W. E. B. Du Bois introduces The Souls of Black Folk with the forethought:
herein lie buried many things which if read with patience may show the strange meaning of being black here in the dawning of the twentieth century. This meaning is not without interest to you, gentle reader; for the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line.
These succinct lines summarize the aim of the collection, which is to impress upon the world the particular experience of being an African American some forty years after the Civil War. The work consists of fourteen essays on various topics, from a history of the U.S. government's efforts at Reconstruction to a discussion of the role of religion in the black community. First published in 1903, it was reprinted twenty-four times between then and 1940 alone; it is easily Du Bois' most widely read book and is considered a masterpiece. Coined the Father of social science, Du Bois brings together a blend of history, sociological data, poetry, song, and the benefit of his personal experience to propose his vision of how and why color poses such a dilemma at the turn of the twentieth century. His assertion is fortuitous, and the collection continues to provide insight into the ways that the African-American culture is intrinsic to the larger American culture, and how history has made that relationship inherently problematic.