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While reading Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me, I asked myself whether any other book offered such penetrating insight into the black experience in equally impressive prose. The first name that came to me was The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois.
The Souls of Black Folk was published in 1903, and just as the two directions of black leadership in the tumultuous 60's and '70's were symbolized by Martin and Malcolm, the two directions at the turn of the last century—a period punctuate ...more
As the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon.
Look not upon me, because I am black,
Because the sun hath looked upon me:
My mother's children were angry with me;
They made me the keeper of the vineyards;
But mine own vineyard have I not kept." - Song of Solomon 1:5-6 KJV
Bright Sparkles in the Churchyard
These are the lyrical and musical epigraphs preceding chapter seven.
"The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line, -- ...more
The whole land seems forlorn and forsaken. Here are the remnants of the vast plantations of the Sheldons, the Pellots, and the Rensons; but the souls of them are passed. The houses lie in half ruin, or have wholly disappeared; the fences have flown, and the fam ...more
Some of it is full of hope:
He arose silently, and passed out into the night. Down toward the sea he went, in the fitful starlight, half conscious of the girl who followed timidly after him. When at last he stood upon the bluff, he turned to his little sister and looked upon her sorrowfully, remembering with sudden pain how little thought he had given her. He put his arm about her and let her passion of tears spend itself on his shoulder.
Long they stood toge ...more
That being said, there is some really good stu ...more
I would recommend this book not only to those interested in issues of race, but also anyone interested in American culture and society as a whole. It is a telling book that s ...more
This collection of short essays was written in 1903 and basically changed the way people thought and talked about race in America. DuBois broke down the notion of a scientific explanation for racism and racial bigotry. He essentially went to the University of Atlanta to do just the opposite, to accomplish by scientific means some understanding of race relations and what was called at the time "the Negro problem." After only a few years, he realized that you can't solve a social ...more
In 1903, two years after Booker T. Washington's autobiography, "Up from Slavery: An Autobiography", W.E.B. Du Bois published "The Souls of Black Folk", a series of essays which today most consider a seminal work in African-American Sociology literature. Du Bois view of race relations in American at the dawn of the 20th century was clear, critical and deeply profound.
Throughout the fourteen chapters Du Bois uses a metaphor, the veil, with considerable deftness:
"...the Neg ...more
By turns, it's history, autobiography, sociology, economics, religious studies, eulogy, musicology... even fiction. There's an illustrative story near the end.
And a great example of poetry-in-prose, when the subject is the emotions of those subject to The Veil (his word for the uncrossable color line). DuBois is a master of the English language, always using the right style to communicat ...more
1. Climate Change of his writing. DuBois starts the book off with very a fact driven, political, and sociological nature that leaves no doubt of the racial injustice and inequality of the 19th Century. For a reader who isn't quite history driven, the first few chapters may be hard to follow. (Maybe ...more
Each chapter in The Souls of Black Folks begins with a poetic epigraph including a musical score. The poetry was not written by Du Bois. Some are traditional spirituals. Others are poems written by African-Americans as well as white Ameri ...more
Du Bois chronicles the hopes and dreams destroyed; the attempts at education undermined; the physical and psychological degradation at the hands of the Jim Crow sy ...more
When I began this work, I knew many things about W.E.B., facts like he was ...more
"The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line - the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea."
Du Bois (Du Boyz - not Du Bwah, like my years of French demand) wrote so lyrically. This work centers on questions of race, racial domination, and racial exploitation through these essays and sketches. I've heard and read this aforementioned famous quote many a time before, but never got around to read the sem ...more
"It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One eve ...more
There's lots of good (great? amazing?) here in different forms, the book a mix of sociology, argument, and beautifully crafted lyrical prose.
Writing-wise, for their lyrical strength and, indeed, beauty, as well as for the power they add to the information and arguments presented throughout, I felt the strongest chapters/essays were "Of the Passing of the First-Born" (painful in its mourning and in its joy, and yet achingly beautiful), "Of Alexander Crummell" (a man ...more
Apparently I am the first reviewer to notice that Du Bois has done precisely what Sojourner Truth warned against. I had to hunt for it, but here it is: "...if colored men get their rights, and colored women not theirs, the colored men will be masters over the women, and it will be just as bad as it was before."—Sojourner Truth, 1867
There is discomforting harping on classes of black people, those who have pursued "advancement" and those who h ...more
One of his central criticisms of Booker T. is his over-emphasis of the individual responsibility of the "Negroes" to lift themselves out of "degradation" at the expense of ignoring the necessity of societal and systemic change. DuBois takes a more integrated view of responsibility--both individual exertion to raise themselves from poverty and ignorance, and working toward change in general public opinion (t...more