W.E.B. Du Bois: Cambridge/Great Barrington

W.E.B. Du Bois Photograph

“One ever feels his twoness, -- an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings..."

Born in Great Barrington in 1868, William Edward Burghart Du Bois was one of the most prominent and influential civil rights activists of his time. He was an active opponent of racism throughout his life, and was a founding member of the NAACP: at first serving as the Director of Publicity and research, and going on to serve as the organization’s president. His influence is still felt today.

Du Bois's childhood home belonged to his maternal grandparents, having been in their family for over 100 years. While Du Bois only lived on the property a short time, it remained important to him; in 1928, on his 60th birthday, Du Bois was given the property as a gift.  After his death it became a memorial park, and later designated as a National Landmark, and ultimately donated to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The University of Massachusetts at Amherst serves as custodian, and has conducted archaeological research on the site.

Du Bois earned a degree from Fisk University in Tennessee before entering Harvard in 1888 to earn his bachelor’s degree. He received a fellowship in 1892 for graduate work at the University of Berlin, and traveled extensively while he was a student there. Though Du Bois was admitted for study at Harvard, he was not allowed to take a room in the dormitory and was forced to find accommodations at 20 Flagg Street. The private residence is marked by an informational plaque, courtesy of the Cambridge African American History Project.

In 1895, Du Bois became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University.