28 thoughts on “The Souls of Black Folk 1”

  1. What an illuminating set of facts, the juxtaposition between Booker T. Washington’s life—a man born a slave, attended what we now know as a HBCU—and W. E. DuBois’—a man free, educated at one of the bastions of whiteness, Harvard. It’s interesting to me to that DuBois takes such umbrage with Washington, (which, spoiler alert, is the subject of my memo), and where that comes from. I suppose in reading the next chapters, I will be more enlightened.

    Speaking of the word, Enlightenment, your lecture helped me gain further insight to the foundations of Dubois, his devout belief in (his) Christianity, faith being such an anchor, as well as, as you say, “the dominance of reason,” his sense of enlightenment. These sorts of inside tips help me frame and drink in his body of work with a wider lens, an understanding of why he’s coming at these myriad subjects—plus that he’s a sociologist—with such passion.

    1. Thank you! important to highlight ‘his’ Christianity and ‘his’ enlightenment, since his take on them was very different from white people, even many black people for that matter. this is the Christianity of MLK and Cornel West, which finds in the figure of jesus not the inspiration for the Roman empire, but a rebellious man of color subjugated to a European ruler.

      1. Yes I agree, to this ownership of one’s take on faith, of “his”; faith and one’s perspective is so subjective, even in the sociological sense, it skews as it informs. I’m so looking forward to this next set of reading.

        I think too, for me, I’ll have to dig into his life further, so that I can appreciate him further.

  2. The two consciousness that you discussed in the lecture was actually one of the points that I discussed in the memo. I found it interesting that a person of color had to maintain two personas while living in America, one being their own self, and the second being that of the “American way.” It was an unfortunate aspect of life because despite living or even being born in America, they’d still have to hyphenate as an “African-American” and not just “American,” as a way to sort of separate them as not true Americans.

    1. Yes, and it has indeed continued to our time. As Toni Morrison said in 1992, “In this country, American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.”

  3. I really like this book so far. Du Bois did a great job describing the African American plight, which in some cases is the same plight that we deal with today. I really wish more people would read books like this to get a real feel on how it is to be black in America. More importantly to understand the difficult history that we had so that they could have some empathy.

    I also did some research on him he was a highly educated man and was also one of the founding members of the NAACP

  4. An interesting comparison that I have noticed after beginning to read, The Souls of Black Folk, is that Booker T. Washington seems much more likely to want and think it possible that black people can assimilate with white people in America whereas, W. E. B. Du Bois seems less hopeful that black people will ever truly be able to feel at home in America. Washington certainly experienced racism to the effect that he was not given lodging at a hotel merely based on his skin color never mind his inability to pay his fare. However, he maintained hopeful that he would be able to gain an education and often recounted his experiences and those of other black people with white people in a more positive light. W. E. B Du Bois on the other hand, acknowledges how easily black people can feel resentment toward white people and how limited the definition of “freedom” post the Emancipation Proclamation truly is. In the lecture the part about visibility is interesting, I agree that being visible means that black people cannot be killed as easily. In addition, all of the internalized feelings of self-doubt and uncertainty that black people felt during this time were not visible to everyone else which left black people feeling more and more disconnected from the society around them.

  5. I find the fact that Du Bois believes both Christianity and Enlightenment quite interesting since historically they are at odds with each other). Du Bois took the essential part of both ideas (kindness and equality from Christian, thinking, and reasoning from enlightenment) and merge them into an idea that he believes that people should be thinking and treat each other better (if not, at least the same).

    The veil that separates people still exists today, maybe people (who are in power) still are not intelligent enough to figure out equality (or they are benefiting from this inequality), or the “tradition” still has an overwhelming influence in their decision making. However, that veil is shattering (mass protests and bringing the topic on the table once again), it is just a matter of time before it completely shatters, but we don’t know how long that’s going to take (complicated law system based on racial inequality, thus it’s difficult to fix).

    1. Thank you! the sharp distinction between religiosity and rationality faded significantly after 19th century, and it was perfectly conceivable to be a religious and a rational person, since people finally came to acknowledge the limits of objectivity and scientific observation.
      the people who are in power in the US “now” are totally incapable of thinking along the lines you suggest, unfortunately.

  6. I had no idea that whites at the time were going around saying that black people didn’t have souls. While this was used as an explanation as to why they were “inferior” to whites, I feel that it was also used to alleviate any guilt or moral qualms that white Christians had about their treatment towards blacks. In contrasting Du Bois’ rhetoric with Washinton’s, I feel that Washington was “settling” for always being treated inferior to whites while Du Bois saw the solution to the problem as making it irrefutable that blacks were on equal footing, or better than, whites.

    1. Absolutely true. in 17th and 18th centuries they said every horrible thing to justify slavery, and since they had a hard time reconciling it with the Bible, they needed to completely dehumanize black people in a way that teachings of the Bible wouldn’t apply to them.

  7. What stood out to me is the essay’s first sentence cuts right to the core of what the white majority refers to as “The Negro Problem,” and Du Bois identifies the “color line” as the most divisive element in societies worldwide. In America the government’s uncertainty about how it should incorporate newly emancipated African Americans into its free society made the seemingly progressive War Amendments more problematic for black individuals. Freedom and unfamiliar rights were suddenly bestowed upon the black population, but no one had thought through a comprehensive plan for how to incorporate this group of people into the national political economy. Du Bois describes the conflicts and confusion about leadership and responsibilities as the Freedmen’s Bureau took shape, trying to provide relief and jobs for millions of people without a very clear long-term vision.

  8. I briefly spoke about it in my memo but its hard to not see a lot of today in what Du Bois speaks on. Knowledge of Du Bois educational background seems almost hypocritical now, especially with his criticism of Washington’s rhetoric, but at the same time, he has spent a lot of free time around whites. He has a better understanding of their thinking class. Above all, it is hard to speak for any group for people, let alone millions vying for the respect of their counterparts; sometimes there are too many voices. It does feel as a veil is covering the faces of my people today, I can only imagine what it was like to be apart of the black thinking class ~150 years ago seeing your people on the seemingly wrong path.

    1. Thank you! he can smoothly slide under the veil to the other side and back, having lived his whole life as a free man and being educated in bastions of white academia, yet at the same time he is a black man, constantly aware of the existence of the veil. I didn’t understand why the knowledge of his background is hypocritical?

      1. Hypocritical when viewed from the lens of today, I believe is a better way of saying it. I viewed his deep understanding of criticisms as agreeing with them. Hypocritical in the sense he’s been educated from a predominately white-centric point of view – that has to affect him, one way or another, in which he actually agrees with the criticism or not.

        This is actually a common argument I have experienced being black today. Its similar to when someone isn’t “black enough” because they don’t like rap or watch sports. Reading back on it, I may have actually showed some of what I described.

  9. I really liked that Du Bois acknowledged the privilege that he had. His education and his little problems when it came to being segregated were nothing compared to what slavery was. But he did say it was frustrating and disappointing and there must be a change. He knew he was in a better position than other blacks during his time thus making it easier to in a way reach his hand out to them or get a better understanding of what they were going through. His view of society and people, in general, is multidimensional and it gives him a really good insight of cause and effect. An example would be how he would withhold criticism of Washington because of Washington’s cult-like followers knowing his criticism could be mistaken for jealousy. He also went into great detail of what’s holding the community back from progressing farther but not in a pessimistic way just factual. His writing mainly spoke for himself and what he viewed society as but in a more effortless way as to not force others to agree. I could see how this could’ve been more relatable to others and gave people that agreed with his views comfort due to his flexibility on what actions should be taken.

    1. Thank you! great point. it’s really important to highlight his awareness of his own privilege, which is a topic for another course. If you read a number of novels by Black authors you’ll see the privilege gap within the community is a recurrent theme.

  10. After watch your lecture I have a sort of feeling at that time white people was so“confident” on how to define another race. They were think that soul for slavery has no value。 absolutely not, every single person live in the world had they own value and souls. The way that white people identify and justify black people were overconfidence. I agree with your idea that black people should become more and more visibility through language and education, they should speak up. Let them hear something from you, colored people as a forced to be reckoned with in this land.

  11. As you mentioned, many of us living in this country have to maintain two different personalities and attitude, one of which is how we were “originally” supposed to be, and the other one is where we have to live up to the standards of the American way. I can personally relate to this notion because I am an immigrant, which means that I was raised with certain cultural values and aspects that differ and sometimes even conflicts with the ways here. However, I obviously get to live with much better opportunities, whereas Du Bois had to suffer a lot.

  12. Leader Booker Washington argued that a compromise was needed to allow the black community to accumulate economic power and become a contributing industrial labor force to the mainstream society, so that it would naturally form power and be recognized by the white society. Du Bois, on the other hand, argued for full citizenship immediately. For Dubois, an individual and a community without full citizenship is itself incomplete and subservient. Although both routes have supporters, whites find the former less threatening and more acceptable, while the latter often seen as too radical. Even now, there are some blacks in American society who believe that a more moderate and gradual approach might have reduced many unnecessary racial conflicts. It has to be said that all liberation movements seem to have lines of contention, and it is difficult to judge which is the more correct one.

  13. I found it quite interesting reading and comparing WEB Du Bois’ writing with Booker T. Washington’s. The latter approaches racial disparities from a different perspective, by sort of accepting the life behind the “veil”. With the Atlanta compromise, Washington seemed to accept this racial disparity by submitting himself to the white southerners’ power and accepting to build the future of black people inside their communities. Du Bois, as we learned, was a radical Christian and a progressive intellectual, he argues racism from a critical and analytical standpoint. In the book, The Souls Of Black Folk, there is a lot material to unpack and to reflect on, starting from the title of the book to the songs that he choose at the beginning of every chapter, and the metaphors that he applies to describe the racial issues that his people were facing.
    Earlier this year I bought The Souls of Black Folk at a street fair for few dollars. At the time, I was not very familiar with the author, but I decided to buy the book based on a recommendation of my Sociology professor. As a non-American born, with a little knowledge of the history of racism in the United States, this book gave me a good structure and understanding on the matter. Now that I am reading again Du Bois’ book and we are analyzing it as a group, I am gaining a better insight and a clearer picture of his ideology.

  14. I appreciate your comment at the end pointing out that successes and failures of the Freedman Bureau. The judicial system was crucial in keeping black people in slavery. I recently rewatch “13th” on Netflix, and in that documentary, they talk about how along with 13th Amendment freed everyone from slavery with the exception of criminals. And so soon after there was the first surge in arrests for minor offenses to keep black people in prison, where they could be exploited back for free labor.

  15. It’s really eye-opening to see how determined Dubois and Washington were both yearning to educate themselves. I wish more people realized how lucky they are to be receiving an education instead of taking it for granted. I found your conversation on the Freedman Bureau very interesting and it cleared up a lot of the confusion I had while reading about it. I still wonder how the Freedman Bureau would have transformed until today had it never been shut down.

  16. The justification of slavery went full speed after their freedom, correct? This is when people doubled down on the concept of whiteness and blackness. Basically creating a way to ensure inequality continued. The really messed up part is that most of it were backed by “science.” Knowing that and reading Washington’s idealization of education made me a little side. While I completely agree with the importance and power behind knowledge, I also realize that what you learn can be distorted. Here is a man who basically worships education, however in the system of education he wants to be a part is an entire department spinning hateful propaganda about people of color.

  17. I can quite relate to what you said about having two personalities, one being the American way and your true self as an immigrant myself. It will always be a challenge to be up to america’s norm if you are not one. You also mention about the line that the author mentions throughout the book between black people and whites that existed during slavery but even after it was abolish it has not changed. I was reading in an article that
    The abolition of slavery did not end with the structural discrimination suffered by African-Americans, since, during the period of Reconstruction after the war, the so-called Jim Crow laws began to be adopted. These measures advocated de jure segregation between white citizens and different ethnic minorities under the system known as “separate but equal.”

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