The Souls of Black Folk
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[ Arranged chronologically from earliest to latest ]
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Pp. viii-264. Price, $1.20 net.
He discusses the great race problem which confronts the American people. Education, intellectual, but still more industrial, is the only solution of this problem. "They are rising, all arising, the black and white together."[**] There is a strange pathos in some of the chapters, as that on the Sorrow Songs of his race, some of which are given with the strange, fascinating music to which the are sung. The studies of the Black Belt, the Training of Black Men, the Quest of the Golden Fleece, the Faith of the Fathers, and the Passing of the First-born are a new voice of strange power in our ears. A fine poetical vein runs through these papers.
With other black boys the strife was not so fiercely sunny: their youth shrunk into tasteless sycophancy, or into silent hatred of the pale world about them and mocking distrust of everything white; or wasted itself in a bitter cry, Why did God make me an outcast and a stranger in mine own house? The shades of the prison-house closed round about us all: walls strait and stubborn to the whitest, but relentlessly narrow, tall, and unscalable to sons of night who must plod darkly on in resignation, or beat unavailing palms against the stone, or steadily, half hopelessly, watch the streak of blue above.
** Note 2: This brief sentence comes from a John Greenleaf Whittier poem that Du Bois prepended to the start of Chapter V, "Of the Wings of Atalanta." The poem is Whittier's "Howard at Atlanta" (viewable online) which spelled out the moral consequences of the end of slavery for both the enslaved and the enslavers: "The one curse of the races / Held both in tether; / They are rising
Note 3: In the original text of the review, note that (a) the subtitle of Souls was not included within the double quotation marks encompassing the main title; and (b) the periodical titles in the review were not italicized.
The Souls of Black Folk,1 by Mr. W. E. Burghardt du [sic] Bois, is an eloquent appeal to the American people to foster and develop "the traits and talents of the negro, in order that some day, on American soil, two world-races may give each to each those characteristics both so sadly lack. . . . There is no true American music but the wild sweet melodies of the negro slave; the American fairy tales and folk-lore are Indian and African; and, all in all, we black men seem the sole oasis of simple faith and reverence in a dusky desert of dollars and smartness." According to Mr. Burghardt, [sic] the indirect results of Mr. Booker T. Washington's teachings have been: (1) the disfranchisement of the negro; (2) the legal creation for him of a distinct status of civil inferiority;
[Footnote at the bottom of p. 354:]
1 The Souls of Black Folk : Essays and Sketches. By W. E. Burghardt
[Note: "Negro" is not capitalized in the original text -- RWW.]
In point of literary excellence this collection of articles by Dr. DuBois is entitled to a place in the first rank of the varied and ever-increasing literature of the "race problem." To the student of the question, to him who is concerned with more than its superficial manifestations, this book is an interesting and valuable study; to him who is looking to the most highly educated, easily the most intellectual man identified with the negro race, for a deliverance containing something of helpfulness and hope, it is a distinct disappointment.
Throughout the book is tinctured with bitterness, a bitterness unfortunate even though pardonable and easily understood by those who are acquainted with something of the life of its author. It is at once a protest and a plea; a protest against the identification of the individual with the mass,--a plea for public and personal consideration unaffected by questions of color or race. This does not mean to my comprehension of the book an appeal for "social equality" between white and black, as the world understands that term, a braking down of social barriers between the races as races, but rather a plea for individual treatment based upon individual character and deserts.
This runs through the book and dominates its entire tone, and after one has finished it and put it down, let him turn back to its very beginning if he would reason for himself upon the question of the attitude of the white race toward those whom the author calls black. He may learn there something of the force of instinct and heredity which exhibits itself in childhood, and so often in maturer years stifles even the voice of sympathy and reason. These pages tell that it was not as a man seeking a school in the South that the author first learned to feel that he "was different from the others;" it was in far off New England, and even as a child, that he first awakened to the presence of "the shadow of the veil."
The statement of the position of Booker T. Washington may be fair enough in its essentials, possibly, but when we read his criticism of it we are prone to ask, "What, then, would Dr. DuBois have done?" To appeal to reason and sympathy is well enough, but what of a propaganda based upon "demands?" It matters not how much of abstract "justice" or "right" may be behind the move, the history of a long series of "demands," enacted into laws and backed by force, is so recent that he who runs may read the fate of similar efforts in the South. Dr. DuBois is too thoughtful a man to countenance any such suggestion,--yet until one is prepared to go as far as may be necessary along the line of insistence it is difficult to understand the wisdom of taking issue with Principal Washington's course.
Much might be said by way of moralizing upon the frame of mind which leads to a casual reference to Sam Hose as having been "crucified,"--so also might we upon such a sketch as that entitled "Of the Coming of John,"--but the moralizing would be as barren of any possible good as was the incorporation of this story in the book.
Despite the cry of the "negrophobist" already raised in some quarters to anticipate the suggestion, the fact remains that to one reared among the negroes of the South--to one who is living a life of daily contact and association with the masses of these people--to one who has enjoyed their confidences and listened to their recitals of grievances and wrongs personal and peculiar to themselves,--to this man it is not "the souls of black folk" thus laid bare. Herein may the really thoughtful of those who consider America's "race problem" find food for sober reflection,--for here may they learn, perhaps for the first time, that possibly already this problem is become "the problem of the color line." Here also may they read of life that is tragedy in itself,--tragedy that needs not the setting of the stage to evoke the pity of the human heart. To such as these this book suggests a moral upon its every page; by the many to whom "the problem" they so knowingly discuss presents but a single hue, it will be used to bolster up time worn theories of "the negro question."
RW's Note 2: Alfred Holt Stone's Studies in the American Race Problem (1908), with additional essays by Walter F. Willcox, is available at the Internet Archive: search results page.
du Bois.[sic*] (London : A. Constable & Co.) 5s. net.
RW's Note 2: ** "10,000 Americans" was printed in the original.
Note 2: Dymocks still exists as a bookseller in Australia. For its history read "The Dymocks Story" on the web.
[ Arranged chronologically from earliest to latest ]
http://digital.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/. . . .node=atla0080-2%3A6
www.archive.org/details/atlantic80bostuoft [Internet Archive: 30 MB DjVu]
An anonymously written notice of Du Bois's "Strivings of the Negro People" was published in the "Atlantic Monthly" subsection of "The Periodicals Reviewed" section of the American Monthly Review of Reviews (v.16, n.2; August 1897) at pp.233-4. The notice—along with its extensive quotation from DuBois's essay—is presented here verbatim:
"The training of the schools we need to-day more than ever—the training of deft hands, quick eyes and ears, and the broader, deeper, higher culture of gifted minds. The power of the ballot we need in sheer self-defense and as a guarantee of good faith. We may misuse it, but we can scarce do worse in this respect than our whilom masters. Freedom, too, the long-sought, we still seek—the freedom of life and limb, the freedom to work and think. Work, culture, and liberty—all these we need, not singly, but together; for to-day these ideals among the negro people are gradually coalescing, and finding a higher meaning in the unifying ideal of race—the ideal of fostering the traits and talents of the negro, not in opposition to, but in conformity with, the greater ideals of the American republic, in order that some day, on American soil, two world races may give each to each those characteristics which both so badly lack."
Note 2: Page 233 at Google Books:
An anonymously written, contemporary comment on "Strivings" was published the "Literary Notes" subsection of the "Editorial Department" section of a lawyers' periodical The Green Bag (v.IX, n.9; September 1897) at p.416. Refering to the August issue of The Atlantic we find the following one-sentence note:
http://digital.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/. . . .node=atla0083-1%3A13
http://www.archive.org/details/atlantic83bostuoft [Internet Archive: 37 MB DjVu]
"The Religion of the American Negro" was described anonymously in the "Literary Notes" section of the Friends' Intelligencer and Journal in this way: "Prof. DuBois's paper is especially informing and philosophic." (v.58, no.6
http://digital.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/. . . .node=atla0087-3%3A7
ing the exact conditions of every negro family –
their economic status – their ownership of land –
their morals – their family life – the houses they
live in and the results of the mortgage system
http://books.google.com/books?id=IF6tNZnhO7wC. . . .&cad=0#PPA848,M1
http://www.archive.org/details/dialliterarycrit31browrich [36 MB DjVu]
["The United States and its Territories, 1870-1925: The Age of Imperialism"]
First page: p. 121 [Click the "next" button to advance through the essay]
http://www.archive.org/details/annalsaa18ameruoft [Another digital copy]
http://books.google.com/books?id=Yb6ddR9NbacC&pg=PPA121 [Start page]
[Another copy of the same volume]
"I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not. Across the color line I move arm in arm with Balzac and Dumas.... From out the caves of Evening that swing between the strong-limbed earth and the tracery of the stars, I summon Aristotle and Aurelius and what soul I will, and they come all graciously with no scorn nor condescension. So, wed with Truth, I dwell above the Veil."
Originally published in The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 90 (September 1902): 289-297, this essay became Ch. VI, "Of the Training of Black Men", in DuBois' The Souls of Black Folk (1903).
Anonymous. Brief review of Du Bois's "Of the Training of Black Men" in the American Monthly Review of Reviews, vol. XXVI, no. 3 (September 1902) on p. 371. The review is presented below verbatim and in its entirety:
[About-this-book page for the American Monthly Review of Reviews, vol. 26]
Robert Pinsky. "The American John Milton: The Poet and the Power of Extraordinary Speech." Slate Magazine (Posted Monday, 18 August 2008) [Accessible online]. In an essay on the English poet, essayist, and iconclast John Milton and his intellecutal reception in the United States, Pinsky relates DuBois to Milton in the following passage from the beginning of the essay:
W.E.B. Du Bois, the American essayist and political leader, begins the peroration of his great essay "On the Training of Black Men" with a sentence like a symphonic chord, fortissimo, compact, rousing:
I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not.
[. . . .]
The power of "I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not" may be related in part to its form. Although it begins a prose paragraph, Du Bois' sentence is a perfect line of blank verse: the measure of Shakespeare's plays. The pattern of five iambs often appears in prose when the writer wants a certain intensity; for example, "We hold these truths to be self-evident" and "With malice toward none, with charity toward all." In the example from Du Bois, his topic sentence sets off a passage of high eloquence, all of it close to blank verse, to reach another pentameter: "So, wed with Truth, I dwell above the Veil."
It's not just the rhythm that gives a special —- as if physical —- force to the words "I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not." The unusual order of the words, placing the negative at the end, gives Du Bois' sentence a vocal emphasis. As in the slang habit of a few years ago, but with a different order of meaning, the delayed "not" has emotional color. The somewhat contorted syntax creates meaning: defying the idiomatic arrangements of English yet also refreshing them with a douse of Latin's relatively free word order.
The writer of blank verse in English who exploited that way of writing, influencing countless generations of poets and changing the language itself forever, is John Milton, born 400 years ago. His writing permanently saturated American culture and discourse. Du Bois in this passage refers to Shakespeare explicitly. Implicitly, he also echoes Milton, as have many American writers and public speakers.
[End of quoted material]
[URL for entire volume: http://hdl.handle.net/2027/nyp.33433003180506]
[Permanent URL for v.28: http://hdl.handle.net/2027/uc1.$b812838]
[ Arranged chronologically from earliest to latest ]
"Newark, New Jersey Celebrates Black History Month by Selecting W.E.B. DuBois' The Souls of Black Folk" (Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience at Rutgers-Newark; not dated).
[Link to mp3 file: http://talkinghistory.oah.org/shows/2003/dubois.mp3]
[Defunct link: http://www.socialistalternative.org/justice36/23.html]
The following search engines find web pages based on some variant of this
[ Arranged alphabetically by author, with the exception of Core ]
http://www.bilkent.edu.tr/~jast/Number16/jast16.pdf [Scroll through PDF file]
As for the legacy of Du Bois classic, I think it is to minority, black or Third World discourse, what Aristotle's poetics is to literary criticism. Everything else that has been said since this history-making text was published is something of a footnote. I agree with those who state that Du Bois' book served as a kind of harbinger of Malcolm X, Frantz Fanon, Stokely Carmichael, and Martin Luther King, Jr. etc. But to this list must be added Langston Hughes, (who acknowledged that The Souls was the first book that he read on his own) [,] Countee Cullen, Claude Mckay and Jean Toomer. Leopold Sedar Senghor, Leon Gontran Damas, Aimé Césaire and Peter Abrahams are also unforgettable contributors to the same cause. We cannot, I believe, properly understand Steve Biko and his Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa without an awareness of some of the issues first raised in The Souls.
[ Converted by Google.com into an HTML file ]
http://edoc.hu-berlin.de/humboldt-vl/152/all/PDF/152.pdf [PDF: ~527 KB]
No longer available at www.findarticles.com
[ . . . . ]
Just as the sorrow songs were borne out of the experience of slavery in the United States, the Chimurenga songs were a reflection of revolutionary struggle against colonialism in Zimbabwe. Just as African Americans wore the veil and lived with double consciousness, Black Zimbabweans experience the veil as a result of internalizing foreign ideas and practices from the British colonizers.
Chimeranga music carried multiple meanings also. For some, the songs were a call to action and to pick up arms against the colonizers. For others, the songs had partisan leanings and seemed to favor only the ruling party.
http://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015068967762.... [Start page: p.81]
...involves the interplay of three forces: The first concerns the role of Africa as an aesthetic (rather than material) category in DuBois's struggle to institute the black as a modern subject. The second is his validation of the aesthetic ideology as the only way in which the modernity of the black could be accessed since other forms of cognition -- the moral and the rational, for example -- had been foreclosed. The third is the haunting of DuBois's desired modern subject by the figure of Africa, for even when the African American sought identity with Africa as the fatherland..., there was always the nagging suspicion that this association also called into question his or her Americanness, thus reinforcing the tragic split subjectivity that DuBois was to describe as double-consciousness in Souls.
http://www.hti.umich.edu/cgi/.../...;idno=4761563.0002.101 [Permanent link]
• At the Harvard University Press website one can access the "Introduction", Chapter 1, and the Index to Gooding-Williams's In the Shadow of Du Bois: [PDF file: ~298KB]
• There is a taped interview of Dr. Gooding-Williams discussing In the Shadow of Du Bois in June 2011; it is available at the C-SPAN Video Library, or at C-Span's Book TV, or at YouTube (~14 minutes duration).
An added feature of a phenomenological turn is not only its foundations in an intentional theory of consciousness but also the phenomenological injunction against notions of disembodied consciousness. Du Bois's reflections [on double consciousness in Souls] bring to the fore the lived reality of a problematic consciousness. Such a consciousness finds itself embroiled in a dialectic of constantly encountering an alien reflection of the self in the social world. Fanon, in Black Skin White Masks, presents a powerful portrait of what it means to live ensnared by the search for the self in an antipathetic other's eyes or the dialectics of recognition.
[An HTML version converted by Google.com]
"Remembered for his single-minded commitment to racial justice and his capacity to shape black consciousness, Du Bois used language and ideas to hammer out a strategy for political equality and to sound the depths of the black experience in the aftermath of slavery."
Reneá Henry responds to the essay of Bartley McSwine [q.v.] by highlighting the significance of Anna Julia Cooper to the intellectual milieu in which Du Bois worked. Cooper, Henry argues, anticipated arguments on the role of African Americans in general and Black women in particular, in advancing civilization. Cooper made such arguments in her A Voice from the South (published in 1892 and available online).
by Walda Katz-Fishman, Jerome Scott, and Ralph C. Gomes (August 2003).
Dr. Kelly describes the important role played by Du Bois's concept of double consciousness in understanding the deleterious effects of White racial norms on persons of color and indeed others who are marginalized by social conventions and practices. In addition, he documents how African American public school teachers created the conditions to promote positive self-worth and intellectual development among Black students — at the very least, an implicit use of the concept of double consciousness to challenge oppressive norms. In Dr. Kelly's words, he employs "Du Bois' concept of double consciousness to examine how Black teachers before desegregation promoted 'two thoughts' in their classrooms and schools — cautiously and responsibly." (p.136) His supporting evidence derives from interviews with Black public education teachers, who taught in legally segregated schools in several parts of Eastern North Carolina, about their teaching principles and practices.
Dr. Kelly provides various examples from his interview participants. For example:
As a consequence, participants employed double consciousness to challenge White supremacy and White racism directly in their schools — carefully and responsibly. [p.137]
Kendi also analyzes a thesis that pervades Souls: the complementarity of mutually distinct biological race traits among Blacks and Whites. Kendi writes:
. . . James Weldon Johnson, the composer of the “Black National Anthem,” lifted every voice and sang the praises of The Souls of Black Folk, for having a "greater" impact "upon and within the Negro race than any other single book published in this country since Uncle Tom’s Cabin." It is difficult to understand where Du Bois was coming from in Souls without having traveled with Harriet Beecher Stowe to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, published fifty years earlier, in 1852. "The scenes of this story," Stowe wrote, "lie among...an exotic race, whose...character" was "so essentially unlike the hard and dominant Anglo-Saxon race." In black people’s "lowly docility of heart, their aptitude to repose on a superior mind and rest on a higher power, their childlike simplicity of affection, and facility of forgiveness," she wrote, in "all these they will exhibit the highest form of the peculiarly Christian life."
Uncle Tom’s Cabin put forward the racist idea of complementary biological race traits, of the humble, soulful African complementing the hard, rational European. The fourteen essays in The Souls of Black Folk reinforced this idea. From Du Bois's title, to his writing style—pairing the verses of Negro spirituals with those of European poets—to his content, Du Bois carried the idea of complementary race traits into the twentieth century. It would be a few decades before he would renounce this thinking.
Du Bois ends Soul's first and most enduring essay, "Of Our Spiritual Strivings," by expressing his dream "that some day on American soil two world-races may give each to each those characteristics both so sadly lack." He adds, "we black men seem the sole oasis of simple faith and reverence in a dusty desert of dollars and smartness." But it is racist to assert that a race lacks characteristics. White people do not lack "simple faith and reverence," and black people do not lack materialism and "smartness."
Like those turn of the century railroads, the Internet has connected the entire country and transformed many industries. Were he alive today, DuBois might similarly conclude that the digital divide has a color line running through it.
As was the case with ownership of and access to railroads in the industrial era, control over and access to broadband connectivity is defining global, regional and individual success. In turn, it is shaping whether African Americans, Latinos and the poor will continue to live in economically strip-mined neighborhoods like Philadelphia's Kensington.
was published in the Cato Policy Report, Vol. XXV, No. 2 (March/April 2003:
As they so often do, DuBois's teachings apply as well to black Americans over a century later. In that vein, the double consciousness he referred to is often claimed to describe modern black Americans, but with an implication that this is because of whites' resistance to blacks' true inclusion in the American fabric.
But analysts who make such claims resist acknowledging that race relations in America have undergone seismic changes since 1903. DuBois's conception remains relevant, but only in a reflex evolved from the one that he described.
Black America today is permeated by new double consciousness. A tacit sense reigns among a great many black Americans today that the "authentic" black person stresses personal initiative and strength in private but dutifully takes on the mantle of victimhood in public.
[. . . .]
Where does this new double consciousness come from? It is vital to understand that, at heart, it is a symptom of a deep pain among black Americans. The Civil Rights Act freed blacks from legalized segregation, but once freed, blacks met a new intellectual and cultural climate that taught that the Establishment was an agent of repression and that its norms must be suspect to any humane and sophisticated American. This brand of thought tends strongly to exonerate the individual from responsibility for failings and weaknesses, and encourages blaming the powers that be as an urgent, and even enlightened, activity.
Black Americans were especially susceptible to this canard. For one thing, centuries of abuse left the race with an inevitable inferiority complex, well documented by black academics and psychologists and readily acknowledged even at black barbecues. For a people with this handicap, focusing on the evil of the system was a fatal attraction, an ever-ready balm for a bruised self-conception. I firmly believe that any ethnic group would have fallen into a similar trap, given equivalent socio-historical variables.
[. . . .]
[. . . .] Our modern race problem is less intractable than often supposed. Modern black Americans are well poised to embrace the opportunities now available to them, and most have already done so. The problem that remains is a particular cognitive dissonance -- since the 1960s, black Americans have been taught that our successes are mere statistical static because our fates are ultimately in the hands of others. This distracting notion stems from a perversion of sociological analysis that came to reign in the 1960s, and its counterintuitive, anti-empirical, and spiritually destructive nature is increasingly clear to more and more black Americans.
http://www.cato.org/pubs/policy_report/v25n2/mcwhorter.pdf [99K PDF]
www.essence.com/. . ./vann-newkirk-souls-black-folk. . .introduction/
[faculty page]. Pearson writes:
"Du Bois argues that the American experience cannot be fully understood
without reference to black experience, of which artistic expression is the
What DuBois promotes is a concern with the significance of the physical body
By emphasizing the day to day struggle over representation we can draw critical similarities and differences between US and Latin American racial politics. DuBois offers a bridge to understand the challenge to achieve recognition of humanity and overcome oppression that face sub-alterns. While the above "elite" expressions of "double consciousness["] are clear, it is important that we turn to everyday expressions. I argue that the struggle envisioned by DuBois manifests itself in the contested terrain of popular culture and more specifically popular music. It is in the genre of salsa music that we see that in the case of Latin American and the US inclusion vs. exclusion is not the central point of struggle but the struggle is over defining the terms of inclusion. Thus, Afro-Latinos have strategically asserted black identity and the specificity of the black experience to critique racial and other forms of inequality in Latin American societies.
http://www.thefreelibrary.com/W.+E.+B.+Du+Bois. . . -a067413398
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