Abstract

Abstract:

This article examines the publication history of W. E. B. Du Bois's The Souls of Black Folk, which has received only occasional scholarly attention. Recent publications of the book, from both W. W. Norton & Company and Oxford University Press, reprint the first edition of the text without mentioning changes to the second printing. Likewise, the book's editor has been widely misidentified by scholars. In light of this history, the essay reconsiders the initial publication and reception of The Souls of Black Folk, considering how the text circulated among a popular audience. I argue that while Du Bois and his Chicago publisher, A. C. McClurg & Co., sought to target a predominantly white audience by simultaneously appealing to and subverting fantasies of racial dominance, these efforts encountered dual attitudes of resistance. On the one hand, the vast majority of readers harshly rejected Du Bois's argument for racial equality. On the other hand, they interpreted The Souls of Black Folk as confirming racial stereotypes and essential characteristics of the Negro. Such racialized misreading dominated the US literary marketplace at the dawning of the twentieth century, and Du Bois's encounter with this reaction profoundly influenced his authorial approach for the remainder of his career.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1499
Print ISSN
1098-7371
Pages
pp. 307-329
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-25
Open Access
No
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