The Souls of Black Folk (Paperback)
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The Souls of Black Folk is an African American studies text by an able advocate of his race's spiritual rights. Mr. Du Bois is a graduate of Harvard University and a professor in the University of Atlanta, and himself a man of great culture, he has always contended for the spiritual uplifting of the race as opposed to Mr. Booker Washington's practical and material theories. The book, published in 1903, 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 the 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 coined the term "double consciousness," which is 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 as "some echo of haunting melody from the only American music which welled up from black souls in the dark past." Columbia University English and comparative literature professor Brent Hayes Edwards writes: It is crucial to recognize that Du Bois ... chooses not to include the lyrics to the spirituals, which often serve to underline the arguments of the chapters: Booker T. 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. In his The Forethought, Du Bois states, "Leaving, then, the world of the white man, I have stepped within the Veil, raising it that you may view faintly its deeper recesses, - the meaning of its religion, the passion of its human sorrow, and the struggle of its greater souls." He concludes with, "need I add that I who speak here am bone of the bone and flesh of the flesh of them that live within the Veil? Chapter I, "Of Our Spiritual Strivings," lays out an overview of Du Bois's thesis for the book. It 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," which he 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." "One ever feels his 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. 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." 3]:5 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.