Before Martin Luther King Jr. there was W. E. B. Du Bois. Like King, Du Bois was a civil rights activist. We usually don’t think of his life or his activism in religious terms. He was a historian, sociologist, educator and journalist, and he was not a member of the clergy. But religion permeated his thought and spurred his actions.
Edward J. Blum, a professor of history at San Diego State University and author of Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism, 1865-1898, considers Du Bois to be a quintessential American prophet. His religious perspectives and practices might have been complex or untraditional, but Du Bois rooted his critique of a racist America in his own spiritual experiences and understandings.