Literature Study GuidesThe Souls Of Black Folk

The Souls of Black Folk | Study Guide

W.E.B. Du Bois

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W.E.B. Du Bois

Year Published





History, Philosophy, Political Science

At a Glance

In The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois brings together several essays and one short story to counter the message of racial accommodation that African American educator Booker T. Washington (1856–1915) proclaimed 10 years earlier. Du Bois's book demonstrates, from a number of different perspectives, how compromising on issues such as black suffrage, racial equality under the law, and access to education undermines sustainable progress and societal gains for black people in America. This work of literature has been a cornerstone of sociology and African American studies since it was published in 1903.

Perspective and Narrator

The Souls of Black Folk is written from several different perspectives. The essays that offer historical information and sociological analysis are written largely in the third person, but at the end of the essay about African American educator Booker T. Washington, Du Bois slips into the first-person plural, joining the African Americans of whom he speaks in their struggle for civil rights. He uses the first-person singular when describing his own personal experiences, such as teaching in a Tennessee schoolhouse and mourning the death of his son. The chapter that takes a short story format has an omniscient third-person narrator, up until the point where the narrator takes the first-person voice of a professor at the Institute where John Jones, the main character of the piece, attends school.

About the Title

Of primary concern to Du Bois are the self-esteem and legacies of African Americans, and The Souls of Black Folk offers multiple perspectives on the many ways in which these are threatened by segregation and racial prejudice.


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