What is The Souls of Black Folk about?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Du Bois's work is centered on exploring identity in the modern setting.  Du Bois opens his work with the critical idea which guides both the work and its historical appreciation:  "The problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line."  Exploring this dynamic is what the book is about.  Du Bois analyzes this reality on individual and social levels, within the realm of psychology and sociology.  The Souls of Black Folk is the exploration of what it means to be "the other" in a social setting.  The book examines this reality from internal and external points of view.  Du Bois's work analyzes what it means to be Black in America and what it means to be "different" in a cultural setting that might not fully appreciate it.  Du Bois's writing analyzes the "veil" that is a part of racial identity in America, one that causes the individual to see themselves and to be seen as "different."  Such a reality results in a double consciousness, something that Du Bois seeks to better articulate and explore:  "One ever feels his twoness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings."  

The Souls of Black Folk is a work that is all about the issue of race in American society, psychology, and history.  It examines a reality which plagued America, and still does today.  Its explorations were as relevant then as they are now.  The book seeks to better understand what African- Americans can do about the issue of race and identity and how individuals who are different and represent "the other" can better understand themselves, the world, and their place in it.  It seeks to explore the "Sorrow Songs" so often associated with African-American history and transform them into songs where the traveler can "face toward Morning and go his way."

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