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The Souls of Black Folk (Cosimo Classics)

4.5 out of 5 stars 396 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1602067202
ISBN-10: 1602067201
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“One hundred years after publication, there is in the entire body of social criticism still no more than a handful of meditations on the promise and failings of democracy in America to rival William Edward Burghardt Du Bois’s extraordinary collection of fourteen essays.” —from the Introduction by David Levering Lewis --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Cosimo Classics
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Cosimo Classics (September 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1602067201
  • ISBN-13: 978-1602067202
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (396 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,638,838 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The Souls of Black Folks, as other reviewers have pointed out, is a masterpiece of African-American thought. But it is even more than that when we consider the context and time in which the book was written. Most of what DuBois discusses is still relevant today, and this is a tribute to the man, not only as a scholar, but as someone who was continually adapting his views in the best image and interests of black people.
Some reviewers refer to DuBois as "the Black Emerson" and, as a university instructor, I heard similar references made: 'the Black Dewey" or "the Black Park," referring to the Chicago School scholars. Du Bois was brilliant; indeed, these white men should be being called "the white Du Bois"! Du Bois literally created the scientific method of observation and qualitative research. With the junk being put out today in the name of "dissertations," simply re-read Du Bois' work on the Suppression of the African Slave Trade and his work on the Philadelphia Negro and it is clear that he needs not be compared to any white man of his time or any other: he was a renaissance man who cared about his people and, unlike too many of the scholars of day, he didn't just talk the talk or write the trite; he walked the walk and organized the unorganizable.
White racism suffered because Du Bois raised the consciousness of the black masses. But he did more than that; by renouncing his American citizenship and moving to Ghana, he proved that Pan Africanism is not just something to preach or write about (ala Molefi Asante, Tony Martin, Jeffries and other Africanists); it is a way of life, both a means and an end.
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Format: Paperback
"Herein lie buried many things which if read with patience may show the strange meaning of beling black here in the dawning of the Twentieth Century." -W.E.B. DuBois, in the Forethought
This book contains essays written by W.E.B. DuBois. Some of them are very historical and recount the African American events and progess, and some of them are very personal, in which DuBois tells about his own life. I learned a lot from reading this book. For instance, I had always thought of what an awful thing slavery was- a horrible part of America's history- and that is was such a good thing that it was finally stopped. However, I never thought about the implications of life for the ex-slave after it was ended. Here were many African Americans, free, yes, but with what? Nothing. How would they get anywhere without money, education, jobs, etc.? And after freeing them leaders imposed unfair segragation and Jim Crow laws upon African Americans, so they were not really free at all.
Another thing that interested me about this book was the evolution of the slave's religion. It is very interesting to me how DuBois discusses their original religion of magic/ancestor and earth worship,etc and their gradual progression to the Christian religion of their masters, and then back to the beginning in an almost cyclical pattern. I don't think the African-American culture would be the same at all today if it were not for this mix of religious belief, although some would argue about how good it was for a religion to be forced about them and I would tend to agree.
W.E.B. DuBois was a pioneer of African American literature and thought. This book of essays will make you rethink the progress and status of African Americans throughout America's history, and will help you understand and sympathesize much more.
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Format: Paperback
I can remeber reading this book in my liberal high school for our American lit class and thinking that they just stuck it in for diversity's sake--that black history and American history are separate entities. But as I began to study more history in college I began to realize that American history could not exist without black history and experience--that Dubois' insights into double identity and how racism affects both the reciever and promulgator of racism in insidious ways are crucial to understanding of how America continues to wrestle with the implications of hundreds of years of slavery, Jim Crow and now, more subtle racism.
I haven't read the book in 8 years, but Dubois description of the moment when a black child realizes achieves enough self awarenesss to undersstand that he is "black" and what that means to one's sense of self (at least in the 1910's south) is absolutely heartbreaking.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
These essays, actually sketches and ruminations of DuBois', remain an enduring backdrop for the picture in which race in America is framed. At the end of each decade, they seem to continue emitting new pregnant meanings:

During the decade of the 60s, when I first read the book, it seemed to be an open message to white America about the Negro: an appeal, as it were, that "the Negro was on the march," and that his main instrument of entering the American mainstream (his only secure dream) was his spiritual cadence and his deep and abiding faith in religion, and equally deep faith in the meaning of the American revolution, and in the American dream and its misapplied ideals. A warning was issued in the "parable of the Coming of John": a reckoning of this fractured meaning and it's implied promises inevitably had to occur.

When I read it during the 70s, it seemed more like an interior dialogue between "Blacks," about "being constantly on the struggle against racism." It was especially a dialogue between the "uneducated and unsophisticated" on the one hand, and "the educated and sophisticated" (the "so-called "talented tenth"), on the other. But also it was a dialogue between the conservative forces of "compromise" that wanted to win by "turning the other cheek," and the more progressive and revolutionary forces who wanted to do so "by any means necessary." Yes, Martin and Malcolm were summoned up through DuBois' words in the same debate that had occurred two generations before between DuBois and Booker T. Washington. The words, but not the structure of the arguments, had changed. They were issued with the same degree of passion, and with the same unfortunate results: more promises, but powerful little "real progress," and then the murders of both Martin and Malcolm.
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