The Souls of Black Folk, originally published in 1903, contains a number of groundbreaking essays on race and race relations by scholar and activist W.E.B. DuBois. As an early work in the field of sociology, this book analyzes the interactions between the races and offers a solution for the strife and inequality that had come to characterize those interactions. DuBois believed that education was the route to a better life for all blacks, and his recommendation became the basis for the civil rights movement. Anyone interested in history, race relations, sociology, or the intellectual heritage of the United States will find this an essential read. American writer, civil rights activist, and scholar W.E.B. DUBOIS (1868-1963) was a free-born African American in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. He was the first black man to receive a PhD from Harvard University and was convinced that education was the means for African Americans to achieve equality. He wrote a number of important books, including The Philadelphia Negro (1899), Black Folk, Then and Now (1899), and The Negro (1915).
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.