The Souls of Black Folk

The Souls of Black Folk

eBook - 2014
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Enriched Classics offer readers accessible editions of great works of literature enhanced by helpful notes and commentary. Each book includes educational tools alongside the text, enabling students and readers alike to gain a deeper and more developed understanding of the writer and their work. With a dash of the Victorian and Enlightenment influences that peppered Du Bois’s impassioned yet formal prose, the largely autobiographical chapters of The Souls of Black Folks take the reader through the momentous and moody maze of Afro-American life after the Emancipation Proclamation: from poverty, the neo-slavery of the sharecropper, illiteracy, mis-education, and lynching, to the heights of humanity reached by the spiritual “sorrow songs” that birthed gospel music and the blues. The capstone of The Souls of Black Folk is Du Bois’s 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.” Enriched Classics enhance your engagement by introducing and explaining the historical and cultural significance of the work, the author’s personal history, and what impact this book had on subsequent scholarship. Each book includes discussion questions that help clarify and reinforce major themes and reading recommendations for further research. Read with confidence.
Publisher: [S.I.] : Simon & Schuster, 2014.
ISBN: 9781439117040
Branch Call Number: Overdrive
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc

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ryankegley
Apr 25, 2020

I’d gone to the library expecting to pick this book up only to find it hadn’t yet arrived. Instead, I took home Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me,” a potent exploration of what it’s like to be black in the 21st century. W.E.B. Du Bois’s “The Souls of Black Folk” arrived the following day. Though I’d intended to start with the latter, it turns out, I think, that the order matters little — the two books make for a forceful one-two punch: passionate and probing, unflinching, revealing, downbeat but not downtrodden, wary but not weary, fearful but not afraid.

Across the fourteen essays that comprise “The Souls of Black Folk,” Du Bois covers an immense amount of territory, personal and political, fictional and sociological, all bursting with passages of intense lyricism and beauty. Despite its publication in 1903 and the specifics of the material being firmly rooted in its day, there is, at its heart, a timelessness, an eternalness to the words, to the sentiments, and sadly, devastatingly, to the tapestry Du Bois weaves about black life and being black in America: “From the double life every American Negro must live, as a Negro and as an American, as swept on by the current of the nineteenth while yet struggling in the eddies of the fifteenth century,—from this must arise a painful self-consciousness, an almost morbid sense of personality and a moral hesitancy which is fatal to self-confidence. The worlds within and without the Veil of Color are changing, and changing rapidly, but not at the same rate, not in the same way; and this must produce a peculiar wrenching of the soul, a peculiar sense of doubt and bewilderment. Such a double life, with double thoughts, double duties, and double social classes, must give rise to double words and double ideals, and tempt the mind to pretense or revolt, to hypocrisy or radicalism.”

That passage comes from Du Bois’s essay “Of the Faith of the Fathers” and with but a few changes it doesn’t fall far from where Coates is in “Between the World and Me.” In reading the two books, it’s clear that while much has changed in the 112 years between their publication dates, that change continues to be uneven, unequal, and unfair. The disparities are as entrenched as ever — perilously so. I couldn’t begin to fathom a solution at the societal level, but I’m pretty sure understanding, compassion, empathy, and seeing are all crucial to its undertaking, and “The Souls of Black Folk” is unquestionably a pillar of that foundation.

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LibPaul21978
Sep 02, 2019

Cited in "A Good American Family" and referenced in the Frederick Douglass Prophet of Freedom book. I believe Du Bois saw Frederick Douglass speak at a Conference in Charleston in about 1890 when Du Bois was only 18.

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lukasevansherman
Mar 18, 2019

Even if you haven't read this, you're probably familiar with at least two ideas from it: 1. that to be black in America is to be part of 2 worlds and to experience "double-consciousness" 2. that the "problem of the color-line" will define the 20th century. This is a book that all Americans should read, but my inadequate education neglected (Thanks public schools). Also see Frederick Douglass' "Narrative" and Booker T. Washington's "Up from Slavery."

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pattyskypants
Feb 18, 2017

GORGEOUS writing, much of which was brilliant.

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1aa
Sep 10, 2016

This is a very interestingly written book - at times passionate, indignant, wise, lyrical, and knowledgeable. Each of the constituent chapters usually has a theme: employment, education, kinship structures, religion, but they are not too narrowly focused: it hangs together as a book by painting a gradually more thorough image of African Americans a little over a century ago. Altogether edifying, and enjoyable too.

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phantomas
May 24, 2013

It is a seminal work in the history of sociology, and a cornerstone of African-American literary history.

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