William Edward Burghardt Du Bois

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Du Bois, William Edward Burghardt


Born Feb. 23, 1868, in Great Barrington, Mass.; died Aug. 17, 1963, in Accra, Ghana. American historian, sociologist, and writer. One of the founders of modern Negro literature in the USA.

Du Bois received his Ph.D. in 1895. He was a professor of economics and history at Atlanta University from 1897 to 1910 and head of the department of sociology there from 1933 to 1944. In 1961 he moved to Ghana, where he was director of the secretariat for the compilation of the Encyclopedia Africana. He was the author of works of fundamental importance showing the role of the Negro peoples in the history of world culture and the destructive consequences of the colonial policies of imperialism, slavery, and racial discrimination.

For many years, Du Bois thought that an effective means of struggle against the oppression of Negroes in the USA would be the creation of an independent association of Negro small farmers. He idealistically regarded moral self-improvement and education as the crucial requirement for realizing democratic reform. This outlook was reflected in his artistic works, including the collection of essays Souls of Black Folk (1903) and the novel Quest of the Silver Fleece (1911; Russian translation, 1925), the hero of which clashes with the cynicism of bourgeois politicians.

The book of short stories, essays, and poems Darkwater (1920) reflected his growing radicalism. In the late 1940’s, Du Bois’ world outlook changed a great deal. He came to recognize the close link between the national-liberation movement and the class struggle of the proletariat. The trilogy The Black Flame, consisting of The Ordeal of Mansart (1957; Russian translation, 1960), Mansart Builds a School (1959; Russian translation, 1963), and Worlds of Color (1961), was a fictionalized account of the history of the American Negro’s struggle against racial discrimination.

Du Bois’ scholarly, literary, and educational works were inextricably tied to his practical work for peace and friendship among peoples and his struggle for the abolition of colonialism. From 1910 to 1948 he was one of the leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He was an organizer and participant in the international Pan-African congresses of 1919, 1921, 1923, 1927, and 1945, and he became a member of the World Peace Council in 1950. Du Bois was awarded the International Peace Prize in 1953 and the International Lenin Peace Prize in 1959. In 1961 he joined the Communist Party of the USA. He held honorary degrees in history, law, philosophy, and literature from the universities of many countries, including an honorary doctoral degree in historical science from Moscow State University, awarded in 1959.


In Battle for Peace. New York, 1952.
Black Reconstruction. New York, 1956.
The Autobiography. New York, 1968.
An ABC of Color: Selections .… With an introduction by J. O. Killens. New York [1969].
In Russian translation:
Dzhon Braun. Moscow, 1960.
Afrika. Moscow, 1961.
Vospominaniia. Moscow, 1962.
Tsvetnye miry. Moscow, 1964.


Ivanov, R. F. Diubua. Moscow, 1968.
Pittman, J. “Logika odnoi zhizni.” Inostrannaia literatura, no. 3, 1962.
W. E. B. Du Bois, 1868-1963: A Bibliography. Accra, 1964.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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