His mother was descended from Dutch, African and English ancestors. William Du Bois's maternal great-great-grandfather was Tom Burghardt, a slave (born in West Africa around 1730) who was held by the Dutch colonist Conraed Burghardt.
W. E. B. Du Bois, in full William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, was born on February 23, 1868 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. His mother, Mary Burghardt Du Bois, belonged to a tiny community of African Americans who had been settled in the area since before the American Revolution. His father, Alfred Du Bois, was a visitor to the region who deserted the family in his son's infancy.