W.E.B. Du Bois — the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard — was born in Massachusetts on this date in 1868.
Du Bois championed equal rights for all and co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) with Moorfield Storey and Mary White Ovington on Feb. 12, 1909, the 100th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's birth. The organization's mission is "to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination."
In 1885, when Du Bois attended college at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, he encountered discriminatory Jim Crow laws that were created after the Civil War and segregation. Du Bois worked to advance rights for minorities and women. He passed away at age 95, one day before Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.
The fight for equal rights made tremendous strides during Du Bois' life and is part of the celebration of Black History Month.
"The importance of [Black History Month] is it's an opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge the things that happened in our culture in the past so that we can live so comfortably today," Phil Loadholt said. "Not so long ago, we couldn't even sit in a room together, so it's a time for us to acknowledge the sacrifices that were made by the people who came before us and celebrate them."