BizStore » Books » The Souls of Black Folk (with an Introduction by Saunders Redding)
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Number Of Pages: 152
Publication Date: 2016-02-22
One of the most widely read and influential works in African American literature, “The Souls of Black Folk” is W. E. B. Du Bois’s classic collection of essays in which he details the state of racism and black culture at the beginning of the 20th century. First published in 1903, “The Souls of Black Folk” takes the reader on a history lesson of race relations from the emancipation proclamation to the early part of the 20th century. Principal to Du Bois’s exposition is the idea that African Americans live in a state of “double-consciousness” meaning that they have 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.” A founding member of the NAACP, Du Bois helped to lay the foundation for the debate that would become the civil rights movement. As Du Bois’s biographer, Manning Marable, observes, “Few books make history and fewer still become foundational texts for the movements and struggles of an entire people. ‘The Souls of Black Folk’ occupies this rare position.” This edition is printed on premium acid-free paper and includes an introduction by Saunders Redding.
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (1868-1963) is the greatest of African American intellectuals--a sociologist, historian, novelist, and activist whose astounding career spanned the nation's history from Reconstruction to the civil rights movement. Born in Massachusetts and educated at Fisk, Harvard, and the University of Berlin, Du Bois penned his epochal masterpiece, The Souls of Black Folk, in 1903. It remains his most studied and popular work; its insights into Negro life at the turn of the 20th century still ring true.
With a dash of the Victorian and Enlightenment influences that peppered his impassioned yet formal prose, the book's largely autobiographical chapters take the reader through the momentous and moody maze of Afro-American life after the Emancipation Proclamation: from poverty, the neoslavery of the sharecropper, illiteracy, miseducation, and lynching, to the heights of humanity reached by the spiritual "sorrow songs" that birthed gospel and the blues. The most memorable passages are contained in "On Booker T. Washington and Others," where Du Bois criticizes his famous contemporary's rejection of higher education and accommodationist stance toward white racism: "Mr. Washington's programme practically accepts the alleged inferiority of the Negro races," he writes, further complaining that Washington's thinking "withdraws many of the high demands of Negroes as men and American citizens." The capstone of The Souls of Black Folk, though, is Du Bois' haunting, eloquent description of the concept of the black psyche's "double consciousness," which he described as "a peculiar sensation.... One ever feels this 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." Thanks to W.E.B. Du Bois' commitment and foresight--and the intellectual excellence expressed in this timeless literary gem--black Americans can today look in the mirror and rejoice in their beautiful black, brown, and beige reflections. --Eugene Holley Jr.
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