900, Du Bois became involved in international politics. He took part in the Pan-African conferences. The Pan-African conferences addressed the colonization of various African countries. Du Bois said that colonization should end. He said the African nations should be allowed to establish governments and rule themselves. Because of the Pan-African conferences, Du Bois wrote, "The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line." He believed European colonization of African nations was as great a problem as segregation within the U.S.

In 1868 Du Bois was born in obscurity and poverty. In only thirty-two years, he was internationally known. W. E. B. Du Bois was establishing himself as one of the greatest minds of the twentieth century.
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Comprehension Questions

For Discussion . . .

For Further Research . . .
Investigate segregation

Investigate colonization

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