W. E. B. Du Bois and The Souls of Black Folk
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: The University of North Carolina Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote
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In 1995, I read The Souls of Black Folk from cover to cover for the first time in about twenty years. The farther I got into the book the stranger it seemed, and the more exhilarating it became even though I had read it before. Moreover, I had been reading about the book ever since I first read it. ...
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“It has been said that a great man lays the world under the obligation to understand him. The obligation is not easily fulfilled when a man of genius of the highest order produces a philosophical interpretation of experience so novel in its design, so subtle in the texture of its thought, so comprehensive in its range and penetrating in its vision. ...
1. Striving: Work, Culture, and Liberty
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“Herein lie buried many things which if read with patience may show the strange meaning of being black here at the dawning of the Twentieth Century. This meaning is not without interest to you, Gentle Reader; for the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line.” Du Bois opened his classic volume, The Souls of Black Folk, with these two sentences. ...
2. The Sovereignty of Soul
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“With the best will the factual outline of a life misses the essence of its spirit. Thus in my life the chief fact has been race—not so much scientific race, as that deep conviction of myriads of men that congenital differences among the main masses of human beings absolutely condition the individual destiny of every member of a group. ...
3. “The Talented Tenth” Revisited
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In an essay published in 1903, Du Bois introduced a theory of group leadership that is popularly known as the theory of “the Talented Tenth.”2 The essay was, most of all, a plea for the support of higher education for black Americans, from among whom a “Talented Tenth,” 10 percent of the black population, would emerge as leaders of the race. ...
4. Spirit: Alexander Crummell, Prophets, and Destiny
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Scholars who have written on The Souls of Black Folk regularly take special note of Du Bois’ chapter on Alexander Crummell. Some of the most useful discussions explore the intellectual links between the two men, recognizing Crummell as a mentor, a role model, even a father figure to Du Bois. ...
Reading Souls with Phenomenology: A Preface to Chapter 5
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Du Bois’ rendering of Crummell’s life story not only allowed him to pay tribute to someone who was obviously a friend but also provided a useful vehicle for illustrating the journey of an individual soul to spirit. Crummell’s life was especially ideal, however, because Hegel’s example of the “unhappy consciousness” involved a priest (a religious self-consciousness) engaged in a struggle with God.1 ...
5. The Religion and Songs of Souls
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Hegel’s attention to religion created as much debate about his religiosity as there has been about Du Bois’. Around the mid-nineteenth century, James Stirling wrote that “the secret of Hegel” was that he was a Christian. More recently, however, philosopher Robert C. Solomon concluded that Hegel was “not the great abstract thinker of Christianity ...
Conclusion: “O World of Worlds, How Shall Man Make You One?”
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Upon its publication in 1903, The Souls of Black Folk made an immediate impression on its readers. Jessie Redmon Fauset, who would ultimately become an important writer in her own right, wrote: “I am glad, glad you wrote it—we have needed someone to voice the intricacies of the blind maze of thought and action along which the modern, educated colored man and woman struggles.” ...
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Publication Year: 2013