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The Souls of Black Folk

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4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  15,692 ratings  ·  531 reviews
Du Bois' 1903 collection of essays is a thoughtful, articulate exploration of the moral and intellectual issues surrounding the perception of blacks within American society.
Paperback, 288 pages
Published April 1st 1996 by Penguin Classics (first published 1903)
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Community Reviews

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Eric
Man, this guy can preach. I opened The Souls of Black Folk (1903) and found myself ten years old watching Ken Burns’s The Civil War with my dad, dumbstruck by Morgan Freeman’s readings of mighty polemical passages from Frederick Douglass.

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
Melki
There is such beautiful writing here.

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
Lotz
W.E.B. Du Bois was many things: pioneering social scientist, historian, activist, social critic, writer—and, most of all, a heck of a lot smarter than me. I say this because, while reading these essays, I had the continuous, nagging feeling of mental strain, which I found hard to account for. There is nothing conceptually difficult about his arguments; in fact, most are quite straightforward. Although his sentences do twist and turn, they’re not nearly as syntactically knotty as other authors th ...more
Trevor
This is really not the book I thought it was going to be. I thought this would be a more-or-less dry book of sociology discussing the lives of black folk in the US – you know: a few statistics, a bit of outrage, a couple of quotes, some history, but all written in a detached academic style. It isn’t like that at all, although there are bits of it that are written exactly like that. Du Bois has been one of those people that I’ve been seeing about the place for some time now. There is an extensive ...more
Becky
FINALLY finished! This book has been my 'errand book' book for ages now. I'd read a page or two while waiting in the car while running errands, or in line at the post office or the grocery store, etc, and... I'm not sure that is the best way to read this book. I can appreciate it for its role in literature and history, but reading this way made it feel like this slim little book would never end. It got rather tedious towards the end, I'll be honest.

That being said, there is some really good stu
...more
Paula
I appreciate DuBois’s classic study of race as an historical document, and at times even as a piece of literature. I particularly value his depiction of the political, social and material conditions in the South immediately following the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War. Nevertheless, I question some of his proposals and conclusions. Although his views may have been radical in 1903, many of them now sound paternalistic and outdated. Perhaps that, in and of itself, is a sign ...more
Clint Priest
I really did not care for this book at all, one that is considered a major literary work. The book was to describe the black experience in America around the turn of the century but it comes off as nothing more than indulgent prose. It seems to strive for how eloquently it can complain and disagree with contemporaries like Booker T. Washington. I really hoped for better from this book and hoped to learn from a new perspective but all I learned is that W.E.B. DuBois is a professional bloviator.
Andrew
Aug 05, 2007 Andrew rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in blackness in America
So far, so good.

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
Christina
Read this in college a while ago... Loved it. Changed the way I think. It was the first time I was introduced to the concepts of "the veil" and "double consciousness". My mind was blown.
david shin
This is one of the books that every human being should read in their lifetime. No other book is more profound or searing as DuBois' evaluation of the problem between the color line. It is both challenging and heart-breaking. Though we have made progress since the dawn of the twentieth century, we still have a long way to go.

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
janet
Still figuring what it all means. I'll get back to you on that, but it's deep. He used three utterly complex phrases: "the color line", "double consciousness," and "the veil" and the discussion of race in America has never been the same since. The second term wasn't a new term but he used it in his own brilliant and particular ways-not just one. I don't know who coined the first term. For all I know, it was Dubois, but I kind of doubt it. The third term is from the bible, but he takes control of ...more
Eddie
Speaks The Truth To Power

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
Brittany
This is my first time ever reading any of DuBois's literature and I am BLOWN away. I'm just going to list what I loved about the book, and try not to give too much. THIS BOOK WILL MAKE YOU DIG DEEPER.

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
Lydia
This is Du Bois state of the race book on the status of African-Americans at the turn of the 20th Century. He paints of bleak picture of a kidnapped, enslaved race that is suddenly set free with no education (against the law); no skills (for the majority of workers) and no family structure in the land of the free and home of the brave.

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
Eric Kibler
A very short book, but packed with different ways of looking at the aftermath of slavery in the United States.

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
Steve
Dubois is one of the preeminent African-American intellectuals of the 20th century--read the first few chapters to discover his creative concept of "double consciousness" for African Americans and the root of his quarrel with the assimilationism of good ol' Booker T.
Leslie
While interesting to see what has changed (and sadly note what has not), I found that these essays didn't impact me the way Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God or Alice Walker's The Color Purple did. I guess I relate to the more intimate personal lives shown in novels than the same situation shown in aggregate form in nonfiction. The parts I liked best were the ones that dealt with individuals, such as 'Of the Coming of John'.
Linda
The classics challenge offered the perfect opportunity for me to read Du Bois’ classic The Souls of Black Folks. It is an assortment of essay, some of which were published in the Atlantic Monthly Magazine, before being assembled and published as a book in 1903.

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
Jay
This is a reread for me. One of the deepest and most important books I have ever read.
Chris brown
an absolute must read.
Tinea
Jan 01, 2015 Tinea rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Tinea by: Kelly
Shelves: race-and-racism
This is another exquisitely, delicately, deliberately crafted work of critical theory that I will not presume to review. In this book, Du Bois captures daily life across the Deep South and in New England juxtaposed with aspiration, life beneath the veil of racism and white supremacy, both agonizing under and also soaring despite it. This is of course a foundational text. It is slower than I expected, meandering essays that converge on a whole rather than a direct pronunciation. The Souls of Blac ...more
É F.K. Ó Conghaile
Du bois has a wonderfully-styled form of writing. His prose is something beautiful, and his thoughts intriguing. At the start he wrote of violence in a way which does not graphically remind survivors of what they've survived, and also does not go into such detail as to seem a bit atroprop like in the writings of frederick douglass. Nonetheless, there are later multiple occasions in which he delves into blithe graphic detail and abruptly uses specific words of violence which don't apply to him - ...more
Karensa
Aug 12, 2014 Karensa rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: students of life
Why didn't I read this in college when I was writing my thesis on the black female body - double consciousness !! That's what I was going on about.

This is a vital book for anyone interested in American history or social conditions and race today. It turned out to be quite prophetic.

First though you will have to get over the language. It's a little lahdedah, poetic and at times pompous; one moment I would be learning something really interesting about the demographics of Atlanta and in my head I'
...more
Trice
awed and stricken by this book.
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
Janelle Heirendt
Aug 07, 2009 Janelle Heirendt rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people interested in social history and present issues
Recommended to Janelle by: Norton
I read an excerpt from my Norton Anthology. (III. Of Mr. Booker T Washington and Others).

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
Kyle
This was a good book to read along with Booker T. Washington's Up from Slavery. I think both authors and their books are important to understanding the struggle of the black people after the Civil War. I have a new appreciation for Washington's life and more importantly his attitude after reading Du Bois The Souls of Black Folk.

Du Bois was an eloquent writer able to paint a clear picture of the times for the readers, yet I found in his writing an underlying tone of anger, resentment, and turmoil
...more
Marialyce
What to say about a book that tries to describe the way a black person thinks, acts, and is? While the book was written with a lot of energetic meanderings, the tone of the essays left me feeling bereft of feelings. There was so much rhetoric that at times I thought I was reading a dissertation on the problems the slaves faced after the Civil War. The matter of fact style bothered me. I felt that Du Bois was not writing for the masses, but rattling on about how awful things were and providing an ...more
Leslie
See the Kindle edition for my review of the content. For this audiobook edition, I might give 2 stars.

Mirron Willis's narration may have played a role in my feelings for the book, as his deep slow voice was soporific. I had to speed up the narration to 2x to get what felt like normal speed to me. Even at that speed, I had difficulty focusing on the narration and frequently ended up reading along to force my attention to the text.
...more
Matthew Trevithick
A great read, clearly and honestly written with a simple confidence in the prose typical of older writing. Some parts are powerful calls to double standards, hypocrisy, or explanations of the often violent and generally bewildering post- Civil War context, some parts touching explanations of life in the South. As a native Bostonian, his obvious affection for New England's educational systems and civilization (his words) made me smile in more than a few places. His chapter on education as salvati ...more
David Withun
Du Bois is perhaps the greatest and most under-read African-American voice of the 20th century. What he offers here is an analysis of race in the United States that remains as relevant now, more than a hundred years hence, as when it was first written in 1903. His prescription to remedying the racial divide and gap in achievement between African-Americans and European-Americans is a combination of political involvement and higher education which will result in African-Americans building up a cul ...more
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Burke 3: HW Post #1: Favorite SoBF Quote 69 75 Dec 12, 2013 09:44AM  
  • The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man
  • The Mis-Education of the Negro
  • Up from Slavery
  • Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s
  • My Bondage and My Freedom
  • The Possessive Investment In Whiteness
  • Black Skin, White Masks
  • Black Looks: Race and Representation
  • Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America
  • American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass
  • The Fire Next Time
  • Race Matters
  • Black Power: The Politics of Liberation
  • Race Rebels: Culture, Politics, And The Black Working Class
  • The Ways of White Folks
  • Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race
  • Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro-American Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom
  • W.E.B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868-1919
10710
In 1868, W.E.B. Du Bois (né William Edward Burghardt Du Bois) was born in Massachusetts. He attended Fisk College in Nashville, then earned his BA in 1890 and his MS in 1891 from Harvard. Du Bois studied at the University of Berlin, then earned his doctorate in history from Harvard in 1894. He taught economics and history at Atlanta University from 1897-1910. The Souls of Black Folk (1903) made hi ...more
More about W.E.B. Du Bois...
Black Reconstruction in America 1860-1880 Three Negro Classics Writings Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study

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“Herein lies the tragedy of the age: not that men are poor, — all men know something of poverty; not that men are wicked, — who is good? not that men are ignorant, — what is Truth? Nay, but that men know so little of men.” 70 likes
“One ever feels his twoness, -- an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose strenth alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” 36 likes
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