The Souls of Black Folk
This is one of the most widely available of W.E.B. Du Bois' texts on the Web -- perhaps because it is one of the most widely known of his works. It was published in 1903 by the Chicago company, A.C. McClurg (a listing
of their books that are accessible at the Internet Archive).
On this web page you will find links to:
copies of Souls
itself, as well as related material, including a self-review by Du Bois;
* book reviews
and notices by various contemporaries of Du Bois;
* component works
, which were previously published essays by Du Bois that became part of Souls
of the centenary of its publication (including links to audio and visual presentations that discuss the historical importance of the book);and
I have written a profile of The Souls of Black Folk [info below];
it is available at The Literary Encyclopedia
Robert W. Williams, Ph.D. [Bio]
(For 1 October 2019)
A Later Secondary Source
is an external link to Vann Newkirk II's "Introduction" to a 2017 release of Souls
as reprinted by Restless Books. The magazine Essence
published Newkirk's introduction online in February 2017.
THE TEXT AND RELATED MATERIALS
The Souls of Black Folk
. 1903. The full text is accessible in several formats at:
: Search results for page facsimile copies of Souls
[Updated for 6-15-17]
rendered in audio formats (mp3, ogg) for listening
The Souls of Black Folk
full-text version is available online:
"Contract for The Souls of Black Folk
": The contract between W.E.B. Du Bois
and the publisher of Souls
, A. C. McClurg & Co. (dated 20 January 1903). This is a graphics image of the original document.
"Preface to the Jubilee Edition of The Souls of Black Folk
." Monthly Review
, 1953. DuBois' preface for the 50th Anniversary edition.
Numerous sources related to Du Bois's The Souls of Black Folk
can be found at the Credo online repository
of the Du Bois Collection of primary and secondary materials, which are archived at the University of Massachusetts Amherst library. Search for the keyword "Souls of Black Folk": Credo search
. Included in the results are various types of documents, such as notes and drafts by Du Bois, his correspondence with the publishers A.C. McClurg and Blue Heron Press, and also correspondence from Shirley Graham Du Bois pertaining to Souls
Please note that only the metadata description can be searched (not the items themselves). More information is available at my intra-site About
In The Independent
Du Bois published "The Souls of Black Folk"
(SBFI), a short self-review of his book that appeared in the 17 November 1904 issue (Vol.57, No.2920 at p.1152). Among several interesting comments of personal appraisal, Du Bois concluded the piece as follows:
In its larger aspects the style is tropical — African. This needs no apology. The blood of my fathers spoke through me and cast off the English restraint of my training and surroundings. The resulting accomplishment is a matter of taste. Sometimes I think very well of it and sometimes I do not.
Reading Guides to Du Bois' The Souls of Black Folk
, Chs. 1-3. National Humanities Center, Online Professional Development Seminar Toolboxes. Seminar: The Making of African American Identity 1865-1917.
BOOK REVIEWS AND NOTICES OF SOULS
[ Arranged chronologically from earliest to latest ]
The New York Times
printed a book review of The Souls of Black Folk
The Christian Work and the Evangelist
printed a brief announcement of Souls
(v.74, n.1891 (May 16, 1903): 723), presented here in its entirety and verbatim:
A book from which much may be expected is "The Souls of Black Folk," by Prof. W. S. [sic] Burghardt Du Bois, a colored professor in Atlanta University, graduate of Fiske, Harvard and Berlin. It will be published by A. C. McClure & Co. [sic: McClurg]
The Canadian periodical Methodist Magazine and Review
published an anonymous review of Souls
(Vol. LVIII, No. 1 (July 1903): pp. 95-96
). The full text of the review is presented below in its entirety (with notes, indicated by bracketed asterisks, added by RWW):
* Note 1: This passage differs somewhat from Du Bois's actual words in Chapter I, "Of Our Spiritual Strivings." To quote from the full sentences of the 1903 A.C. McClurg edition, Du Bois wrote:
"The Souls of Black Folk." Essays and Sketches. by W. E. Burghardt Du Bois. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Co. Toronto: William Briggs.
Pp. viii-264. Price, $1.20 net.
This book is an important contribution to higher literature by a coloured writer. The author is a professor at Atlanta University. His work found its way into high-class magazines, as The Atlantic Monthly, World's Work, and other leading periodicals. His book is marked by fine literary grace. It is in some respects a cry de profundis
. The iron of injustice has entered into his soul. He echoes the bitter cry of his coloured kinsmen: "Why did God make me an outcast and a stranger in mine own house? The shadows of the prison-house closed round about us all, walls relentlessly narrow and unscalable to sons of night who must beat unavailing palms against the stone."[*]
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--all are rising-- / The black and white together."
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 American Monthly Review of Reviews
published an anonymous review of Souls
, No. 2 (August 1903): 249). The periodical was edited by Albert Shaw. The full text of the review is presented below in its entirety (along with the portrait sketch found in the original publication):
As related to the renewed discussion of the negro problem in this country, the little volume of essays and sketches entitled "The Souls of Black Folks," by Prof. W. E. Burghardt Du Bois (Chicago: A. C. McClurg & Co.), deserves a wide reading. Professor Du Bois has contributed to the REVIEW OF REVIEWS
, and is known to many of our readers as a writer of scholarly and well-informed papers relating to the progress of his race. A graduate of Harvard and of the University of Berlin, Professor Du Bois has attained in a few years,
with Booker T. Washington, the highest rank among American negro educationists. In his present book, Professor Du Bois emphasizes the need of spiritual and intellectual culture for the negro rather than the more practical and utilitarian ends kept so steadily in view by Mr. Washington in his work at Tuskegee. Professor Du Bois is a man of the highest culture, and he cannot overcome the sensitiveness natural to a man of fine feelings placed in the position that he occupies. There is a natural tendency on his part to interpret the aspirations of his people through his own individual strivings and emotions. The result is truly pathetic; but as a practical contribution to the solution of the educational problem for the black race his essays cannot be regarded as of equal value with the widely published lectures and addresses of Mr. Washington. Nevertheless, they well repay reading, representing, as they do, a phase of thought that has, perhaps, been too long neglected by some of those who would deal with the problem as a whole. Of the literary quality of the essays too much cannot be said. No book of similar character has been printed in recent years that equals this little volume in power or grace of expression.
Notes: "Negro" is not capitalized in the original text. Also, due to formatting differences between the original periodical and this html version, the sketch is not in its precise position. I was unable to find the artist's name. The portrait was obtained via screen capture software and, with the exception of slightly enlarging the image for easier viewing, is presented here "as-it-was." [RWW]
The Westminister Review
printed an anonymous, brief comment on Souls
in the "Contemporary Literature" section (Vol. CLX, No. 3 (September 1903) on p. 354). The comment is provided below in its entirety and verbatim (including the ellipsis and the various errors).
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; (3) the steady withdrawal of aid from institutions for his higher training. Now, the emancipation of these nine millions of men cannot be complete until the nation has granted them the right to vote, civic equality, and the education of youth according to ability. This work offers a rational solution to the colour problem that has so long perplexed the United States.
[Footnote at the bottom of p. 354:]
1 The Souls of Black Folk : Essays and Sketches. By W. E. Burghardt du [sic] Bois. Chicago: A. C. McClury [sic] & Co. 1903.
[Note: "Negro" is not capitalized in the original text -- RWW.]
Alfred Holt Stone
wrote a review of Souls
for the Publications of the Southern History Association
, Vol. VII, No. 5 (September 1903): 395-397. The review is provided below in its entirety. (The word "Negro" is not capitalized in the original text).
The Souls of Black Folk. By W. E. B. DuBois. Chicago: A. C. McClurg & Co., 12 mo. pp. viii+265, cloth.
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."
Alfred Holt Stone.
[Note: "Negro" is uncapitalized in the original -- RWW.]
Robert Williams' Note 1:
For a brief discussion of A.H. Stone and his scientific racism see James G. Hollandsworth Jr.'s "Alfred Holt Stone (1870-1955): His Unique Collection of Reading Material About People of African Descent", which was published online
by Mississippi History Now
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
The Australian newspaper The Sydney Mail
published an anonymously written short review of Souls
in its 16 August 1905 issue (Vol. LXXX, No.2284; p.390, left column, within the "Literature" section). The full text of the review is presented below in its entirety and verbatim:
"SOULS OF BLACK FOLK."
In many respects a remarkable book, and
one to be read well and considered seriously,
is "The Souls of Black Folk," by W. E. Burghardt
Du Bois (Messrs. Constable amd Co., per
Dymock's). We bear a good deal of the
colour question in our politics, and many
legislative nostrums are being tried in regard
to it. But we have no serious colour question
here as the United States of America have in
the negro problem. It is a problem self-created
by the slavery system of the past, but
it is nevertheless, very real, and calls urgently
for solution. In portions of the country
the solutions tried are the inexpressibly
brutal ones of the faggot and the petroleum
tin—eforts to deal with the ebullitions of an
animalism (which once was covertly encouraged)
by means too savagae [sic
] for realisation
outside the communities in which they have,
alas, come to be treated as at least "necessary"
evils. And in the political world the
attempt at solution is open and flagrant
and dishonest tampering with the Constitution
and interference with justice. Yet
much as we may condemn the terrible methods
used by sections of the whites in Amerlca towards
their coloured fellow countrymen, we
are bound to admit that the problem is both
patent and puzzling. The maintenance of
the white race and adherence to principles of
constitutional equality and justice do not seem
compatible. There is hope—for the negro—in
the work of such men as Booker Washington
with his Tuskegee Institute and the co-operative
farming associations, but just as the white
birth-rate falls and the black race maintains
its fecundity does the problem become the
more complicated from the white standpoint.
In the series of essays comprising this book
Mr. du Bois [sic
], himself a man of colour, deals
pathetically and intelligently with what is not
merely an American, but really a world-wide
problem. There are nearly ten millions of
coloured men ln the southern States of
America, and they are increasing at a ratio
infinitely greater than the increase of the
whites. Nearly two-thirds of them cannot
read and write. Their rulers are to a large
extent to be blamed for that particular state
of things, but some sections of the white community
would have it maintained. These
claim that the most dangerous element of the
coloured population—to them—is precisely the
element which has had some educational advantages.
"The Souls of Black Folk" will
help to an understanding of some of these
matters from the point of view of the coloured
people themselves. It is a book to be read—and pondered over—both for its intrinsic
literary merits and the message it conveys.
"Negro" and "Coloured" were not capitalized in the original text. Other misspellings are identified.
Dymocks still exists as a bookseller in Australia. For its history read "The Dymocks Story
" on the web.
COMPONENT WORKS: PRIMARY TEXTS COMPRISING SOULS
[ Arranged chronologically from earliest to latest ]
"Strivings of the Negro People
." Du Bois wrote of "the veil" in this essay. Originally published in The Atlantic Monthly
, Vol. 80, Issue 478 (August 1897): 194-198, this work was somewhat modified later as Ch. I, "Of Our Spiritual Strivings," in Du Bois' The Souls of Black Folk
Contemporary Secondary Source (Item 1):
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:
An able representative of the colored race, Prof. W.
E. Burghardt Du Bois, contributes an article entitled
"Strivings of the Negro People." This essay is remarkable
as a frank exposition of the negro's own conception
of his place in the scheme of Western civilization.
Perhaps no better statement of the needs of the
negro race has ever been made than is summed up in
the following sentences from this article:
"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."
Contemporary Secondary Source (Item 2):
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:
A paper of unusual strength and significance, both on account of the author and the subject, is "Strivings of the Negro People," by W. E. B. Du Bois.
"A Negro Schoolmaster in the New South
." Originally published in The Atlantic Monthly
, Vol. 83, Issue 495 (January 1899): 99-105, it was to become Ch. IV, "Of the Meaning of Progress", in Du Bois' The Souls of Black Folk
"The Religion of the American Negro
." This essay was originally published in New World
, Vol. 9, No. 36 (December 1900): 614-625. It became Ch. X, "Of the Faith of the Fathers," in Souls
(with a few small changes).
"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 (9 February 1901):
92, at page 92
"The Freedman's Bureau
." Here Du Bois penned "The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line". Originally published in The Atlantic Monthly
, Vol. 87, Issue 521 (March 1901): 354-365, the essay was reworked into Ch. II, "Of the Dawn of Freedom", in Du Bois' The Souls of Black Folk
Download page for the entire issue of The Atlantic Monthly
, Vol. 87
"The Negro as He Really Is
." Du Bois published this essay in the periodical The World's Work
(Vol. 2, No. 2 (June 1901): 848-866). It provided the basis for Ch. VII ("Of the Black Belt") and Ch. VIII ("Of the Quest of the Golden Fleece") in Souls
. The piece contains a table of population growth data and a map of the distribution of the Black population in the U.S. The photographs in the essay depict African Americans in daily situations; however, several photos have captions which suggest that Du Bois probably did not supply the wording. The full title and bylines of the essay are as follows:
the negro as he really is
a definite study of one locality in georgia show-
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
w. e. burghardt dubois
professor of economics and history in atlanta university
Photographically Illustrated by A. Radclyffe Dugmore
"The Evolution of Negro Leadership
." Review of Booker T. Washington's Up From Slavery. An Autobiography
. (NY: Doubleday. Page & Co.) [Online text
]. Du Bois first published it in The Dial
, 31 (July 16, 1901), pp.53-55. This book review was later transformed into Chapter III, "Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others," in The Souls of Black Folk
"The Relation of the Negroes to the Whites in the South
." W. E. Burghardt DuBois
described various consequences of the veil of the color-line, including the lack of credible information about racial matters. This essay was originally published in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
, Vol. 18 (July 1901): 121-140. It was the basis for Ch. IX, "Of the Sons of Master and Man," in Du Bois' Souls
Humanities Text Initiative, University of Michigan (page images)
["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]
volume, published as a separate book entitled America's Race Problems: Addresses at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Philadelphia, April Twelfth and Thirteenth, MCMI
(NY: McClure, Phillips & Co., 1901), available at Google Books
of the same volume]
The essay preceding Du Bois' was written by George T. Winston, second president of the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, Raleigh (now N.C. State University: history
). In that piece, "The Relation of the Whites to the Negroes" [start page
at Google Books], Winston recalled his personal interactions with "Negroes" --
he did capitalize the word --
on his family's plantation. He painted a benign view of slavery and of so-called "happy slaves," a view that Du Bois would often criticize.]
"Of the Training of Black Men
." Du Bois emphasized the vital importance of higher education. He also wrote:
"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
Download page for the entire issue of The Atlantic Monthly
, Vol. 90
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:
THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY.
the September number of the Atlantic Monthly
, Mr. W. E. B. Du Bois,
writing "Of the Training of Black Men," makes a somewhat impatient appeal for the higher education of the negro. He thinks the fact that only 2,000 negroes have gone forth from schools with the bachelor's degree is a sufficient refutation of the argument that too large a proportion of negroes are receiving high training. Five times as many as these would only reach the average of the country, counting the ratio to population of all negro students throughout the land. "Four hundred negroes in addition have received the bachelor's degree from Oberlin, Harvard, Yale, and seventy other leading colleges." Mr. Du Bois cites the investigations of the Atlanta University Conference into the future of these negro graduates. Two-thirds answered the inquiries, showing that 53 per cent. of the graduates were teachers, 17 per cent. clergymen, 17 per cent. in the professions, 6 per cent. merchants, farmers, and artisans, and 4 percent, in the Government civil service. Mr. Du Bois thinks this is a record of usefulness that goes far to prove that culture is not thrown away on the negro.
"Negro" was not capitalized in the original, while "Government" was. Also, the "Atlanta University Conference" refers to Atlanta University Publication No. 5. entitled The College-bred Negro
(1900); for links to online copies of this work visit this site's 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:
Great art is great not because it enters an academic curriculum, and neither is greatness affirmed by the awarding of prizes or titles. But great
is not necessarily a vague term. It can indicate work that penetrates the shapes, feelings, ideas, and sounds of a culture, as in the cadences of speech. Sometimes that kind of penetration is so deep, so transforming, that it is nearly invisible, or barely acknowledged.
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]
CONTEMPORARY SECONDARY SOURCES RELATED TO SOULS
, self-described as "A Baptist Newspaper", published a short article on 14 January 1905 by Craig S. Thoms on the Thompson Brothers' Library in Vermillion, South Dakota. It was a "pastor's circulating library" that lent books to preachers. The author noted that new books were being added to the library. The article presented a list of sixty new books, mostly theological, but with a few such as Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
(Wiggins) and The Battle with the Slum
(Riis). Included as Number 38 on this list, and presented here as printed (i.e.
, mistitled) in the original, is the following:
38. The Soul of Black Folk—DuBois. [p.12
The short article ends with the following sentence:
The books of the library are available to all the pastors of South Dakota, and are proving of inestimable value, especially to the missionary pastors, who are doing heroic work on small salaries, which do not admit of much expenditure for books.
The Typographical Journal
(1906) indicated that Du Bois gave an inscribed copy of Souls
to the library of "Union Printers' Home", a place of residence in Colorado Springs that provided "a home for invalid and aged and infirm members in good standing of the International Typographical Union of North America" (Constitution of the Union Printers' Home, Article II
). Collecting books for the "Home Library" is described as follows:
BOOKS FOR THE HOME LIBRARY.
The past month books have been received from leading authors and public men of the United States, Canada and Hawaii. In most instances the contributions bear autographs of the authors and public officials, who are aiding in building up this collection. The fourth installment from this source follows: [The list starts....][p.721]
Here is the passage about Du Bois having sent a copy of Souls
; it is included as part of a long listing of authors, book titles, and brief details:
Prof. W. E. Burghardt Du Bois, "The Souls of Black Folks," with inscription: "May the printer, the link between thought and deed, bring into being a real brotherhood of men." [at p.722
COMMEMORATIONS OF SOULS
[ Arranged chronologically from earliest to latest ]
"W. E. B. Du Bois
" -- a radio show originally broadcast in 2002 on the program "What's the Word", which is sponsored by the Modern Language Association. The moderator Sally Placksin talked with Cheryl T. Gilkes, David Levering Lewis, and Marlon B. Ross about DuBois and his life, with particular emphasis on The Souls of Black Folk
. Dr. Lewis presented the background to Souls
and summarized the work. Dr. Ross discussed the social and political issues to which DuBois was responding, including racial violence and the 1896 Plessy
Supreme Court case. Dr. Gilkes related the idea of double consciousness to African American poetry and songs. Other related topics were addressed. The show lasts about 29 minutes. One can listen online or download the broadcast in mp3 format (about 6.8 mb).
"A Timeless Legacy: Celebrating 100 Years of W.E.B. Du Bois' The Souls of Black Folk
" by Kendra Hamilton. Originally published in Black Issues in Higher Education
(13 February 2003).
No longer available
"Newark Reads Du Bois
." In February 2003 for Black History Month the City of Newark, NJ in conjunction with Rutgers University-Newark and other public and private organizations, distributed copies of The Souls of Black Folk
to city residents as part of a centennial celebration of Du Bois's book. Various literary events were also conducted which focused on Du Bois's life, thought, and significance.
"Newark Reads Du Bois" (Entry page to web site)
* Posted on the web site are "Scholars' Comments" by Dr. Sterling Lecater Bland, Jr., Dr. Belinda Edmondson, Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Dr. Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, Dr. Paul Gilroy, Dr. Karla F.C. Holloway, Dr. Reiland Rabaka, Dr. George White, Jr., and Dr. Michelle Joan Wilkinson.
* Read an announcement for "Newark Reads Du Bois":
"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).
"The Souls of Black Folk, A Century Hence
" by David Levering Lewis [faculty page].
Lewis commemorates Souls
by relating Du Bois' thought to U.S. and global politics during the early 21st Century. Lewis briefly situates the book with regard to other texts written by Du Bois, indicating the development of themes over time as well as the interconnections made by Du Bois between race, class, and social inequality.
"The Legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois
." David Levering Lewis conducted a "Colloquy Live" on DuBois's Souls
(with several other topics also being discussed) on 2 April
"The Centennial of 'Souls'
," by Scott McLemee, examines Souls
in relation to The Negro Church
, an Atlanta University Study edited by DuBois and published in 1903 (like Souls
"A Challenge To White Supremacy, 100 Years Later
." Felicia R. Lee highlights various commemorations of Souls
. Originally published in The New York Times
, 15 April 2003 (Late Edition - Final, Section E, p. 1, col. 4).
David Levering-Lewis interviewed about Souls
As part of the "Talking History" series of the Organization of American Historians, Dr. Levering-Lewis
] was interviewed regarding the centennial of the publication of Du Bois' The Souls of Black Folk
. The interview was conducted on 21 April 2003 by Dr. Fred Nielsen (University of Nebraska at Omaha). The whole mp3 file runs 29:12 minutes but the Levering-Lewis segment runs about 14 minutes (starting at 6:05 and ending at 20:15).
Commemoration of Du Bois' The Souls of Black Folk
held on 25 April 2003 at Memorial Church, Harvard University, and moderated by Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
"'The Souls of Black Folk:' Why are we still caught up in century-old protest politics?
" by Shelby Steele. This commemorative analysis considers that DuBoisian protest was double-edged: while useful, his "protest was to diminish and defame black responsibility in its rush to make black problems into white burdens. DuBois deserves much respect, but only if he is also accepted as a cautionary tale."
"The Souls of Black Folk: 100th anniversary of the book by W.E.B. DuBois
." In commemoration of the publication of Souls
, here are radio interviews with David Levering Lewis, Jeff Johnson, Diedre Badejo, and Andrew Hacker. There is also a brief clip of Du Bois himself talking about his life. [Radio interviews with Farrah Griffin, Gerald Horne, T. J. Anderson, and Carolyn Maun on Souls
are also accessible as audio from this page.]
"Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of W.E.B. Dubois's The Souls of Black Folk
" by Eljeer Hawkins.
Internet Searches for Centennial Commemorations of Souls
The following search engines find web pages based on some variant of this search string:
"Souls of Black Folk" AND (commemoration OR centennial OR celebration OR centenary)
LATER SECONDARY SOURCES RELATED TO SOULS
[ Arranged alphabetically by author ]
"Contemporary Relevance of the Du Boisean Duality Construct
" by Tunde Adeleke
]. Adeleke starts from Du Bois' concept of "double-consciousness" --
that the Black person in the U.S.A. "ever feels his [or her] twoness,--an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body...." Adeleke then discusses several clashing perspectives on the basis or bases of identity of Blacks in America. He concludes (p. 75):
Du Bois was perceptive in identifying the two dominant and visible components of black identity -- the American and Negroid. The duality is real. It could be argued that almost all other components of the identity constructs today are either directly or indirectly connected to these two dominant components. Even more real and perceptive is the notion of the warring ideals. Both Afrocentrism and Americentrism reflect attempts to ditch one experience for the other. In their schizophrenic attempts to ditch one dimension for the other, both Afrocentrism and Americentrism reflect this tension between competing ideals. The fact is, as Du Bois perceptively argued, neither side would or should give up for the other. Both are intrinsic and relevant to understanding the true identity of the black American.
"W.E.B Du Bois and The Souls of Black Folk: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
" by Edward A. Ako. Ako interprets the lasting legacy of Souls
within a wide intellectual context, both in chronological and geographical senses. He writes:
I submit that the area of intellectual inquiry today known as Postcolonial Studies which amongst other things, shows Euro-American scholarship especially, though not exclusively, of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as a series of constructions of otherness, began neither with the publication of Edward Saïd's Orientalism
in 1978 nor with Gareth Griffith's The Empire Writes Back
(1989) but with Du Bois' scholarly research work. It was in The Souls of Black Folk
that there was the first real attempt for the margin to write to the center. Du Bois had therefore laid the groundwork for the move from an activist to a textual culture that is a characteristic of most academies today, especially since the 1970s.
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
"Du Boisian Double Consciousness: The Unsustainable Argument
" by Ernest Allen, Jr.
; dept. page
]. Originally published in Massachusetts Review
, 43:2 (Summer 2002): 217-253; reprinted in Black Scholar
, 33 (Summer 2003): 25-43.
"The Problem of the 21st Century: Du Bois and Cosmopolitanism
" by K. Anthony Appiah
]. This is a lecture delivered on 8 April 2005;
a transcript is available. Appiah elaborates on Du Bois'
radical at the time -- that one could be both cosmopolitan (i.e., a citizen of the world) and also Black (i.e., of a particular heritage) because all races contributed their uniqueness to the project of humankind. Appiah situates Du Bois' idea of racial identity, gleaned from various writings (but especially Souls
, 1903, and "The Conservation of Races", 1897) within the context of European nationalist and cosmopolitan thinkers, like Herder and Fichte.
Related (Published) Lecture by Appiah:
Kwame Anthony Appiah delivered a lecture as part of the "Distinguished W.E.B. Du Bois Lectures 2004/2005" at the Humboldt-Universitat zu Berlin. It was published as "Ethics in a World of Strangers: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Spirit of Cosmpolitianism" (Citation: Pp.15-44
in Günter H. Lenz and Antje Dallmann, Editors, Justice, Governance, Cosmopolitanism, and the Politics of Difference: Reconfigurations in a Transitional World
, Heft 152. Berlin: Forschungsabteilung der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, 2007). This published work seems very much related to the April 2005 Columbia University lecture. Also, the downloadable volume contains separate works by Seyla Benhabib, Iris Marion Young, and Nacy Fraser.
[PDF: ~527 KB]
"Du Bois's Horizon: Documenting Movements of the Color Line
" by Susanna Ashton
]. Published in MELUS
, 26:4 (Winter 2001): 3-24.
Ashton examines Du Bois' co-edited periodical, The Horizon
(published 1907-1910). She writes:
Du Bois's dedication to authenticating a wholly black voice by drawing upon literal and figurative evidence is worked out with great care in The Souls of Black Folk (1903), but it is in The Horizon we can see how, even in curt periodical form, the artful weaving of arguments so well articulated in The Souls of Black Folk offers a new way to think about periodical documentation and the very concept of reading the color line.
No longer available
"'Like a Violin for the Wind to Play': Lyrical Approaches to Lynching by Hughes, Du Bois, and Toomer
" by Kimberly Banks [faculty page
]. Banks examines three short stories, "Home" by Langston Hughes, "Blood-Burning Moon" by Jean Toomer, and "The Coming of John" (from Souls
) by Du Bois, in terms of their portrayal of lynching. Banks writes:
Interpretation is clearly a politically motivated act in each short story. Each protagonist's dream is spelled out in explicit detail. Upon each protagonist's return to his hometown, local men reinterpret their dreams in such a way that the local white and black communities feel threatened. Such reinterpretation denies the protagonists' attempts to achieve justice and equality. However the ending of each short story is unsettling, not only in its representation of lynching, but also in its charge to interpret lynching. The decision to represent lynching in lyrical terms prompts readers to see lynching as a loss of social power. Lynching is a desperate social act, instigated through fear of social equality.
Published in the African American Review
, 38:3 (Fall 2004): 451-465.
No longer available
"A Sociological Examination of W.E.B. Du Bois' The Souls of Black Folk
" by Sandra L. Barnes [faculty page
]. Published online in The North Star: A Journal of African-American Religious History
, Volume 6, Number 2 (Spring 2003).
[The North Star
journal's new site
"Sorrow Songs and Mbira Music: Du Bois, Mapfumo, and the Power of Music
", written by Sheila Bassoppo-Moyo, was published online in Sociation Today
, the journal of the North Carolina Sociological Association (v10:n2, Fall/Winter 2012). Bassoppo-Moyo compares Du Bois's sorrow songs with the Chimerenga (or rebellion) songs of Zimbabwe's struggles against colonial rule. She indicated the article's goals, methodology, and historical context:
Content analysis is used to analyze lyrics from the two types of musical genres, the sorrow songs born out of the experience of slavery in the United States and Chimerenga (rebellion) songs created and arranged by Zimbabwean musician, Thomas Mapfumo, who helped to inspire the liberation struggle against colonialism in Zimbabwe.
[ . . . . ]
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.
Bassoppo-Moyo compared the significance of the sorrow songs and the Chimeranga music:
The sorrow songs highlighted in The Souls of Black Folk and the Chimeranga songs created by Thomas Mapfumo were both socially constructed out of the experiences of Black people living under oppressive social structures. The music emanated from their experiences and helped them to fight back. W.E.B. Du Bois believed all art should be propaganda with the goal of uplifting the lives of African Americans. The sorrow songs in his book carried multiple meanings and were used by slaves to escape from oppression in both physically and spiritually. The sorrow songs, given their double meanings, were examples of double consciousness.
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.
"The Invisibility of 'Second Sight': Double Consciousness in American Literature and Popular Culture
" is a M.A. Thesis written by Ashlie C. Dabbs (Bowling Green State University, 2011). In the Abstract she writes (p.ii):
In this text I examine the metaphor, "second sight," as a signifier of the concept of double consciousness, described in William Edward Burghardt Du Bois's The Souls of Black Folk (1903). I observe how the metaphor operates to express various perceptions of double consciousness as intrinsic to the African-American. As such, I provide a close reading of second sight in Pauline Hopkins's Of One Blood (1902-3), noting the ways in which her portrayal of second sight as a biological inheritance transforms the metaphor from a signifier of double-consciousness to a signifier of blackness. I subsequently move eighty years beyond Du Bois and Hopkins to scrutinize the depiction of second sight in Gene Rodenberry's popular television series, Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994). In doing so I illuminate the ways in which Du Bois's metaphor continued to be relevant in popular culture at the end of the twentieth century. I argue that the three texts depict second sight as a racialized knowledge and reveal a concurrence that race is corporeal and fixed. However, while Hopkins's text asserts that the African-American will, by way of race, inevitably develop "second sight," Du Bois and Rodenberry articulate that it is not race, but culture that leads to the successful development of such skills. In examining second sight as a racialized and coded signifier relevant beyond its inception, I open doors for the continued exploration of the signifier in the American literature and popular culture of both the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
"The Black Household in Dougherty County, Georgia, 1870-1900
" (1982) by Edmund L. Drago was published in Prolugue: Journal of the National Archives
(v.14, n.2; Summer) at pp. 81-88 [Volume 14
at Hathi Trust]. Using Federal census records, Drago examined the economic and eductional achievements of African Americans in Dougherty County, Georgia — the county discussed by Du Bois in SBF
and its component (previously published) article "The Negro as He Really Is". Indeed, the photographs by A. Radclyffe Dugmore that accompany Drago's article are also to be found in Du Bois's essay. Drago cited Souls
along with various other sources.
"Mythic Reinscriptions in W.E.B. Du Bois's The Souls of Black Folk, James Weldon Johnson's The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man, and Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man
" is a 1999 M.A. Thesis written by Peter H. Feder in the Department of English at Concordia University. In the Abstract Feder writes (p. iii):
Those mythic structures which have significantly defined and supported the idea of "America" have consistently ignored the contribution, or even the very existence of the American black population. Meaningful participation in the promise of these myths, loosely bound up in the notion of The American Dream, and defined in texts such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, has been systematically denied to America's black population. W. E. B. Du Bois's The Souls of Black Folk initiated a vigorous literary attempt to recuperate black self-esteem, to independently fashion black identity, and to create an environment in which blacks and whites could contribute equally in future prosperity and progress. To forward his agenda, Du Bois undertakes a relentless deconstruction of prevalent white American traditional and mythic misconceptions, and imaginatively proposes alternative mythological constructs. This study investigates Du Bois's representation of the significance of myth to the black experience in America, and the discursive response contained in subsequent African-American texts: namely, in James Weldon Johnson's Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man and Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man.
"W.E.B. DuBois and the Identity of Africa
" by Simon Gikandi [faculty page].
Gikandi examines the profound influence of The Souls of Black Folk
on various African writers. In addition, he argues that Du Bois' thought on Africa and the Pan-African movement
...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.
In "Du Bois, Douglass and Political Philosophy
" Dr. Robert Gooding-Williams [faculty page
] provides an overview of several themes from his book, In the Shadow of Du Bois: Afro-Modern Political Thought in America
U.P., 2009). He "argue[s] that The Souls of Black Folk
(1903) is W. E. B. Du Bois’s outstanding contribution to modern political philosophy". Further, he writes:
For Du Bois, a politics suitable to counter Jim Crow had both to uplift the backwards black masses — to assimilate them to the constitutive norms of modernity — and to heed the ethos of the black folk. In short, it had to be a politics of modernizing "self-realization" that expressed the spiritual identity of the folk — what in the book I term a politics of expressive self-realization. Du Bois envisions black elites — the so-called "talented tenth" — as deploying the politics of expressive self-realization to rule and uplift the black masses. Elite control of black politics can be authoritative and effective, he argues, only if it expresses a collective spirit that unites black people.
The undergirding principles of Frederick Douglass's politics offers Gooding-Williams a counter-point to Du Bois's political theory. Politics for Douglass, as Gooding-Williams indicates, is "the interplay of conflicting purposes and conflicting interpretations of the condition of being black" and not a single, more-or-less unitary expression of Black identity. Gooding-Williams also relates Du Bois's political theory to contemporary theorists of strategies to uplift African diasporic communities, such as Paul Gilroy and Tommie Shelby, and offers his critique.
Related Online Resources
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
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).
"African-American Philosophy, Race, and the Geography of Reason
" by Lewis R. Gordon [faculty page].
Gordon examines both DuBois and Frantz Fanon in terms of the normative implications of their phenomenological understanding of those of the African diaspora (i.e., how diasporic persons living in a racially oppressive world come to an understanding of that world). Gordon writes:
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.
"Tearing down the Veil
" by Stuart Hall. Referring to Souls
, Hall wrote:
"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."
"W.E.B. DuBois and the Question of Black Women Intellectuals
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
"Du Bois and the Minstrels
" by Scott Herring. Published in MELUS
, vol. 22 (Summer 1997): 3-17.
No longer available
"Double Consciousness, Modernism, and Womanist Themes in Gwendolyn Brooks's
'" by A. Yemisi Jimoh [faculty page
]. Published in MELUS
, 23:3 (Fall 1998).
No longer available
"White Supremacy, Class Struggle and Social Transformation: Reflections on The Souls of Black Folk 100 Years Later
by Walda Katz-Fishman, Jerome Scott, and Ralph C. Gomes (August 2003).
"Du Boisian Double Consciousness in the Multicultural Classroom and the Questions It Raises
" (2012) was published by Dr. Hilton Kelly [faculty page
] in Sherick Hughes & Theodorea Regina Berry (Eds.), The Evolving Significance of Race: Living, Learning, & Teaching
. NY: Peter Lang (pp. 128-146).
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:
Henry Davis sought to prepare students for jobs and opportunities for "tomorrow," not just the reality in which they lived. Despite the prevailing ideas that Blacks only needed rudimentary or industrial education, Nellie Hunter pushed college and university training. Whether it was a directive to "hold your head up," a common goal to prepare students for tomorrow rather than today, or the use of a school motto to inspire, participants sought to instill ambition, hope, and pride in their students.
As a consequence, participants employed double consciousness to challenge White supremacy and White racism directly in their schools — carefully and responsibly. [p.137]
In "The Soul of W. E. B. Du Bois
" Dr. Ibram X. Kendi [web site
provides us with an adapted version of his introduction to the 2018 Penguin Classics reissue of Souls
. Published online in The Paris Review
, 14 February 2018, Kendi sets forth the historical context of Souls
during the late 19th and early 20th centures, discussing concepts such as the Veil and double consciousness, as well as relevant persons and events, including Booker T. Washington, William Hannibal Thomas, the Sam Hose lynching, and the death of Du Bois's son.
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."
"Parody and Double Consciousness in the Language of Early Black Musical Theatre
" by David Krasner [faculty page
] (African American Review
, Summer 1995).
No longer available
"The Whiteness of Wi-Fi
" by Roberto Lovato. In this brief essay, Lovato extends Du Bois' idea of the color line through examining how race and class intersect in high-tech communications, the consequences of which are constraints placed on the life chances of those in technologically deprived areas. He writes:
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.
"Teaching Du Bois at the Right Moment
" by Caroline Maun [faculty page
] (Black Issues in Higher Education
, 19 June 2003).
No longer available
"'What a Piece of Work is a Man!' Double Consciousness of a Sports Hero and a Tragic Hero
." Allison P. McCowan creates two 12th-grade lesson plans based on the DuBoisian concept of double consciousness. She applies it to the athlete Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and to Shakespeare's Hamlet
"The Educational Philosophy of W.E.B. DuBois
." Bartley L. McSwine [dept. page]
elaborates on DuBois' views on education with reference to Souls
"Double Consciousness in Black America
" by John H. McWhorter [Bio]
was published in the Cato Policy Report
, Vol. XXV, No. 2 (March/April 2003: pp. 13-15).
He formulated the idea of a new double consciousness that has emerged over the last few decades. The excerpt below attempts to convey some of McWhorter's arguments:
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.
Vann R. Newkirk II wrote an "Introduction
" to The Souls of Black Folk
for the book's release published by Restless Books in February 2017 [website
]. Newkirk's introduction was published online in Essence
magazine (22 February 2017). Newkirk is a journalist for the Atlantic
. The illustrations accompanying the book's introduction were created by Steve Prince, a printmaker, and were also included in the online Essence
Newkirk discusses the significance of Souls as a whole as well as its individual chapters. Of particular note, Newkirk stresses Du Bois's concept of "double consciousness" and its continuing relevance in the 21st Century. The following quotations from the Introduction convey Newkirk's emphasis.
"In the keystone paragraph of the entire volume, Du Bois elucidates a 'double consciousness' by which black people seeking to get by in a white world have to dissociate their inner black selves from a performative version meant for white consumption."
[Newkirk later writes:]
"Anyone who writes about blackness in America owes a debt to The Souls of Black
Folk, and contributes to this accretion over the mother-of-pearl it provides."
[Newkirk continues with Du Bois's abiding relevance:]
"Across all genres and media, the idea of the 'double consciousness' is almost considered a priori. The demands of the Black Lives Matter movement and the rejection of respectability politics in much of current black art and cultural criticism are animated by the understanding that double-consciousness is a traumatic psychic burden. The importance of hip-hop and defending it as a legitimate reaction to that burden were predicted by Du Bois's passionate defense of Negro spirituals. Activists today seek to challenge the delegitimization of blackness and black culture that even makes such a double consciousness exist, and by which whiteness enforces itself as the norm by code-switching, apologia, and shame.
"Activism also examines the root causes of the problems that still plague black people and asks if the institutions and systems of America can ever truly serve its darker children when, as follows from Du Bois's analysis, they were originally designed to disenfranchise and marginalize them. Thus, The Souls of Black Folk is also a primer for any young activist or thinker who simply seeks validation in their own interests, character, culture, and questions, or any nonblack person seeking better understanding of a veil that can only be truly known with experience."
The publisher's website
also presents Steve Price's illustrations.]
"W.E.B. Du Bois and the Call of the Sorrow Songs
" by Kim Pearson
]. Pearson writes:
"Du Bois argues that the American experience cannot be fully understood
without reference to black experience, of which artistic expression is the
"DuBois' Souls: Thoughts on 'Veiled' Bodies and the Study of Black Religion
" by Anthony B. Pinn [faculty page]
and published online in The North Star: A Journal of African-American Religious History
, Volume 6, Number 2 (Spring 2003). Pinn writes:
What DuBois promotes is a concern with the significance of the physical body -- flesh -- for a proper understanding of the existential and ontological difficulties encountered by African Americans, as well as the creative ways in which a deeper sense of being is developed. Of great significance regarding this is the manner in which he suggests we might understand religiosity, the expression of ultimate concern and meaning, in part through examining the body as it occupies time and space. It is through a focus on the body that one sees the manifestations of a deep impulse -- a soul --, a drive for full humanity that pushes through over-determined and fix[ed] identities.
"The People, Rhetoric, and Affect: On the Political Force of Du Bois' The Souls of Black Folk
" was published by Dr. Melvin Rogers [faculty page
] in the American Political Science Review
, 106:1 (February 2012): 188-203.
The article examined the political concept of "the people", as Du Bois addressed it in Souls, via a rhetorical analysis of the text. The concept of "the people" has both descriptive and aspirational senses. "The people" has been (and remains) highly contested: who is included as the people within a polity (the descriptive dimension) and who should be included (the aspirational dimension). Despite—and we might add, even because of—its contestability, "the idea of the people central to democracy creates space for evocative appeals" (p.198). The author specifically focused on Du Bois's rhetorical challenges to the White audience of the book and the goal to persuade Whites to support democratic citizenship for Blacks (see pp.189, 201).
Rhetorical analysis is central to Dr. Roger's argument. In his words:
as a work of political theory, Souls draws a connection between rhetoric (i.e., a mode of speaking and writing that seeks to persuade one’s audience), on the one hand, and emotional states such as sympathy and shame, on the other, to close the gap between the descriptive people and its aspirational counterpart. By emphasizing rhetoric, I mean that Souls attempts to craft a common horizon for author and reader from which shared emotional judgments regarding racial inequality might be reached. For Du Bois, this common horizon is not merely the result of a fortuitous union, but emanates from a shared political identity that can, in turn, be used to guide the responses of the community and its inhabitants as to the justice or injustice of the judgments they make and the actions they take. [p.189]
As one implication of a rhetorical analysis of Souls
, the article also addressed the view that Du Bois's elitism (e.g., the Talented Tenth formulation) undermined an inclusive conception of democracy (see also pp.191, 197). Dr. Rogers argued:
Without diminishing the vexing issue of a vanguard politics in Du Bois’s work, attending to rhetoric shows that he nonetheless believes that the rhetorician who claims to speak on behalf of the people in a democratic society must always stand before them for critical appraisal. A democratic rhetoric always attempts to combine two different, but compatible modes of politics in a way that is obscured by overstating the elite vision of leadership in Du Bois’s philosophy—namely, a form of politics engaged in showing the way (e.g., the rhetorical posture of speaking to), and a form of politics nonetheless dependent on those to whom one speaks for assessing, revising, and approving the way forward. Rhetoric thus embodies the inescapable features of democratic life—of ruling and being ruled. [p.189]
Dr. Rogers also interrelated Souls with other Du Boisian works, such as "The Conservation of Races" (p.191), Darkwater (p.191), and "Criteria of Negro Art" (pp.194-6).
"Du Bois's Double Consciousness versus Latin American Exceptionalism: Joe Arroyo, Salsa, and Negritude
" by Mark Q. Sawyer [faculty page
Sawyer addresses a common argument that those of African heritage in Latin America have faced more inclusion in their societies, and thereby, one would not need to apply concepts like "double consciousness" in order to analyze their experiences. Sawyer disagrees; he writes:
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.
"W.E.B. Du Bois vs. "The Sons of the Fathers": A Reading of The Souls of Black Folk in the Context of American Nationalism
" by Roumiana Velikova. Published in the African American Review
, 34:3 (Fall 2000).
No longer available
DuBois's The Souls of Black Folk
-- A profile by Robert W. Williams.
Please note: to read more than the first 600 words of this article will require a daily, monthly, or yearly membership
at The Literary Encyclopedia
George Yancy published "W.E.B. Du Bois on Whiteness and the Pathology of Black Double Consciousness
" in the American Philosophical Association Newsletter on Philosophy and the Black Experience
, v.4, n.1 (Fall 2004): pp.9-22
. In this essay, Yancy [faculty page]
examines critical whiteness studies and the constituitive relationship between Whiteness and Blackness in a society beset by white racism. In addition, Yancy investigates the problems of and with the self that are induced by double consciousness. He utilzes examples from various DuBoisian texts as well as from The Bluest Eye
by Toni Morrison and The Invisible Man
by Ralph Ellison. In the passage below (with endnotes omitted), Yancy interprets The Bluest Eye
in terms of the pathology of double consciousness.
Given what has been explored regarding the epistemological and ontological lens through which whiteness
constructs Blackness, focus will be limited to the notion of
double consciousness that involves measuring and judging
one's soul by the tape of a white world that gazes upon the
Black in contempt and pity. In the case of Du Bois, his feeling
of difference, and perhaps his sudden lived experience of being
a problem, was the result of the internalization of the
perspective of the white newcomer. For Du Bois, this
internalization resulted in the experience of twoness, a double
consciousness, which yields "him no true self-consciousness." Bracketing the issue of what "true self-consciousness" means,
particularly in terms of an authentic, true "racial" self-
consciousness, a paradigm case of the interpretation of Du
Boisian double consciousness as a manifestation of pathology
can be demonstrated within Toni Morrison's rich, fictional text,
The Bluest Eye. As I have shown, for Du Bois, whiteness associates Blackness with evil. Blackness is ugly. It is dirty. It is uncivilized. Within the episteme of whiteness, "Darker peoples are dark in mind as well as in body; of dark, uncertain, and imperfect descent; of frailer, cheaper stuff." Although a fictional character in Morrison's text, Pecola Breedlove has fully internalized the myths of whiteness, particularly the white image of beauty. She has come to see her dark skin, her non-blue
eyes, as composed of "cheaper stuff." In Morrison’s text,
within the semiotic space of whiteness, blue eyes signify
universal beauty. Blue eyes signify perfect descent, giving one
the feeling of being proud in body and in spirit. Pecola, unlike
Ellison’s invisible man, has so internalized the standard of
whiteness that her twoness, her doubleness, no longer appears
to be something that she can recognize. The internalized
"different voice," as it were, that speaks to Pecola as being a
dark problem, as something aesthetically disgusting, does not
appear to take place within a soul of "two warring ideals."
There appears to be only one voice, the voice of the white
demi-god. When she looks inside herself, there appears to be
only one soul, one thought, a single striving, one ideal: To be
white, to possess blue eyes. However, beneath this apparent
"singleness," the doubleness continues to exist, for she is still
Black. She engages in a whitening of her soul that is so profound
that it results in insanity. Hence, doubleness can lead to
profound psychological rupture. The invisible man at least
knows that he is invisible vis-à-vis "those eyes with which they [white folk] look through their physical eyes upon reality." Pecola only sees herself "through the revelation of the other [white] world."
At the American Philosophical Association (APA) web site [PDF file
[APA Newsletter on Philosophy and the Black Experience
[All APA Newsletters
[NOTA BENE: When I checked in May 2016 I found this article, this publication, and the other APA Newsletters to be freely available again at the APA web site. They had not be so accessible when I had checked several years earlier.]
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