W.E.B. DUBOIS Approaches and Philosophy to African American History
“It behooves the United States…in the interest both of scientific truth and of future social reform, carefully to study such chapters of her history as that of the suppression of the slave-trade. The most obvious question which this study suggests is: How far in a State can a recognized moral wrong safely be compromised?” W.E.B. Du Bois
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was born on February 23, 1868, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Great Barrington, a predominately-white town where Du Bois’ mothers family was part of the very small free black population having long owned land in the state. The Dubois family descended from Dutch and African ancestors, including a West African-born man named Tom Burghardt. According to W.E.B. Du Boise’s: The Autobiography of W.E.B. Du Bois: A Soliloquy on Viewing My Life from the Last Decade of Its First Century, Tom served as a private for Captain John Spoor's company in 1780, during the Revolutionary War, a service which won him his freedom. According to Du Bois, several of his maternal ancestors were notably involved in regional history. This upbringing and family history impacted the approach and helped develop the philosophies of Du Bois regarding the study and advancement of African Americans and their history.
It is difficult to determine why work for individuals of African descent- work that would lead to a more prosperous future- was not easy to come by. The causes were not strictly race related, although it was a substantial ingredient, but rather it was lack of training, understanding, and the reluctance to venture further into a still unknown land. Du Bois’ family members worked as farmers, barbers, waiters, cooks, housemaids and laborers where, “…in these callings a few prospered. [Where] my cousins, the Crispels of West Stockbridge, owned one of the best homes in town, and had the only barber shop; my Uncle Jim long had a paying barber...