W.E.B. Du Bois

Date TBD | WNET’s American Masters

W. E. B. Du Bois, the best-known spokesperson for African American rights during the first half of the 20th century, was an American civil rights activist, leader, Pan-Africanist, sociologist, educator, historian, writer, editor, poet, and scholar. Du Bois was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1895. In 1899, while teaching at the University of Pennsylvania, Du Bois published a pioneering sociological study of an urban community, “The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study” in which he coined the phrase “the talented tenth,” a term that described the likelihood of one in 10 black men becoming leaders of their race. Teaching next at the University of Atlanta, Du Bois continued to publish written work, including The Souls of Black Folk — a seminal collection of essays. He became known for challenging Booker T. Washington. In 1909, Du Bois co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and was the founding editor of The Crisis, its monthly magazine. Until his death in 1963, Du Bois’ efforts were geared toward gaining equal treatment for Black people in a world dominated by whites and toward marshaling and presenting evidence to refute the myths of racial inferiority


Rita Coburn is a Peabody and Emmy Award-Winning Director, Writer, and Producer of radio, television, and film. Beginning her career as a producer and writer for various news outlets across the U.S., Coburn went on to produce for the likes of The Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah Radio, Apollo Live!, and Walt Disney Productions. In 2016, Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise, which was co-directed and co-produced by Coburn, premiered at the 2016 Sundance Festival, aired on American Masters and went on to win a Peabody Award in 2017. Coburn also directed Marian Anderson: The Whole World in Her Hands for American Masters. Coburn’s value is such that she bridges the gap between generations and preserves African-American history. Through her work, she uniquely addresses topics from a multi-generational lens with a passion for impacting others through the untold stories of prominent figures and key ideals relevant to African-American culture.

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