The Souls of Black Folk


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This collection of essays by scholar-activist W. E. B. Du Bois is a masterpiece in the African American canon. Du Bois, arguably the most influential African American leader of the early twentieth century, offers insightful commentary on black history, racism, and the struggles of black Americans following emancipation. In his groundbreaking work, the author presciently writes that "the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line," and offers powerful arguments for the absolute necessity of moral, ...

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Curran B

Nov 3, 2011


Du Bois, writing in 1903, takes issue with Booker T. Washington?s gradualist paradigm of addressing race inequality and calls instead for immediate equal rights, regardless of race or gender. The first African American to receive a PhD form Harvard claims that ?the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line? (3). He seeks to examine this problem by explaining what Emancipation meant to the black community (I) and what it effected (II). He explicitly criticizes Washington?s vision (III) then uses his experience of teaching school in TN while a student at Fisk to illustrate the experience of ?life within the Veil? (of living as a black person in a white-dominated world) (IV), and (V-VI) the ideology of Atlanta University to challenge both the ideals of the Reconstruction approach to educating freedmen (that all should be pressed toward liberal arts University study for the advancement of the race?Du Bois proposes instead that training should match capacity and suggests that the dignity of common work is better prepared for by training specific to it), and the post-Reconstruction assessment of the failure of the project (its misconception, rather than the limitations of the black race, was the reason for the failure), contending that the black university should be to ?maintain the standards of popular education... seek the social regeneration of the Negro... help in the solution of problems of race contact and coöperation.... [and] it must develop men? (80). He gives a tour of the Black Belt (VII-VIII) to help the reader understand the hard nature of life in black communities. He explores the way the (then) current condition of the black race is both the result of and contributor to racial prejudice, with a very fair assessment of both parties of the ?sons of master and man? (IX). He explores the way Negro religion both placates the status quo and urges for equality by speaking to the deep urges of the soul (X). In a painfully personal chapter he explores the death of his first child and realizes that he is somewhat glad the child has escaped the harsh realities of black life (XI). Du Bois concludes the book with a tribute to a mentor, in which he finds the triumph over the three hampers to black progress: Hate, Despair and Doubt (XII); a picture of racial repression in the face of nobel striving for betterment leading to a lynching (XIII); and a depiction of the black condition in Negro spiritual music (XIV).


Mar 2, 2011

Excellent and moving

This was beautifully written. Certainly he was describing the conditions of black people during his time, so it is a political/sociological treatise, but it was also almost poetic in places. I understand it was originally written as separate essays, but it flows beautifully. Well worth the read.


Jun 5, 2009

Read Before U Leave College

You must experience this book by reading it for the first time. I don't know how I left college without ever reading essential DuBois. The book is basically a snap shot of the historical events he witnessed, his observation and relations with people and commentary. The writing style AWESOME, complicated, and balanced, all at the same time.

What I can appreciate most is that the book is as much a guide on credit, debt, personal financial loss and charity, as it is on social and political science.

Shortly after the war the freedmen contributed $750,000 to their educational betterment, purchased land, started various business enterprises, and saved with the Freedmen's Bureau Bank. This showed incredible thrift on their part, a kind of thrift that can be admired even today.

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