A Review Of The Souls Of Black Folk By W.e.b Dubois
The scholar and activist, W.E.B. Du Bois, became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1895. He wrote extensively and was the best-known spokesperson for African American rights during the first half of the 20th century. In 1909, Du Bois co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People or as we simply say the (NAACP).
‘The influential rights activist wrote ‘The Souls of Black Folk’ which, in my opinion, is a critical landmark in the work of literature of Black protest. It truly holds a mirror to Black Americans even in today’s time. As I read, I could feel Du Bois’s passion. His view of race relations in American at the dawn of the 20th century was clear, critical and deeply profound. This reading has Changed the way I think. It was the first time I was introduced to the concepts of ‘the veil’ and ‘double consciousness’. My mind was blown.
The Souls of Black Folk was published in 1903, and just as the two directions of black leadership in the tumultuous 60’s and ’70’s were symbolized by Martin and Malcolm, the two directions at the turn of the last century-a period punctuated by lynchings and race riots, were embodied in Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois. Washington, born a slave in the South, urged blacks, at least for the present, to accept Jim Crow and disenfranchisement in return for safety and peace, while they concentrated on attending trade schools and developing and demonstrating to white society-their integrity and character.
Dubois begins by dissecting racism and analyzing its consequences, most notably how racism, particularly “the color line”, places every black person beneath the “veil,” creating a special way of seeing — painful, but also illuminating, which comes from being set apart. In “The Dawn of Freedom,” he offers a perceptive view of reconstruction, and in “Of Booker T. Washington and Others” he coldly, devastatingly, holds up Washington’s ideas for critical examination. Throughout the first quarter of the work, he excels in conveying sociological insights in a magisterial-almost biblical — fashion.
The short story – a story about two first sons, one black and one white, and their parallel, though strikingly different journeys through life, present a stark vision of the constraints placed on one life and the soulless destitution of the other. I found this story moving, but also a fascinating way to make the point about the nature and consequences of racism in the US – the extremes people will go to so as to keep people in their place and how hard it is, once you have seen the ‘truth’ to convince those around you of that ‘truth’ – this is, again, speaking from a position outside of ‘normal’ understanding, always means sounding like a madman. It is the price of the getting of wisdom. Du Bois does not make the getting of this wisdom sound easy nor does he present the ‘benefits’ of such acquisition as terribly positive – but he does make clear that there is no other path, that all other ways lead to servitude.
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