The Souls of Black Folk (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

The Souls of Black Folk (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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The Souls of Black Folk, by W. E. B. Du Bois, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:
  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

One of the most influential books ever published in America, W. E. B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk is an eloquent collection of fourteen essays that describe the life, the ambitions, the struggles, and the passions of African Americans at the transition from the nineteenth to the twentieth century.

The first African American to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard University, Du Bois was a sociologist, historian, novelist, and activist whose astounding career spanned the nation’s history from Reconstruction to the Civil Rights Movement. In The Souls of Black Folk, published in 1903, Du Bois argued against the conciliatory position taken by Booker T. Washington, at the time the most influential black leader in America, and called for a more radical form of aggressive protest—a strategy that would anticipate and inspire much of the activism of the 1960s.

Du Bois’s essays were the first to articulate many of Black America’s thoughts and feelings, including the dilemma posed by the black psyche’s “double consciousness,” which Du Bois described as “this twoness—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings . . . in one dark body.” Every essay in The Souls of Black Folk is a jewel of intellectual prowess, eloquent language, and groundbreaking insight. It is essential reading for anyone interested in the struggle for Civil Rights in America.

Farah Jasmine Griffin is Professor of English and Comparative Literature and African-American Studies at Columbia University in New York City.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781593080143
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 05/01/2003
Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 12,249
Product dimensions: 5.18(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

W.E.B. DuBois (1868-1963) was an African-American sociologist, civil rights activist, and author. He was one of the founding members of the NAACP, and he is well-known for believing on full civil rights and disagreeing with Booker T. Washington’s argument that blacks remain subservient. His most famous book, The Souls of Black Folk, defines the term "double-consciousness" and remains a cornerstone of African-American literature.

Read an Excerpt

From Farah Jasmine Griffin's Introduction to The Souls of Black Folk

Since its publication in the spring of 1903, The Souls of Black Folk has became a founding text of African-American studies: Its insistence on an interdisciplinary understanding of black life, on historically and philosophically grounded analysis, on the scholar's role as advocate and activist, and on close study of the cultural products of the objects of examination-all became tenets of the study of black life in United States. In its insistence that any understanding of the United States has to be attentive to the contributions and struggles of black Americans, Souls has also contributed to a revision of American history and culture. Furthermore, in recent years the book has spoken to students of postcolonial and critical race studies as well. However, the text was never meant for a purely academic audience. And perhaps here lies its greatest contribution: It is a brilliant, multifaceted, learned book addressed to an intelligent lay audience as a means of informing social and political action.

Du Bois's best-known intellectual contributions are introduced here: "double consciousness," "the Talented Tenth," "the Veil," and the Du Bois versus Washington debate (see "Comments and Questions) that has characterized our understandings of black leadership throughout the twentieth century continue to be the major contributions of the text, and they have been explored and written about at length. With these concepts, Du Bois provided a basic vocabulary and foundational language for scholars and students of African-American history and culture. Double consciousness defines a psychological sense experienced by African Americans whereby they possess a national identity, "an American," within a nation that despises their racial identity, "a Negro." It also refers to the ability of black Americans to see themselves only through the eyes of white Americans, to measure their intelligence, beauty, and sense of self-worth by standards set by others. Du Bois defined the Talented Tenth as "leadership of the Negro race in America by a trained few." In The Souls of Black Folk, he envisions this educated elite at the vanguard of racial uplift. Later in his life he disavowed this theory.

Du Bois's ideas have been explored in detail, but only recently, through the efforts of black feminist writers such as Hazel Carby, Joy James, and Nellie McKay, has his notion of black leadership as fundamentally masculine received scholarly attention. These writers have opened up new ways of reading The Souls of Black Folk.

Another distinctive feature of the book is Du Bois's consistent use of the first person, his insertion of himself as a subjective student of and participant in black life and culture. In the opening pages, he introduces himself to his reader in the following manner: "And, finally, 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." With this Old Testament allusion Du Bois establishes his relationship to the people about whom he writes as one of sacred matrimony: of man to woman, of husband to wife. In Genesis 2:23 Adam says of Eve: "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." Du Bois's use of the Veil, the enduring metaphor of the book, not only refers to that which separates black from white, to that through which black folk peer at the world, but it might also be the veil that covers women's faces in many religious traditions. So those who live beneath the Veil, the black folk, might be gendered as female-ever mysterious, unknowing, and unknowable-while the black elite, intellectuals and leaders, are gendered male. Du Bois promises readers that he has "stepped within the veil" and raised it to expose "deeper recesses." While he elsewhere claims to have lived behind the Veil throughout his life, here he positions himself as someone who dwells both within and just outside its cover-and, most important, as the investigator, the communicator, the native informant who can render the mysteries behind the Veil known.

The fourteen chapters that follow this promise represent Du Bois's best efforts to make known the strivings and yearnings of black folk in the United States of America. There is something, however, that remains unknowable and impenetrable even to this great bronze Adam. In the first nine chapters, all of which were revised from previously published essays, Du Bois turns to academic fields of knowledge such as history, sociology, and philosophy to assist in his interpretation of the complexity of black lives. While these fields help to provide the framework for his analysis, his prose is shaped by biblical and mythological narrative, metaphor and allusion. In the last five chapters, only one of which had been published previously, though they are still informed by philosophy, sociology, and history, Du Bois turns to elegy, poetry, religion, and song. In doing so, he attempts to better understand and express the longings of those who live beneath the Veil; consequently, he turns his critical eye to black people and their culture in an effort to comprehend how they have made sense of the absurdity of their situation.

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The Souls of Black Folk 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 100 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
W.E.B DuBois' The Souls of Black Folk successfully elucidates the paradoxical existence of the African American. His main thesis embellishes the ¿double-consciousness¿ of the African American (an American of African heritage or the African displaced in America) and the hardships that emerge as a result. More specifically, the African American, detached from his ancestral homeland and having some significant investment in the development of this nation (i.e. slavery), longs to receive the constitutional gifts entitled to its citizens. However, because the ¿American dream¿ was conceived by and for the benefit of white Christian men of substantial wealth, and moreover, because this enabled group continuously fails or refuses to recognize their darker counterparts as equals, the African American can never truly realize his place among society. Likewise, the endless, and often fruitless, process of assimilating with mainstream American culture equates with the gradual loss of ethnic authenticity. Consequently, the African American is left at war with his own identity. Finally, DuBois exposes the socioeconomic security on behalf of white America beneath the stronghold of racism, as well as the contradictions of American values with the maintenance of social color lines . The Souls of Black Folk is presented in 14 essays, each beginning with a slave hymnal. Harvard educated DuBois employs both black vernacular and academic language, further emphasizing the duality of the African American experience. Though DuBois¿ Souls analyzes black culture in context of the early 1900s, his ideas, for the most part, hold true today and have myriad applications. Regardless of background, this text provides original and genuine insight to the American societal dynamic based on historical social investigation. I challenge you to read this work whole-heartedly and find a personal meaning! - C.G. F.
ReadingVixen67 More than 1 year ago
This book was required reading before I went to college. Ironically enough, I went to W.E.B. DuBois' Alma mater, Fisk University. Excellent read; delves deeply into what black people were looking and searching for during those times: a sense of belonging, a sense of peace within the community and within each other. An excellent manifesto!
talented_tenth More than 1 year ago
W.E.B Du Bois's book "The Souls of Black Folk" is a must read for all Americans to get a deeper more philosophical sense of what it means to be "Black in America". DuBois was a visionary who was ahead of his time. This book is often a mandatory read for African-American studies students, but should be a must read for all serious students of history. The issues DuBois highlighted and detailed at the turn of the 20th Century seem to be resurfacing at the turn of the 21st Century. The Color Line!
Jackkeg More than 1 year ago
Take the time to learn of the accomplishments of some of the relative unknowns in our history. The First Black PH.D from Harvard, De Bois looks from the perspective just north of slavery and the need to seek to understand what the future must bring. A great read for those who wish yo know more about individuals sometime segmented into a black history subject matter when his thoughts are universal and his blackness secondary.
Guest More than 1 year ago
On the surface this book seems to be an account of what it was like to be black in the early 1900s. It is so much more than that. It is a description of what America is, what it can be, its greatness, and its shortcomings. Here is a man who was a true American. He loved his country even as it was not fulfilling its promise to him. Amongst the gems you will find in this work: 'Honest and earnest criticism from those whose interests are most nearly touched, --criticism of writers by readers, of government by those governed, of leaders by those led, -- this is the soul of democracy and the safeguard of modern society.' Can we ever hear that too much? 'It is, then, the strife of all honorable men of the twentieth century to see that in the future competition of races the survival of the fittest shall mean the triumpgh of the good, the beautiful, and the true that we may be able to preserve for future civilization all that is really fine and noble and strong, and not continue to put a premium on greed and impudence and crueltly.' I don't think we're there yet. This work documents the time of the Reconstruction, something we probably know less about that we think we do. We think we know what went on, but in reality we have mostly theory. Here is someone who lived through the time and the aftermath of the civil war. He bears truer witness to it than anyone writing on the subject today. If you want to know why the state of the races is as it is, here is a book to shed light. 'One thing, however, seldom occurs: the best of the whites and the best of the Negroes almost never live in anything like close proximity. It thus happens that in nearly every Southern town and city, both whites and blacks see commonly the worst of each other.' Was it so different in the North? Is it so different today? Even with all the forced integration in the 70s? If you like American History, this is a text you should have in your bookcase.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a White American, I realized almost 40 years ago that the history I was taught in school was insufficient. So, loving to read, I sought out a number of books for more information after reading Anne Frank. Before the Mayflower, the Life and times of Frederick Douglass, Diary of a Slave Girl, and the Souls of Black Folk were a few of the most outstanding works I found over the years. It seems not only informative, but also justice that these narratives be read and pondered by all of us. I haven't found the prose of any of these authors difficult to understand. If I did, I'd consider it a challenge for me, with the educational advantages I've enjoyed, to read with a dictionary handy. After all, if former slaves can overcome their ignorance in the face of numerous obstacles, surpassing the reading /writing level of the average American today, what does that say about us? The Souls of Black Folks isn't difficult to comprehend, but it is sometimes difficult to stomach. I find myself wanting to go back in time, and treat Black people with justice and equality. I wonder what it will take for us to wake up,and change our attitudes toward our fellow men. How can we say we love God, whom we never see, if we don't love our fellow man, whom we see every day?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
African American Literature!  Composed of several essays discussing race, W.E.B. DuBois' The Souls of Black Folk effectively explains the the existence of the Negro in America. Within these essays that compose the book, DuBois mainly exemplifies the difficulties that African Americans pertain in an American society. These difficulties that DuBois explains throughout the book mainly comes under the accepting of ones rights that were entitled to them. But, because of  their skin, as well as their previous existence (i.e. slaves), the superiority (i.e. whites) turned a blind eye towards them. DuBois explains how by this fact:  African Americans will never truly find themselves as equals in society if such continues to occur. Hence, DuBois reasons that with this constant  ingratiation towards the white man, and trying to acquiesce with his culture, only leads to a misunderstanding of the intrinsic ethnicity of African Americans. Finally, DuBois uncovers the truth about the White America involving race. In every essay composed within the book, you will find the reality of the African American citizen of that time, as well as their rationale on such matter. This book is for ones who are willing to know about the thinking of the Black man from a single-minded view. This book will truly change the thoughts of those who read it. I hope you enjoy the reading!  
AnnieBM More than 1 year ago
Du Bois engages one with his erudition and his use of African American Spirituals to set off each essay. He closes the book with a reflection specifically on these spirituals. He makes clear several aspects of American and slavery history and presents interesting perspectives and criticisms of other important figures, such as Booker T. Washington. I found this book greatly insightful not only on the times and social milieu of Du Bois but also for current times. I highly recommend this book for all interested in this history and especially for all non-African Americans.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In Souls of Black Folk I heard a voice of a my people intrenched in a what seemed to be a temporary situation but sad to say relevant in today's community and societies as a whole. Double consciousness still a major issue, "but our dogged strength alone keeps us from being torn asunder..." This book was riveting, I have the physical copy that is old and worn and on its 15th read, so I figured I'd by the Nook copy so I will always have it on my MAC and ready for me to peruse!
Guest More than 1 year ago
A highly recommended book for all blacks to read, it is a must, Mr. Dubois speaks from the soul and manifest what is in the minds of most black 'folks'. Speaks on the conditions of slavery and its effects on an entire people. All whites and republicans should read this novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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 sympathize much more. this book has some disturbing anti-semiotic passages in it. I find it strange that DuBois can so effectively and reasonably argue for the equality of African-Americans while so irrationally claims such anti-Semitic comments. Except for this problem, (which should not be overlooked), the book is very important and powerful, and it did and continues to do a lot for the advancement of African-Americans in the US. It is sort of like a guide for an African America who is lost and does not really understand who he is. DuBios presents his information in a chronological and straightforward manner. I would recommend this book to truth seekers and soul searchers!
dr.rentfro on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this book for the first time when I was in my doctoral coursework taking a historical philosophy course. EXCELLENT book! Within two weeks of reading it I was visiting my hometown in the south. While there I reread the book and (WOW!)saw that although we think things have changed, they haven't. The dreams of Dubois in 1904 are still unrealized. I have recommended this book to many friends and colleagues. They have the same reactions to the book. It is a must read and should be studied by all post-secondary students.
HistReader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I expected this book to be academic essays into the plight of southern Black citizens. Instead, I found flowing prose and descriptive narratives to recount his travels and share the struggles of "Black people." I especially found the story of his son touching. It is no wonder this has become a classic.
alaskabookworm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I can see why this book is a classic. Despite my 5-star rating, it was very, very tough going for me; painful at times. Nevertheless, extremely worthwhile to get inside the head and passions of an extremely brilliant African-American man at the turn of the century. I suspect a great many of his ideas, arguments, and conclusions would be applicable today.
TheLostEntwife on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the toughest, most interesting non-fiction reads I've experienced.The Souls of Black Folk was required reading for me this year - although the class only dealt with five or so chapters, I was so intrigued by what I was reading that I had to finish the entire book.Each essay provided plenty of food for thought - but most interesting to me was the essay on the education of former slaves - what was appropriate and what was not. This is a part of history that really hasn't been part of my education, and not only did I find it enlightening, historically speaking, I also found it to be relevant today - for all types. With our focus on getting straight into college after high school (and my experience with some siblings that just doesn't work for), I think what Du Bois has to say is incredibly insightful. Not every person is cut out for a life of academia after high school, and specialized training is there for a reason. As I attend school, and each semester say goodbye to more and more friends who just, for whatever reason, are not coming back, I find myself thinking more about the ideas that Du Bois so eloquently writes down.I recommend this reading. I think everyone should read it - and I challenge you to do so.
doowatt34 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
You must experience this book by reading it for the first time. I don't know how I left college without ever reading essential DuBois. The book is basically a snap shot of the historical events he witnessed, his observation and relations with people and commentary. The writing style AWESOME, complicated, and balanced, all at the same time. What I can appreciate most is that the book is as much a guide on credit, debt, personal financial loss and charity, as it is on social and political science.Shortly after the war the freedmen contributed $750,000 to their educational betterment, purchased land, started various business enterprises, and saved with Freedmen's Bureau Bank. This showed incredible thrift on their part, a kind of thrift that can be admired even today.
kaygsapp on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Experience the last two centuries in the lives of Black Americans...feel their plight for more read this is to know why.!
ostrom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the great enduring concepts: "double-consciousness."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Eloquent and heart renderlingly beautiful. If ears cannot hear this voice, all is suffocating silence.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although at times dated, his words still ring true and should be studied. ~*~LEB~*~
TulaneGirl More than 1 year ago
Really sad that at no time in my education - and I've had 7 years of college and graduate school training - was I required to read this book. Finally got around to reading it and it is in amazing book. This is a collection of 14 essays that give incredible insight into the African-American experience after Restoration during Jim Crow. Not only is it a must read, it's also a repeat read.
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CLT43 More than 1 year ago
Good read in my view!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago