Compiled by Erica L. Griffin
Review of The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches, by W. E. Burghardt Du Bois (Chicago: A. C. McClurg Company, 1903). By Anonymous Reviewer. Nation vol. 76, no. 5 (1903): 481–82.
Mr. Du Bois has written a profoundly interesting and affecting book, remarkable as a piece of literature apart from its inner significance. The negrophobist will remind us that Mr. Du Bois is not so black as he has painted himself, and will credit to the white blood in his veins the power and beauty of his book. But the fact is, that the features of Mr. Du Bois's mind are negro features to a degree that those of his face are not. They are the sensibility, the tenderness, the “avenues to God hid from men of Northern brain, ” which Emerson divined in the black people. The bar of music from one “Sorrow Song” or another which stands at the head of each chapter is a hint (unintended) that what follows is that strain writ large, that Mr. Du Bois's thought and expression are highly characteristic of his people, are cultivated varieties of those emotional and imaginative qualities which are the prevailing traits of the uncultivatednegro mind. Hence one more argument for that higher education of the negro for which Mr. Du Bois so eloquently pleads. Such education of ten thousand negroes would be justifiedby one product like this.
The book will come as a surprise to some persons who have heard Mr. Du Bois speak upon his people's character and destiny, and, finding him coldly intellectual, have not been at all prepared for the emotion and the passion throbbing here in every chapter, almost every page. It is almost intolerably sad. “Bone of the bone and flesh of the flesh of them that live within the veil, ” the writer manifests throughout an aching sense of the wrongs done to his people, heretofore and still. But those will greatly misconceive who think that we have here merely an outburst of emotion. Back