I notice song lyrics before every chapter of The Souls of Black Folk. What do they mean? Explain its importance.

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clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

WEB Du Bois begins each chapter with both a quote (from some famous literary verse) and lyrics from a Negro Spiritual or other African American music passed down by oral tradition.

Du Bois' primary idea behind the entire work is to show what life is like for black people in America in the 1900s.  He is convinced that race is the primary problem facing the upcoming century (and he turns out to be right).  The framing of each chapter with poetic quotes and negro spritual lyrics shows that Du Bois means to draw on the support of what is already established in "White" America, and to combine that with support from what is established in the hearts and souls of his people, or "Black" America.  It is an attempt to make peace from the outset - he is not proclaiming a radical revolution or war-like rise out of oppression into equality.  Rather, he wants to paint a picture (through the artform of writing) that shows the beautiful combination of two cultures - working together to eliminate conflict.

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The Souls of Black Folk

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