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The Souls of Black Folk (AmazonClassics Edition) Kindle Edition
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First published in 1903, this groundbreaking work is a cornerstone of African American literary history and a foundational text in the field of sociology. In these fourteen essays, W. E. B. Du Bois introduces and explores the concept of “double-consciousness”—a term he uses to describe the experience of living as an African American and having a “sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others.”
Though an examination of Black life in post–Civil War America, The Souls of Black Folk has had a lasting impact on civil rights and the discussion of race in the United States.
Revised edition: Previously published as The Souls of Black Folk, this edition of The Souls of Black Folk (AmazonClassics Edition) includes editorial revisions.
About the Author
William Edward Burghardt (W. E. B.) Du Bois (1868–1963) was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. A scholar, activist, and author, Du Bois was not only the first African American to earn a PhD from Harvard University but was also the most celebrated advocate of African American rights in the early twentieth century. He cofounded the NAACP in 1909, and founded the organization’s magazine, The Crisis, which is now the oldest Black publication in the world.
In addition to his work as a professor of history, sociology, and economics at Atlanta University, Du Bois worked his entire life to promote civil rights, Pan-Africanism, women’s rights, and nuclear disarmament. A prolific writer, Du Bois penned many works, including Black Reconstruction in America, The Philadelphia Negro, and the seminal sociological work, The Souls of Black Folk.
Du Bois died in Accra, Ghana, at the age of ninety-five—just a day before Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington.
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.--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B071FQQHFB
- Publisher : AmazonClassics (June 27, 2017)
- Publication date : June 27, 2017
- Language : English
- File size : 1210 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 250 pages
- Page numbers source ISBN : B09GJSBCYV
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #22,915 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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William Edward Burghardt “W.E.B.” Du Bois lived a full productive life which spanned the long era of “Jim Crow.” He was born in 1868, and died at the age of 95, one year before the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, in Accra, Ghana, as a citizen of that country. He was the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard. His writings reflect a thorough grounding in the Greek and Roman classics, with references that were – at times, frankly beyond me. His prose is temperate, the “outrage” is left to the reader to conclude when the circumstances are described in measured terms, which often fully acknowledges the faults and predicaments of his own race. As the introduction says: “Du Bois achieves in his text a rare combination of pathos and dignity, presenting a portrait of black culture that commands respect.” For many years he would teach at the Atlanta University complex, and writes fondly of the 100 hills of Atlanta, the trees, and the red clay soil of Georgia. His wry introspection is demonstrated in the opening paragraph, where he asks the subject question.
The vast majority of these 14 separate but intertwined essays concern racial relations in the United States after the Emancipation and the year of publication, 1903. One in particular was not, which was reflective of his own experience, when his first-born son died in infancy. In the third essay he presents his arguments with Booker T. Washington, concerning the education of the Negro in “trade schools,” stressing the need for the classical education which Du Bois had, saying that they had “put up high schools and called them colleges.” “Mr. Washington represents in Negro thought the old attitude of adjustment and submission.” Washington asked them to give up three things – “Political power, Insistence on Civil Rights, and Higher Education of Negro Youth.” Du Bois was the one who insisted that all three were “musts.” Separately, Du Bois says: “for the South believed that an educated Negro to be a dangerous Negro.” From my own experience, Du Bois is only looking at a sub-set, since I would add that, in general, anyone who is both educated – and questioning in a substantive way – of either race, South or North, is considered both “dangerous” and “a trouble maker.”
The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, immediately established in the aftermath of the Civil War, and led by Major General Oliver O. Howard, from Maine, who Du Bois describes as: “an honest man, with too much faith in human nature, little aptitude for business and intricate detail” was another topic I was totally unfamiliar with. Du Bois describes the initiative of mainly white female teachers from New England as “the 9th Crusade” for their efforts in establishing schools in the South, for both blacks and whites, after the Civil War. When the Freedman Bureau died, Du Bois describes its child as the Fifteen Amendment to the Constitution.
In other essays, he describes his experience as a student at Fisk University in Nashville, and his subsequent experience teaching in very rudimentary log cabins for black students, and how he was housed in the homes of the student’s parents. In another temperate essay, he enrages the reader with the story of my “namesake,” John Jones, a black who had serious problems, both North and South. In NYC, he purchased an expensive ticket to see an opera, was seated, enjoying the performance when an usher, every so apologetically explained that the seat had been previously sold, and he would have to move (he was seated next to a white woman, and her husband had complained). Of course we will refund your money the usher explains. Jones decides to return to his native South, where the people seem more honest in their bigotry. There is a telling scene where Jones went to see “the Judge” who claimed he had “done so much for your people,” but Jones makes the mistake of going to the front door, and is rebuked for bringing those “uppity” Northern ideas back home.
By far the essay that was the most informative, and resonated the strongest was the one on Dougherty County, Georgia, at the west end of the “Black belt” in that state. In the 1880’s-90’s the population was approximately 10,000 blacks and 2,000 whites. Du Bois describes in detail the economics of growing cotton in that county, with its impact on the humans, and the mechanisms that were used to keep everyone in debt, and therefore under control (today, many a college graduate would understand well). Consider just one fact: Cotton was 14 cents a pound in 1860 and 4 cents a pound in 1898. In the early ‘70’s I would travel to Dougherty County on business on a monthly basis, and was utterly oblivious to these central historical facts. ‘Tis more than a bit embarrassing. And then there is the matter of those formative experiences with two of the progeny from Dougherty County, each living on a different side of what Du Bois would call “the Veil.” Further heightened embarrassment that I did not know. Better late than…
6-stars for Du Bois seminal perceptions.
In its time (being published in 1903) this book was meant to be persuasive, a tool to help people understand and mollify or change their thought processes. I continued reading the book for an entirely different reason, based upon my love and fascination of history. In today’s world, this is definitely a revealing slice of history. It not only reveals another side to the United States during the 35 years after the Civil War, but also allows an understanding of the evolving issues in the 20th and 21st centuries.
History is always best when related by someone who lived during that era, and W.E.B. DuBois certainly qualifies. His words seek to enlighten rather than incite, and reading the book will provide the path leading to the incendiary speech of today. While I had some knowledge of the time period, this was my first introduction to the world of the former slaves, and reading the timeline of events from 1865 to 1900 enabled me to draw my own lines form 1900 to the current year.
There are those who may incorrectly determine that this is nothing more than a treatise, one over a century old that should be allowed to gather dust or molder away. In an era where some think nothing of erasing our country’s history, this is one more example why we need to embrace our history, no matter whether it is positive or negative. Without looking back and correcting our errors, how can we ever expect to move forward? Five stars.
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Glad I got it, and would recommend for historic and cultural value.