The Souls of Black Folk | Study Guide

W.E.B. Du Bois

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The Souls of Black Folk | Characters

Character Description
Booker T. Washington Booker T. Washington (1856–1915) was born a slave and became a leading African American voice at the turn of the 20th century. Read More
Alexander Crummell Alexander Crummell (1819–98) was an African American scholar, civil rights activist, and Episcopal minister. Read More
Samuel Armstrong Samuel Armstrong (1839–93) was a Union lieutenant colonel assigned to command the U.S. Colored Troops in 1863; he started a school at Camp Stanton in Maryland to educate the black soldiers. After the Civil War Armstrong joined the Freedmen's Bureau, and he established the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in Virginia in 1868, where black students could be trained for teaching jobs and other skills in exchange for manual labor.
Crispus Attucks Crispus Attucks (c. 1723–70) was an African American dockworker and the first person killed in the Revolutionary War, in the Boston Massacre of March 5, 1770.
Charles B. Aycock Charles B. Aycock (1859–1912) was the governor of North Carolina from 1901–05. He was a Democrat who endorsed white supremacy and segregated public education policies, believing that whites were more responsible and qualified to vote or hold office than African Americans, whose rights he thought should be temporarily suspended.
Nathaniel Banks Nathaniel Banks (1816–1894) was a major general in the Union Army whom President Lincoln asked to reorganize the Louisiana state government. Banks created a heavily regulated work program for thousands of black people who had come to New Orleans after Emancipation; critics claimed that he was essentially recreating the master/slave relationship.
Benjamin Banneker Benjamin Banneker (1731–1806) was a free black man and farm owner who taught himself math and astronomy. He was asked to take part in surveying the land in Maryland and Virginia where the nation's capital would be constructed.
J.W.E. Bowen John Wesley Edward Bowen (1855–1933) was a clergyman, educator, and civil rights activist from New Orleans who was respected by both Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois. An academic himself, he supported higher education for African Americans, encouraging all black people to develop their self-worth even in the face of racism.
William Wells Brown William Wells Brown (c. 1814–1884) escaped enslavement at the age of 20 and was helped by a Quaker family whose name he took for his own. He was the first African American to publish writing in several genres: a play, a novel, an autobiography, and a travel guide.
Blanche K. Bruce Blanche K. Bruce (1841–1898) represented Mississippi in the U.S. Senate from 1875–1881. State rules and constitutions barred African Americans from politics between 1890 and 1908, and it was not until 1973 that another black man was elected to represent a Southern state in Congress or the Senate.
Benjamin Butler Union Army Major General Benjamin Butler (1818–1893) refused to return three slaves to the Confederate camp from which they had escaped, declaring them "contraband of war." Rather than challenge the legality of slavery and these men's status as property, he used the Confederates' own words against them.
Simon Cameron Benjamin Butler's treatment of fugitive slaves as contraband of war was adopted by Lincoln's administration and signed into law through the Confiscation Act of 1861. Secretary of War Simon Cameron (1799–1889) declared slaves a military resource and gave instructions to Union officers to protect fugitives, though not all obeyed these orders.
Cato of Stono Cato (dates unknown; sometimes referred to as Jemmy) was the leader of the Stono slave revolt of 1739 in South Carolina—the deadliest slave revolt in colonial America. He was killed during the revolt.
Salmon P. Chase Abolitionist Salmon P. Chase (1808–1873) was Secretary of the Treasury during the Civil War. His early legal career earned him the label of "attorney general for fugitive slaves."
Erastus Cravath Erastus Cravath (1833–1900) was a founder of Fisk University and several other historically black colleges in Georgia and Tennessee. He served as Fisk's president for more than two decades.
James Derham James Derham (c. 1762–1802) was the first African American doctor to practice medicine in the United States.
Frederick Douglass Dubbed "the greatest of American Negro leaders" by Du Bois, Frederick Douglass (1818–1895) was a prominent voice in the abolition movement, and his two autobiographical books were best sellers that brought the cause of abolition into the public eye. He was also an outspoken voice for women's rights, peace, temperance, and public education.
Burghardt Du Bois Burghardt Gomer Du Bois (1897–1899) was the first son of W.E.B. Du Bois. He died of diphtheria before his second birthday, and his death is the subject of the chapter "Of the Passing of the First Born" in The Souls of Black Folk.
W.E.B. Du Bois W.E.B. Du Bois (1868–1963) is the author of The Souls of Black Folk.
T.D. Eliot Massachusetts Representative Thomas D. Eliot (1808–1870) proposed a bill to create a Bureau of Emancipation within the Department of War that would safeguard and aid newly liberated African Americans. The House debated the bill for two months before passing it by a vote of 69 to 67 on March 1, 1864.
John Frémont General John Frémont (1813–1890) declared martial law in Missouri on August 30, 1861, and ordered the emancipation of all slaves in its borders.
Beriah Green Beriah Green (1795–1874) was an abolitionist, a social reformer, and the president of Oneida Institute in New York State. He paved the way for Alexander Crummell, the subject of this book's 12th chapter, to attend Oneida.
Oliver O. Howard Oliver Howard (1830–1909) was a career officer in the Union Army during the Civil War. In 1865 he was selected to be the commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau, and in 1867 he founded Howard University and helped establish Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee.
Kelly Miller Kelly Miller (1863–1939) was an intellectual who contributed to African American life through his scholarship in mathematics, sociology, and numerous essays on social concerns.
John Mercer Langston John Mercer Langston (1829–1897) was elected to represent Virginia in Congress in 1888. African Americans were barred from participation in politics between 1890 and 1908, and another black man was not elected in the South until 1973.
Henry Onderdonk Henry Onderdonk (1789–1858) was an Episcopal bishop in Pennsylvania whom Alexander Crummell petitioned about establishing an African American church in Philadelphia. Onderdonk is said to have agreed provided that Crummell or any other black clergy never expect to be allowed to participate in the Episcopal convention; Crummell declined.
Toussaint Louverture Toussaint Louverture (also spelled L'Ouverture) (1743–1803) was the legendary leader of the Haitian Revolution in 1791 that led to the colony's independence from France.
Daniel Payne Daniel Payne (1811–1893) was an American clergyman, educator, and author; he was an influential leader within the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) and served as a bishop from 1852–1893. He was also one of the founders of Wilberforce University in Ohio where Du Bois taught, and in 1877 Payne became its president—the first black president of a U.S. college.
Edward L. Pierce Edward L. Pierce (1829–1897) was a Massachusetts attorney appointed by Salmon Chase to lead the "Port Royal Experiment," a program to create schools and hospitals for ex-slaves and to let them purchase and manage abandoned plantations in the Sea Islands of South Carolina.
Salem Poor Salem Poor (1787–1802) was an African American war hero in the Revolutionary War; he fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill and is credited for killing many British soldiers, including Colonel Abercrombie. He worked for a Massachusetts family before buying his freedom at 22.
Gabriel Prosser In 1800, Gabriel Prosser (1775–1800) organized a slave revolt in Richmond, Virginia, that never came to pass because he was betrayed by a slave who wanted to protect his master. Prosser escaped to Norfolk but was discovered and returned to Richmond to stand trial; he was found guilty and executed on October 7, 1800.
Rufus Saxton General Rufus Saxton (1824–1908) was responsible for recruiting the first black regiments in the Federal Army. After the Civil War, he became the Assistant Commissioner for the States of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida with the Freedmen's Bureau until January 1866.
William T. Sherman William T. Sherman (1820–1891) was a Union general famous for his "scorched earth" campaign in Georgia from Atlanta to the port of Savannah. It was one of the strategies that led to the Confederacy's surrender.
Edward G. Walker Edward G Walker (1830–1901) was one of the first black Americans to pass the Massachusetts Bar. He and Charles Lewis Mitchell were the first two African American members of the Massachusetts state legislature.
Phyllis Wheatley Phyllis Wheatley (c. 1753–1784) was a young enslaved woman who was educated by the Wheatley family, for whom she worked. She became one of the most famous poets of the 18th century.
George L. White George L. White (1838–1895), the treasurer and music director at Fisk University, brought together nine black student singers as the Fisk Jubilee Singers and toured the country with them performing a cappella (without instruments) spirituals to raise money for the university.
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