W E B Du Bois was born in 1868 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. He graduated from high school there in 1884. After an undergraduate career at Fisk University, in Nashville, Tennessee, where he received a B.A., Du Bois entered Harvard as a junior, on scholarship, in 1888. He received his M.A. in history in 1891.
In 1895 he received the Ph.D. from Harvard, the first black person in American history to obtain a doctorate in a secular subject. His dissertation, The Suppression of the African Slave Trade to the United States of America, 1638-1870, was the first publication of the Harvard Historical Series and marked the beginning of the scientific study of black history.
Virtually throughout his life, Du Bois worked as writer, editor, and scholar. In 1903 he wrote Souls of Black Folk; his reason for writing the book was to express pride in his people, his belief that they have a mission to perform for mankind out of their oppressed condition, and to influence public policy.
In 1910, Du Bois joined the executive board of the newly launched NAACP and became an organiser and agitator for the rest of his life. He died on August 27, 1963, the day before the Civil Rights March in Washington, D.C.
The major theme of The Souls of Black Folk is the oppression of Black people and the perpetual hope for a better lifestyle. Another theme is the consequences of ignorance. Because the Black people did not know of any better lifestyle, they naturally accepted whatever the white man gave to them.
Also, man’s inhumanity to man was seen in the way the white man did injustice to the Blacks. However, one of the most important themes in the novel was the importance of keeping one’s faith. Black people kept their faith by going to church.