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He wrote extensively and was the best-known spokesperson for African American rights during the first half of the 20th century. While growing up in a mostly white American town, Du Bois identified himself as mulatto, but freely attended school with white people and was enthusiastically supported in his academic studies by his white teachers.
In , he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to attend Fisk University. It was there that he first encountered Jim Crow laws. For the first time, he began analyzing the deep troubles of American racism. He paid his way with money from summer jobs, scholarships and loans from friends.
After completing his master's degree, he was selected for a study-abroad program at the University of Berlin. While a pupil in Germany, he studied with some of the most prominent social scientists of his day and was exposed to political perspectives that he touted for the remainder of his life.
He would be awarded an honorary doctoral degree from Humboldt decades later, in Du Bois published his landmark study — the first case study of an African American community — The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study , marking the beginning of his expansive writing career. In the study, he coined the phrase "the talented tenth," a term that described the likelihood of one in 10 Black men becoming leaders of their race. While working as a professor at Atlanta University, Du Bois rose to national prominence when he very publicly opposed Booker T.