In his important work The Souls of Black Folk (1903), W. E. B. Du Bois discusses a number of causes of racial problems in America, including the following:
- Lack of mutual cultural borrowing between the white and black races, particularly in the United States. Thus the book offers brief musical quotations, usually from black spirituals, at the beginning of each chapter and sets them side-by-side with excerpts from notable European and American poets.
- The manifestation of racial prejudice (of whites against black) even in young childhood.
- A variety of different kinds of separation between whites and blacks.
- A problem he refers to as “double consciousness,” in which African Americans see themselves as they are perceived by whites. Du Bois explains this kind of divided mind be referring to a
sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.
- The difficulty, in America, of an African American trying to be both African and American without losing the best aspects of both cultures.
- The unfortunate and lingering effects of the period of Reconstruction that followed the Civil War. Reconstruction, he believed, was often badly implemented and had sown conflict between the races.
- The unfortunate influence of Booker T. Washington’s emphasis on practical education for African Americans rather than emphasizing the broadest possible educational attainments.
- The general absence of a broadly educated African-American population.
- The general dependence of black folk on agriculture as a way of making a living.
- The widespread inability of African Americans to participate genuinely in the political process by voting.
- A split within the black community between radicals and compromisers.