Du Bois was born in 1868 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, to a free Black family in a comparatively integrated community. He attended the local schools and excelled in his studies, eventually graduating as valedictorian of his class. However, when in 1885 he began attending Fisk University in Tennessee, he encountered for the first time the open bigotry and repression of the Jim Crow South, and the experience had a profound impact on his thinking. Du Bois returned to the North to further his education, with nothing less than equal rights for Black Americans being his ultimate goal. When he earned his Ph.D from Harvard University in 1895, he was the first Black man to have done so, and his dissertation, “The Suppression of the African Slave Trade to the United States of America, 1638–1870,” was one of the first academic works on the subject.