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The Souls of Black Folk

by W.E.B. DuBois

This land­mark book is a found­ing work in the lit­er­a­ture of black protest. W. E. B. Du Bois (1868 – 1963) played a key role in devel­op­ing the strat­e­gy and pro­gram that dom­i­nat­ed ear­ly 20th-cen­tu­ry black protest in Amer­i­ca. In this col­lec­tion of essays, first pub­lished togeth­er in 1903, he 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 advanced by Book­er T. Wash­ing­ton, then the most influ­en­tial black leader in Amer­i­ca, would only serve to per­pet­u­ate black oppression.

Pub­li­ca­tion of The Souls of Black Folk was a dra­mat­ic event that helped to polar­ize black lead­ers into two groups: the more con­ser­v­a­tive fol­low­ers of Wash­ing­ton and the more rad­i­cal sup­port­ers of aggres­sive protest. Its influ­ence can­not be over­stat­ed. It is essen­tial read­ing for every­one inter­est­ed in African-Amer­i­can his­to­ry and the strug­gle for civ­il rights in America.

1994

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