The Souls of Black Folk

The Souls of Black Folk

The Souls of Black Folk

The Souls of Black Folk


This 100th Anniversary edition of Du Bois's most widely read book offers significant updates and advantages over all other editions of this classic of African American history. A new Introduction by Manning Marable, Du Bois biographer and eminent historian, puts The Souls of Black Folk into context for 21st Century readers and recounts Du Bois's life-long relationship with his text, which Du Bois continued to rework over many decades. A rarely seen 1953 Re-Introduction by Du Bois is included in this edition, as are the many corrections and changes Du Bois made to the original text during this era. Finally, an explication of the Du Bois text in the new Foreword by Charles Lemert helps the reader better understand the book's historical and current relevance, as does the afterword by Cheryl Townsend Gilkes reflecting on Du Bois's influence on feminism.


Charles Lemert

I can recall a time, somewhere around 1990, when a new book by a then-young African-American scholar of African-American music was judged unworthy because, as one of his judges put it, referring to the most famous idea in The Souls of Black Folk, “This idea of double-consciousness is a little suspicious to me.” in 2003, as this centennial edition of Souls appears, the balance of literary power has so shifted that the scholar has gone on to a distinguished career at institutions ever more prestigious than the one that denied him tenure, while the illinformed judge and those who fawned over the dubiousness of Du Bois’ indubitable concept have barely been heard of since.

Today the burden of proof is with those who would question the importance of W. E. B. Du Bois to the literary and intellectual history of our time. the idea that the American Negro is of two contending souls—the one American, the other Negro, at war with each other—is now well known, even by schoolchildren. a century after its publication, The Souls of Black Folk has become one of the English language’s classic literary works to such an extent that less and less does one think of it as a book defined by association with this or that particular genre or field of interest. It is not just that W. E. B. Du Bois’ fine literary hand turned out some of the more stirring, if Elizabethan, prose of the waning Victorian era. Nor is it that Souls is the source of ideas and phrases that have affected the literary sensibilities of several generations of readers. There is another reason for the prominence attained by The Souls of Black Folk—one not always considered. This would be a reason perfectly in keeping with the deep underlying engagement of its author with the effects of global economics on the local social realities of men and women the world over. This might be called the sociological importance of the book.

If there is a special purpose in this edition of The Souls of Black Folk, it is to frame this classic work of literature with respect to its distinctively, if commonly ignored, social values—those that place it as a significant document in the early history of the sociology of global realities . . .

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