The Souls of Black Folk Essay
The Souls of Black Folk
In order to fully understand and analyze the text “The Souls of Black Folk”, a thorough study on the background of the author W. E. B. Du Bois must be done in order to understand the context in which the book was written, and in order to identify the different factors which led him to consider writing the book. William Edward Burghardt DuBois, “The Father of Pan-Africanism” otherwise referred to as W. E. B Du Bois, was born on February 23, 1868, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts to Alfred Du Bois and Mary Silvina Burghardt Du Bois.
Du Bois father, Alfred Du Bois was born in Haiti, and thus makes William Du Bois half Haitian and half French. The Du Bois’ French bloodline traces back to the William Du Bois’ grandfather who lived in Haiti engaging in plantations and the shipping industry which was yet blooming. An outstanding critic, editor, scholar, author, and civil rights leader, W. E. B. Du Bois is certainly among the most influential blacks of the twentieth century. (“William Edward Burghardt DuBois” <http://www. gale. com/free_resources/bhm/bio/dubois_w. htm>).
Du Bois was known throughout the west as an African American activist who was strongly against racial prejudice and racial discrimination. Du Bois was born 5 months before the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified, and added to the U. S. Constitution. (“W. E. B. Du Bois” <http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/W. E. B. _DuBois#_ref-2>) This means he was born before protection for freed slaves in the whole United States was not yet approved by the country, although, he was born free. Du Bois grew in Great Barrington, Massachusetts without contact with his father.
Great Barrington at that time only had less than 50 Black people in its 5000 population. Although racial discrimination was hardly felt in the area, the environment still suggesting its existence and the difference between white people and black people affected Du Bois personality. “This mutated the personality of young William from good natured and outgoing to sullen and withdrawn. This was later reinforced and strengthened by inner withdrawals in the face of real discriminations. His demeanor of introspection haunted him throughout his life. ” (Hynes <http://www.
duboislc. org/html/DuBoisBio. html>) Du Bois earned his bachelor degree at Fisk University at Nashville, Tennessee, and took continuing courses and finished his second bachelors as well as a Ph. D. from Harvard University. During his first trip to the south, Du Bois’ concept of the race problem became much clearer and defined. With this enlightenment, he became determined in crushing the emancipation of his people. In 1891, ex-President Rutherford Hayes, a head of a fund for the education of Negroes, declared that there was no such Negro who was worthy of studying abroad.
Du Bois challenged this declaration and applied directly to Hayes who accepted his misjudgment and sent him to the University of Berlin, in Germany. Du Bois “began to see the race problems in the Americas, Africa, and Asia, and the political development of Europe as one”. (Hynes, <http://www. duboislc. org/html/DuBoisBio. html>) At the early age of 26, Du Bois taught at Wilberforce in Ohio with the compensation of $800 a year. In 1896, he accepted a special fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania where he studied the Pennsylvania seventh ward slums, in which he took the opportunity to study the Black as a Social System.
He also established the Department of Sociology at the Atlanta University, which is now known as Clark Atlanta University. Du Bois wrote the Souls of Black Folk in 1903, although he also wrote other books such as, The Philadelphia Negro, John Brown, Black Reconstruction, Black Folk, Then and Now, and The Negro. He also wrote about crime and analyzed the major factors which contributed to the increased crime rate wherein a Negro population was present.
He said that “the appearance of crime among the Southern Negroes is a symptom of wrong social conditions- of a stress of life greater than a large part of the community can bear”(Du Bois, 1901b, p. 745). Du Bois blamed the emancipation of the Negro and their harsh environment which led to their involvement and relation to crimes. Du Bois help found the Niagara Foundation in 1905 together with William Trotter, however it was short lived since they had problems regarding whether they were to include white people in the organization, since they were on their fight for civil rights.
Du Bois then founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He then used the NAACP’s newsletter the Crisis to advocate the cause of the Negro as well self-help and vocational training for southern blacks. This he did with Booker T. Washington which he later had an ideological debate with since what Washington wanted was for blacks to assimilate to the culture of the white people, while Du Bois believed that they should have a culture of their own. He was then invited to become a commissioned army officer during the first World War which however found him not it physically.
Du bois then became a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha, the first Greek-letter fraternity established for African-Americans. In 1942, due to the red paranoia caused by the advancement of socialist states in the Asia and Europe, The FBI accused Du Bois of being a communist. They said that this was due to the orientation of his readings which have lean to the left due to their progressive character. Du Bois also visited Communist China, and headed the Peace Information Center during the Korean War, these were enough reasons to tag him as communist.
After running for senate in 1950, he was indicted in the US under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, though he was acquitted due to the lack of evidence. In 1959, he received the Lennin Peace Prize, and in 1960 he joined the USA Communist Party. In 1961, he was invited to Ghana, to direct the Encyclopedia Africana, he accepted the offer and in 1963, when he was not issued another American Passport, He and his wife became citizens of Ghana. On August 27, 1963, William Du Bois Died in Accra, Ghana, due to old age and poor health.
Double Consciousness “After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world,—a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this 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 two-ness,—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. ” (Du Bois 3. ) Chapter 1 on Du Bois’ book discusses on the double-consciousness, of an African-American. Du Bois explains double consciousness as the feeling of having two identities in one person which disturbs the person’s identity, not knowing which of the two to be recognized with. Du Bois’ believes that double consciousness is a problem of the African-American, who was once been a slave.
This makes his freedom not only a physical freedom, but a freedom to search for his being which then causes confusion on his personality, whether he is to be considered as white or to be considered as a black. Since at that time, being black means that you’re a slave or a former slave, and the society continues to treat blacks as slaves or second class citizens. African-Americans try to be assimilated with the culture of the White Americans, while at the same time look back at their cultural past and try to practice them.
In the attempt to be assimilated to the culture of the white, the African-Americans of Du bois time try to be conscious about trying hard to be white, and try to disregard his own personality and culture, as he tries to please his former masters by being white himself. Du Bois notion of double consciousness might have risen from the cultural, political, and economic factors which might have caused him to understand the life perception of an African-American.
The harsh environment of Great Barrington as well as his struggles in getting credits for his studies and his attempts to become assimilated with the White people himself might have led him to the understanding of double consciousness in an African-American. The Souls Of Black Folk The Souls of the Black Folk, is basically a book written by Du Bois in an attempt to critically understand and analyze the problems of the Black people during his time, by looking at the history of the existence of the Black people and the history of their society in America.
He writes about his experiences and about the different people he’s met and he has been in conflict with. The story begins with the history of the freedom of the black folk due to the Civil war in which has led to their freedom, and what the White people had done in order to separate the Black folk and treat them as some other beings. It then discussed on the stand and beliefs of Booker T. Washington which was submissive and counterproductive to the interests and the long-term aspirations of the black folk during his time.
The story, then tells about Du Bois’ experiences in Tennessee and his frustrations with how the American materialism has spoiled the culture and the direction of the then rising Atlanta. He criticized materialism as a cause to forget all the other important factors of human beings and just focus on earning money and gaining wealth. He believes that there should be a balance between the “standards of lower training” and the “standards of human culture and lofty ideals of life.
” In effect, the African American college should train the “Talented Tenth” who can in turn contribute to lower education and at the same time serve as middlemen in improving the relations between the Black and the White. Du Bois then analyzes the life of the Black Folk in Georgia as he called it the centre of Negro Problems. Du Bois tells about the history of the county as well as the current social and economic factors which kept the county standing during that time, such as the continuous legal tenant system which Du Bois believed has only been slightly removed from slavery.
Du Bois also believed that this might also be the main cause of the problem on why only few African-Americans gain wealth on the economic system in Georgia. Du Bois also discussed about the conception and the transformation of the African American Religion from slavery to the formation of Baptist and Methodist churches, which have some evidences of the remnants of the slave trade and the African American religions. Du Bois believed that “the study of Negro religion is not only a vital part of the history of the Negro in America, but no uninteresting part of American history.
” At the latter chapters of The Souls of Black Folk, much emphasis was given on the effects of racial prejudice and the impacts of the color line to the different individuals during that time. Du Bois also mourned about the death of his baby, but he considered the fact that his baby was better dead than to live a life prejudiced by the harsh color-line. Du bois also told the story of Alexander Crummel a black guy who struggled against racial prejudice in his goal to become an Episcopal priest.
On another chapter, “On the Coming of John”, the story tells about a young Black man named John who was educated and through his education developed himself on becoming financially capable. However, also due to his knowledge, John got at odds with the southern folk, and with the racial prejudice present, he is destroyed. The book ends with a chapter on African-American spiritual songs, which are old and sad, and which told stories about the pains, and sorrows of the African people exiled in the land of America, and haunted by their past.
Impacts The story shares the experiences of the black folk within a racially prejudiced country and the color line which deprives them of their rights to live as normal citizens of the state. Du Bois’ understanding of double consciousness and his presentation thereof has led to a new perspective of new African-American writers when it comes to whiteness or the essence of being white and their recognition and acceptance of themselves as black writers.
Du Bois’ work also influenced black writers’ heightened outlook to focus on their perspective, rather than on the perspective of the white people and society which are much prominent in their areas. At present this awareness has been recognized by African-American writers, last May 2001, there was a call for the submission of papers about Whiteness and Double Consciousness in recognition of W. E. B. Du Bois by the Justice site of the Graduate Review, a Web site of the California State University.
(The Graduate Review, 2001) Du Bois probably wrote The Souls of Black Folk to shed more light on the black people about they are being changed and manipulated by the society in which they have been forcibly taken into. Du Bois intended to clarify the faults of the white men and at the same time analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the Negro during his time in order for them to realize the need to be free from the chains of their cultural prison.
The story is basically likeable since it tells about liberty, equality and the history of the black folk which has been harsh and sorrowful, yet enlightening and at the same time critical in the understanding of the current societal relations today. The story also valuably presented the existence of problems and realities which are needed to be realized during Du Bois time, which at the same time are still present up to now. Internal realism is present in the story, since most of the story presents the experiences of the author and his perception upon the world during his time.
Although the story itself tries to make the world understand about the situation of a Negro’s life during that time and the struggle as to which they have been with ever since they have been in the Americas. Works Cited Du Bois, W. E. B. The Evolution of Negro Leadership. The Dial, 31 (July 16, 1901). Pp 745. Du Bois, W. E. B. The Souls of Black Folk. 1903. University of Virginia Library. 03 Aug 2007. <http://etext. virginia. edu/toc/modeng/public/DubSoul. html> en. wikipidea. org. W. E. B. Du Bois. 01 Aug. 2007.
Wikimedia Foundation Inc. 03 Aug. 2007. <http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/W. E. B. _DuBois#_ref-2> Hynes, Gerald. A Biographical Sketch of W. E. B. Du Bois . 2007. Kansas City’s African American Community. 03 Aug. 2007. <http://www. duboislc. org/html/DuBoisBio. html> The Graduate Review. W. E. B. Du Bois. 14 May 2001. California State University. 03 Aug. 2007 <http://www. csudh. edu/dearhabermas/dubois. htm> www. gale. com. William Edward Burghardt DuBois. 2007. 03 Aug. 2007. <http://www. gale. com/free_resources/bhm/bio/dubois_w. htm>