The Souls of Black Folk – W.E.B Dubois
The Souls of Black Folk is a founding work in the literature of black protest, Du Bois eloquently affirms that it is beneath the dignity of a human being to beg for those rights that belong inherently to all mankind. He also charges that the strategy of accommodation to white supremacy would only serve to perpetuate black oppression.
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (1868-1963) is the greatest of African American intellectuals–a sociologist, historian, novelist, and activist whose astounding career spanned the nation’s history from Reconstruction to the civil rights movement. Born in Massachusetts and educated at Fisk, Harvard, and the University of Berlin, Du Bois penned his epochal masterpiece, The Souls of Black Folk, in 1903.
It remains his most studied and popular work; its insights into life at the turn of the 20th century still ring true.
Martin and Malcolm
The Souls of Black Folk was published in 1903, and just as the two directions of black leadership in the tumultuous 60’s and ’70’s were symbolised by Martin and Malcolm, the two directions at the turn of the last century – a period punctuated by lynchings and race riots – were embodied in Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois.
Washington, born a slave in the South, urged blacks, at least for the present, to accept Jim Crow and disenfranchisement in return for safety and peace, while they concentrated on attending trade schools and developing–and demonstrating to white society–their integrity and character. (White society praised Washington; Theodore Roosevelt invited him to dinner at the White House.) W.E.B. DuBois, born free in the North, insisted on the vote and full civil rights, and encouraged the development of black intellectuals, the “talented tenth,” urging them to complete not only four years of college, but post-graduate degrees as well. (Dubois was the first black person to earn a doctorate from Harvard).