In his work titled The Souls of Black Folk, what did W. E. B. Dubois consider the causes of race problems? What is the relevance of Booker T. Washington to this question?

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Dubois discusses the "double consciousness" that blacks internalize: this means that their own self perceptions almost always exist alongside the denigrating perceptions that white people hold of them. This leads to black self-hatred, and particularly, the tendency of educated black people to want to separate themselves from the rest of the black community.

Other problems include segregation, the continuation of the plantation system, the lack of full opportunity to advance economically, the lack of political franchise in the South (due to obstacles put in the way of the black voter), crime, and inferior public education. All of these rob the black community of vitality and the will to resist their second-class status. In short, they corrode the black soul.

While Dubois tries to give Booker T. Washington his due, he very strongly feels that Washington is leading black people down the wrong path. Dubois argues forcefully that accepting second-class citizenship and the myth of black inferiority in return for a few modest economic gains is a soul-destroying and ultimately-futile path for the black people.

Dubois argues that black people will never prosper by trying to compromise with white people over these fundamentals. Black people, Dubois says, must instead insist on full and equal rights with white people (rights that include integration, equal educational opportunities, and complete voting rights). Dubois believes the legacy of Booker T. Washington must be pushed aside if black people are ever to advance beyond a second-class status.

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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.



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