Civil rights leader and author, William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts on February 23, 1868. He earned a B.A. from both Harvard and Fisk universities, an M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard, and studied at the University of Berlin. He taught briefly at Wilberforce University before he came professor of history and economics at Atlanta University in Ohio (1896-1910). There, he wrote The Souls of Black Folk (1903), in which he pointed out that it was up to whites and blacks jointly to solve the problems created by the denial of civil rights to blacks. In 1905, Du Bois became a major figure in the Niagara Movement, a crusading effort to end discrimination. The organization collapsed, but it prepared the way for the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), in which Du Bois played a major role. In 1910, he became editor of the NAACP magazine, a position he held for more than 20 years. Du Bois returned to Atlanta University in 1932 and tried to implement a plan to make the Negro Land Grant Colleges centers of black power. Atlanta approved of his idea, but later retracted its support. When Du Bois tried to return to NAACP, it rejected him too. Active in several Pan-African Congresses, Du Bois came to know Fwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana, and Jono Kenyatta the president of Kenya. In 1961, the same year Du Bois joined the Communist party, Nkrumah invited him to Ghana as a director of an Encyclopedia Africana project. He died there on Aug. 27, 1963, after becoming a citizen of that country.
Born on the Gold Coast (present-day Ghana), the son of a goldsmith and market trader from the Nzima tribe, Kwame Nkrumah was educated in the United States and Great Britain. His earlier degrees were in economics, sociology, and theology, but he also received an M.A. and did doctoral work in philosophy. In 1945 he put aside the academic career for which he had been training under Sir Alfred Ayer and became a Marxian political activist for the cause of Africans at home and abroad. He returned to the Gold Coast in 1947 and led the nationalist movement, for which he was jailed by the British. He was released in 1952, became prime minister, and helped effect independence in 1957, renaming the country Ghana. He served as president until 1966, when he was deposed by a military coup. He died in Bucharest, Rumania, while undergoing treatment for cancer. A distinctive dimension to Nkrumah's political impact was his contribution to Marxist socialist theory, with particular application to today's Africa. In this regard, his theory of "consciencism" is the most central. Nkrumah saw Africa pulled by the three religious value systems represented by indigenous tradition, Islam, and European Christianity. This is what Nkrumah saw as the crisis of African "conscience." Ultimately, according to Nkrumah, the solution lies in the qualified acceptance of Marxist socialism, but a socialism adapted to the cultural context of Africa.