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The Souls of Black Folk

4.21  ·  Rating Details ·  20,515 Ratings  ·  713 Reviews

In this founding work in the literature of black protest, Du Bois eloquently affirms that it is beneath the dignity of a human being to beg for those rights that belong inherently to all mankind. He also charges that the strategy of accommodation to white supremacy would only serve to perpetuate black oppression.

Paperback, 256 pages
Published February 19th 1990 by Vintage (first published 1903)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Bill  Kerwin
Aug 02, 2016 Bill Kerwin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-studies

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
Ken Moten
Jul 07, 2016 Ken Moten rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All Americans, on both continents. Also former colonial powers and why not throw in Australia too.
"I am black but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem,
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
Eric
Aug 15, 2014 Eric rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, essays
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
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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
Feb 23, 2015 Trevor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: social-theory, race
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
Melki
Jan 31, 2015 Melki rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
david shin
Mar 13, 2007 david shin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Clint Priest
Aug 29, 2012 Clint Priest rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Paula
Mar 01, 2009 Paula rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Eddie
May 27, 2013 Eddie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: african-american
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
Andrew
Aug 05, 2007 Andrew rated it it was amazing  ·  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 Marie
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.
Eric Kibler
Feb 28, 2015 Eric Kibler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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janet
Oct 12, 2014 janet rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Howard Franklin
Feb 25, 2016 Howard Franklin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am adding The Souls of Black Folk, by the great black intellectual and civil rights leader, W.E.B. DuBois. As the note introducing this masterful and eloquent volume states: “Part social documentary, part history, part autobiography, part anthropological field report, The Souls of Black Folk remains unparalleled in its scope.” And I would add, not only true at the time of its publication in 1903, but equally true today.

When I began this work, I knew many things about W.E.B., facts like he was
...more
Brittany
Jan 30, 2015 Brittany rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015-challenge
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
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
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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
Ran
Aug 04, 2016 Ran rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, 300s, race, loc-list
"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
Chris brown
Feb 06, 2015 Chris brown rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
an absolute must read.
Jan Priddy
It is an important book, a well written and elegantly crafted book. I am glad to have read it.

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 ha
...more
Tinea
Jan 04, 2016 Tinea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tinea by: Kelly
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
Iman
Considering I wrote my final American Lit paper on this book, I would think that I'd be sick of it but instead, I'm fascinated and in love with the genius that was W.E.B. Du Bois. This should be required reading for EVERYONE, and because we could all learn something from it.

"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
poingu
This feels like an Ur-text, for sociology, for identity studies, for African American history. It's like what Euclid is to every Geometry book written since. It's clear-sighted, and it's also very sad, to realize how much momentum has been lost, and how little has changed since Du Bois wrote this book.
Steve
Jun 27, 2007 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jay
Jan 26, 2013 Jay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a reread for me. One of the deepest and most important books I have ever read.
Ralowe Ampu
Nov 13, 2015 Ralowe Ampu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
so we started a fanon reading group. actually it was supposed to be an afropessimist reading group. i kind of don't really want it to be that. saidiya hartman apparently disagrees with frank wilderson's classification as an afropessimist. i don't need afropessimism to tell me not to vote but if that does it for you then whoopty-woo. it's a fun way to read film. i suggested adding *souls* to our reading list because during the q&a of a recent talk on poetry and blackness in berkeley fred mote ...more
É F.K. O'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 liked it  ·  review of another edition
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'
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Burke 3: HW Post #1: Favorite SoBF Quote 69 91 Dec 12, 2013 09:44AM  
  • The Mis-Education of the Negro
  • Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s
  • Race Matters
  • The Possessive Investment In Whiteness
  • The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class
  • Black Skin, White Masks
  • How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America: Problems in Race, Political Economy, and Society (Updated Edition)
  • Black Power: The Politics of Liberation
  • The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man
  • The New Negro
  • Up from Slavery
  • Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made
  • An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy Vol. 1
  • Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination
  • The Ways of White Folks
  • Women, Race, and Class
  • Blues People: Negro Music in White America
  • W.E.B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868-1919
10710
In 1868, W.E.B. Du Bois (William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, pronounced 'doo-boyz') 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 ...more
More about W.E.B. Du Bois...

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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.” 98 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.” 47 likes
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