Herein lie buried many things which if read with patience may show the strange meaning of being black here at the dawning of the Twentieth Century. This meaning is not without interest to you, Gentle Reader; for the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line. I pray you, then, receive my little book in all charity, studying my words with me, forgiving mistake and foible for sake of the faith and passion that is in me, and seeking the grain of truth hidden there. Part historian, part activist, part autobiographer, part economic critic. W. E. B. Du Bois, in this fundamental look at the basis of the civil rights movement, attempts a scrupulous evaluation of the progress of African American cultural development in the United States. Du Bois insisted that there were three things indispensable to this progress: the right to vote, civic impartiality, and equal educational situations. He described the outrage of leaving any establishment of equal rights to an advancing movement fueled by protest and not by the cooperative consideration of justice. Du Bois was educated at Fisk, Harvard, and the University of Berlin and wrote this masterwork in 1903. Because his life spanned the nation's historical events from Reconstruction following the Civil War to modern civil rights activity, he was able to evaluate the cavernous depths crossed by American black men to claim their right to an environment free from oppression. This book demonstrates how the effort to be logical while analyzing the total historic effect of Afro-American socialization oddly blends racial characteristics and racial eloquence. Du Bois' commitment to an accurate understanding of this condition will inspire any reader to an objective assessment of the adversities encountered by African Americans.
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (1868-1963) is the greatest of African American intellectuals--a sociologist, historian, novelist, and activist whose astounding career spanned the nation's history from Reconstruction to the civil rights movement. Born in Massachusetts and educated at Fisk, Harvard, and the University of Berlin, Du Bois penned his epochal masterpiece, The Souls of Black Folk
, in 1903. It remains his most studied and popular work; its insights into Negro life at the turn of the 20th century still ring true.
With a dash of the Victorian and Enlightenment influences that peppered his impassioned yet formal prose, the book's largely autobiographical chapters take the reader through the momentous and moody maze of Afro-American life after the Emancipation Proclamation: from poverty, the neoslavery of the sharecropper, illiteracy, miseducation, and lynching, to the heights of humanity reached by the spiritual "sorrow songs" that birthed gospel and the blues. The most memorable passages are contained in "On Booker T. Washington and Others," where Du Bois criticizes his famous contemporary's rejection of higher education and accommodationist stance toward white racism: "Mr. Washington's programme practically accepts the alleged inferiority of the Negro races," he writes, further complaining that Washington's thinking "withdraws many of the high demands of Negroes as men and American citizens." The capstone of The Souls of Black Folk, though, is Du Bois' haunting, eloquent description of the concept of the black psyche's "double consciousness," which he described as "a peculiar sensation.... One ever feels this twoness--an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder." Thanks to W.E.B. Du Bois' commitment and foresight--and the intellectual excellence expressed in this timeless literary gem--black Americans can today look in the mirror and rejoice in their beautiful black, brown, and beige reflections. --Eugene Holley Jr.