The Souls of Black Folk

W.E.B. Du Bois

Du Bois was one of those people who studied and learned a lot of things about the world, a lot of things
that he found to be extremely unjust. This became his source of energy for becoming an intellectual guide
for America, warning it of "the 20th century color problem" and suggesting sound and rational courses of
action for the country to take. His contention was expressed lyrically and with passion in The Souls of

Black Folk that he wrote in 1903. His main philosophy was that an educated black elite should lead blacks
to liberation. This deviated sharply with the emphasis by Booker T. Washington that industrial training for
blacks and virtual silence on the questions of social and political equality. Washington’s ideas fitted well
with the views of many conservative whites but were opposed by many black leaders, among them Du


While writing The Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois declared that "the problem of the Twentieth Century is
the problem of the color line"--and predicted the racial conflicts that continue to plague our society. As up
and coming spokesperson for the African-Americans in the early 1900’s in the age of white dominance,

Du Bois urged the establishment of an "all-black party" and preached the need for black "conscious self-
realization" and for the separate autonomy of the black community. At the same time he stressed the white
man\'s responsibility for correcting racial inequality and pleaded for mutual understanding, for a nonviolent
solution to a centuries-old dilemma.

The first few chapters cover the Freedman’s Bureau and Booker T. Washington’s philosophical
applications on equality of the African-American. Du Bois creates a hybrid form of expression in The

Souls of Black Folk, this is covered in chapter three. Du Bois uses this mode of writing to question

American definitions of racial identity and difference and the political implications of these definitions.

He then utilizes this turn-of-the-century ambiguity in definitions of race in order to argue for the necessity
of recognizing, accepting, and utilizing the ethnic and racial diversity of the American people. In doing so,

Du Bois uses racist positions in order to argue against racism. In The Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois created
a text of mixture that incorporated fiction, musical notation, poetry, memoir, and history in order to
establish for himself a multi-cultural audience of blacks and whites who he encourages to question the
validity of racial discrimination and to!
take political action to further the cause of social equality for members of non-white races.

Du Bois was opposed to Booker T. Washington but this book brings out the reasons why. Du Bois
stood in opposition to Washington because: had a program that was narrow. Washington’s philosophy was
that African-Americans would only survive through submission and believed they should stick to manual
work and try to join the American consumer mentality in that way.

Du Bois maintained that it was not only unjust, but illogical for the white community to continue
attempting to thrust the blame for the black man\'s condition solely on to the shoulders of the former slaves.

The blame was shared by both races, but it was up to the whites as the economically and politically
stronger of the two to initiate the necessary steps involved in correcting the situation. The way for a
people to gain respect is not continually belittling and ridiculing themselves; that, on the contrary, all

African-Americans must insist continually, in season and out of season, that voting is necessary to modern
manhood. That color discrimination is barbarism, and a disease. And he presented the problem to the
white man in a way he could understand.

You can\'t help but notice a type of intellectual disgust for the South on the part of Du Bois in this book.

He intellectually browbeats them throughout the book, at times quite obviously. Being raised in a wealthy

New England home and having studied at Harvard and in Europe, Du Bois could not identify personally
with the majority of the poor blacks in the South. The position of African-American’s will need to assert
itself in that day when increasing wealth and more intricate social organization prevent the South from
being, as it so largely is, simply an armed camp for dissuading black folk. Such waste of energy cannot be
spared if the South is to catch up with society.

Another interesting point was Du Bois concept of African-American psychology:

"gifted with second-sight in this American world,--a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but
only lets him