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Du Bois. It is a seminal work in the history of sociology and a cornerstone of African-American literature. The book contains several essays on race, some of which the magazine Atlantic Monthly had previously published. To develop this work, Du Bois drew from his own experiences as an African American in American society. Outside of its notable relevance in African-American history , The Souls of Black Folk also holds an important place in social science as one of the early works in the field of sociology.
In The Souls of Black Folk , Du Bois used the term " double consciousness ", perhaps taken from Ralph Waldo Emerson "The Transcendentalist" and "Fate" , applying it to the idea that black people must have two fields of vision at all times. They must be conscious of how they view themselves, as well as being conscious of how the world views them. Each chapter in The Souls of Black Folk begins with a pair of epigraphs: text from a poem, usually by a European poet, and the musical score of a spiritual , which Du Bois describes in his foreword "The Forethought" as "some echo of haunting melody from the only American music which welled up from black souls in the dark past".
It is crucial to recognize that Du Bois Washington 's idealism is echoed in the otherworldly salvation hoped for in "A Great Camp-Meeting in the Promised Land", for example; likewise the determined call for education in "Of the Training of Black Men" is matched by the strident words of "March On". Edwards adds that Du Bois may have withheld the lyrics to mark a barrier for the reader, to suggest that black culture—life "within the veil"—remains inaccessible to white people.
He says that the blacks of the South need the right to vote, the right to a good education, and to be treated with equality and justice. Here, he also coined " double-consciousness ", defined as a "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. The History of the American Negro is the history of this strive-this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self.
He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face. The first chapter also introduces Du Bois's famous metaphor of the veil.
According to Du Bois, this veil is worn by all African-Americans because their view of the world and its potential economic, political, and social opportunities are so vastly different from those of white people. The veil is a visual manifestation of the color line, a problem Du Bois worked his whole life to remedy.
Du Bois sublimates the function of the veil when he refers to it as a gift of second sight for African Americans, thus simultaneously characterizing the veil as both a blessing and a curse. The second chapter, "Of the Dawn of Freedom", covers the period of history from to and the Freedmen's Bureau.
Du Bois also introduces the problem of the color-line. Du Bois describes the Freedmen's Bureau as "one of the most singular and interesting of the attempts made by a great nation to grapple with vast problems of race and social condition. Armstrong , and Erastus Cravath. He worried that the demise of the Freedman's Savings Bank , which resulted in huge losses for many freedmen of any savings, resulted in freedmen losing "all the faith in savings".
Finally, he argues that "if we cannot peacefully reconstruct the South with white votes, we certainly can with black votes. Thus Negro suffrage ended a civil war by beginning a race feud. Here Du Bois argues against Booker T. Washington 's idea of focusing solely on industrial education for black men. Du Bois refers to the Atlanta Compromise as the "most notable of Mr. Washington's career," and "the old attitude of adjustment and submission. He fears that, if black people "concentrate all their energies on industrial education, the accumulation of wealth, and the conciliation of the South," this will lead to 1 The disenfranchisement of the Negro, 2 The legal creation of a distinct status of civil inferiority for the Negro, and 3 The steady withdrawal of aid from institutions for the higher training of the Negro.
Washington apologizes for injustice, North or South, does not rightly value the privilege and duty of voting, opposes the higher training and ambition of our brighter minds,—so far as he, the South, or the Nation, does this,—we must unceasingly and firmly oppose them. Note: By the time Du Bois published his book, most of the former Confederate states had completed disenfranchisement of blacks, led by Mississippi in , by constitutional amendments and other laws raising barriers to voter registration, primarily through poll taxes, residency and recordkeeping requirements, subjective literacy tests and other devices.
Virginia passed similar laws in By excluding blacks from political life, southern legislatures were able to pass Jim Crow laws and other discriminatory methods. In the fourth chapter, "Of the Meaning of Progress", Du Bois explores his experiences first, when he was teaching in Tennessee.
Secondly he returned after 10 years and found the town where he had worked had suffered many unpleasant changes. In its place stood Progress; and Progress, I understand, is necessarily ugly. Yet, he states, after meeting with the commissioner, "but even then fell the awful shadow of the Veil, for they ate first, then I-alone. Du Bois compares Atlanta , the City of a Hundred Hills, to Atalanta , and warns against the "greed of gold," or "interpreting the world in dollars.
He admonishes readers to "Teach workers to work, and Teach thinkers to think. Du Bois discusses how "to solve the problem of training men for life," especially as it relates to the Negro, who "hang between them and a light a veil so thick, that they shall not even think of breaking through. Then complete school systems were established including Normal schools and colleges, followed by the industrial revolution in the South from to , and its industrial schools.
Yet, he asks, "Is Not life more than meat, and the body more than raiment? Du Bois asserts: " He goes on to state, "If the Negro was to learn, he must teach himself," and cites the 30, black teachers created in one generation who "wiped out the illiteracy of the majority of the black people of the land, and they made Tuskegee possible. From to , there were 22 Negro graduates from Northern colleges and from Southern Negro colleges. From to , Northern colleges graduated Negros and over graduated from Southern Negro colleges.
Du Bois concludes by stating that the " And finally, beyond all this, it must develop men. Yet, he notes, it is not far from "where Sam Hose was crucified" [in a lynching], "to-day the centre of the Negro problem,-the centre of those nine million men who are America's dark heritage from slavery and the slave-trade.
These families are plagued with "easy marriage and easy separation," a vestige of slavery, which the Negro church has done much to prevent "a broken household. Economically, the Negro has become a slave of debt, says Du Bois. He describes the economic classes: the "submerged tenth" of croppers , 40 percent are metayers or "tenant on shares" with a chattel mortgage , 39 percent are semi-metayers and wage-laborers, while 5 percent are money-renters, and 6 percent freeholders.
Finally, du Bois states that only 6 percent "have succeeded in emerging into peasant proprietorship", leading to a "migration to town", the "buying of small homesteads near town". This chapter discusses "race-contact", specifically as it relates to physical proximity, economic and political relations, intellectual contact, social contact, and religious enterprise. As for physical proximity, Du Bois states there is an obvious "physical color-line" in Southern communities separating whites from Negroes, and a Black Belt in larger areas of the country.
He says that here is a need for "Negro leaders of character and intelligence" to help guide Negro communities along the path out of the current economic situation.
The power of the ballot is necessary, he asserts, as "in every state the best arbiters of their own welfare are the persons directly affected. In Chapter X, Du Bois describes the rise of the black church and examines the history and contemporary state of religion and spiritualism among African Americans. After recounting his first exposure to the Southern Negro revival , Du Bois notes three things that characterize this religion: the Preacher, the Music, and the Frenzy—the Frenzy or Shouting being "when the Spirit of the Lord passed by, and, seizing the devotee, made him mad with supernatural joy.
Predominately Methodists or Baptists after Emancipation, when Emancipation finally, came Du Bois states, it seemed to the freedman a literal "Coming of the Lord". The final chapters of the book are devoted to narratives of individuals. His son, Burghardt, contracted diphtheria and white doctors in Atlanta refused to treat black patients. Du Bois comments, "Why was his hair tinted with gold? An evil omen was golden hair in my life. Du Bois ends with, "Sleep, then, child,—sleep till I sleep and waken to a baby voice and the ceaseless patter of little feet-above the Veil.
In this chapter, Du Bois recounts a short biography of Alexander Crummell , an early black priest in the Episcopal Church. Du Bois starts with, "This is the history of a human heart. The penultimate chapter, "Of the Coming of John", is fictional.
When he returns to his place, he discovers that "[l]ittle had they understood of what he said, for he spoke an unknown tongue" Du Bois John's return to the South has made him a foreigner in his own home. After he attempts to teach a class for the local children, John is compared to a different John, the son of wealthy Judge Henderson.
John Henderson has become bored after his own return from college. He begins to sexually assault Jennie, the sister of black John, when the young white man sees her outside his home. John kills white John and bids his mother goodbye. In the final part of the story, there is an implication that he is about to be lynched by a gathering mob, and John "softly hum[s] the 'Song of the Bride ' " in German. Du Bois He refers to the short musical passages at the beginning of each of the other chapters.
Du Bois mentions that the music was so powerful and meaningful that, regardless of the people's appearance and teaching, "their hearts were human and their singing stirred men with a mighty power. He says, "Your country? How came it yours?.. Du Bois heralds the "melody of the slave songs", or the Negro spirituals, as the "articulate message of the slave to the world. For Du Bois's contention that the sorrow songs contain a notative excess, and untranscribable element Yolanda Pierce identifies as the "soul" of the sorrow songs.
Few books make history and fewer still become foundational texts for the movements and struggles of an entire people. The Souls of Black Folk occupies this rare position. It helped to create the intellectual argument for the black freedom struggle in the twentieth century. By describing a global color-line, Du Bois anticipated pan-Africanism and colonial revolutions in the Third World.
Moreover, this stunning critique of how 'race' is lived through the normal aspects of daily life is central to what would become known as ' whiteness studies ' a century later. At the time of its publication, the Nashville Banner warned of The Souls of Black Folk , "This book is dangerous for the Negro to read, for it will only incite discontent and fill his imagination with things that do not exist, or things that should not bear upon his mind. In his introduction to the edition, writer Saunders Redding observed, "The boycott of the buses in Montgomery had many roots.
As Yale professor Hazel Carby points out, for black writers before the abolition of slavery in , it was impossible "even to imagine the option of returning to the South once black humanity and freedom had been gained in the North", and it was rarely found in later literature as well. Carby traces the ways in which Du Bois gendered his narrative of black folk, but also how Du Bois's conceptual framework is gendered as well.
According to Carby, it seems that Du Bois in this book is most concerned with how race and nation intersect, and how such an intersection is based on particular masculine notions of progress.
According to Carby, Du Bois "exposes and exploits the tension that exists between the internal egalitarianism of the nation and the relations of domination and subordination embodied in a racially encoded social hierarchy.
However, this unified race is only possible through the gendered narrative that he constructs throughout Souls , which renders black male intellectuals himself as the only possible leader s of the unified race.
Carby explains that "in order to retain his credentials for leadership, Du Bois had to situate himself as both an exceptional and a representative individual The terms and conditions of his exceptionalism, Du Bois argues, have their source in his formation as a gendered intellectual.
In other words, "the figure of the intellectual and race leader is born of and engendered by other males.