Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Book Review: The Souls of Black Folk by WEB Du Bois (1903)






William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (1868-1963) is considered the greatest of African American intellectuals--a sociologist, historian, novelist, and activist whose career spanned the nation's history from Reconstruction to the civil rights movement.  Du Bois was born in Massachusetts and educated at Fisk, Harvard, and the University of Berlin.  


Du Bois penned The Souls of Black Folk, in 1903. This book is still his most studied and popular work.  A study of the transition of African Americans from slavery to freedom at the turn of the 20th century, he shares insights into Negro life at the turn of the 20th century.  This book examines the role of government, economics and African American leaders in the development of the African American from emancipation through the beginning of the twentieth century.  His concepts of life behind the veil of race and the resulting "double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others," have become the basis for thinking about race in America. Not only does Du Bois discuss the disconnection between Americans and African Americans and suggests obstacles to that progress, and the possibilities for future progress as the United States enters the twentieth century.   Most of what Du Bois discusses is still relevant today, and this is a tribute to the man, not only as a scholar, but as someone who was continually adapting his views in the best image and interests of black people.  


Reading Du Bois collection of essays was enlightening, his prose was formal as was common in the time it was written.  This is not an easy read.  But I believe it is well worth reading.