The Souls of Black Folk: One Hundred Years Later

The Souls of Black Folk: One Hundred Years Later

The Souls of Black Folk: One Hundred Years Later

The Souls of Black Folk: One Hundred Years Later


Published in 1903, The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois was a landmark achievement, moving American philosophy beyond the structures of pragmatism and positivism as it addressed new questions about American social and political history. One hundred years later, Du Bois's classic still resonates in twentieth-century thought, offering a critical perspective on the political, social, and economic encumbrances imposed upon blacks during Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction America.

This important new book is the first collection of essays to examine sustainedly The Souls of Black Folk from a variety of disciplines: aesthetics, art history, classics, communications, history, literature, music, political science, and psychology. The authors' observations establish a rhythm of call and response as they examine the critical depth of a text that has had a profound influence on African American intellectual history. Implicitly, the essays show how The Souls of Black Folk has influenced teaching practices and suggested alternative ways of teaching that create a pedagogy of inclusion.

The Souls of Black Folk remains a pivotal text in the American understanding of the black experience, and this important collection investigates this indispensable text from fresh directions. Scholars, teachers, and students of American studies and African American studies will find this remarkable work an essential overview of a book that changed the course of American intellectual history.


On the eve of the one-hundredth anniversary of The Souls of Black Folk (1903), it is appropriate that the students of W. E. B. Du Bois (1868–1963) pause and assess the influence of the Old Testament of twentieth-century African American letters. This centennial is the occasion for this collection of essays that treats various aspects of a book that has been a keystone in twentieth-century thought. The Souls of Black Folk is a book for all seasons. Both its title andlanguage suggest the idea of a revelation that is only partial; Du Bois, Picasso-like, is only able to “sketch in, in vague, uncertain outline, the spiritual world in which ten thousand thousand Americans live and strive” (5). Du Bois, thus, in the forethought to The Souls of Black Folk, hints of a deeper interpretation.

Like all classics, The Souls of Black Folk must be reinterpretedby each generation; the reinterpretation renews our appreciation of a work that has redrawn the boundaries of a cultural universe. the fact that The Souls of Black Folk still stirs our imagination raises the question, however, of how and why this collection of fourteen essays published at the dawn of the twentieth century continues to resonate at the dawn of the twenty-first. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Du Bois predicted the debate on multiculturalism that surfacedat the endof the century. He saw ethnic mixing, blending, as a strength and not a weakness.

Knowledge of The Souls of Black Folk helps one understand the historical backgroundandcharacter of American society. Despite Reconstruction, the New Negro, the New Deal, the Great Society, the War on Poverty, and Compassionate Conservatism, blacks in the United States still remain largely “faces at the bottom of the well, ” as Derrick Bell reminds us. The Souls of Black Folk strikes the ears with the welcome soundof a familiar song wafted . . .

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