10 Dec 2014
A Look Inside: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Color Line The 1903 published work of W.E.B. Du Bois The Souls of Black Folk is a collection of his written essays that were first published in 1903. It was reprinted twenty-four times between then and 1940. Coined the Father of social science, Du Bois brings together a blend of history, sociological data, poetry, song, and the benefit of his personal experience to propose his vision of how and why color poses such a dilemma at the turn of the twentieth century. The work consists of fourteen essays on various topics, from a history of the U.S. government's efforts at Reconstruction to a discussion of the role of religion in the black community. In The Souls of Black Folk DuBois appears to be highly conscious of the fact that he is writing for a particular audience. From the opening of the text DuBois works to establish a relationship with the reader and specifically asks the reader to accept his work under certain terms and conditions. “Herein lie buried many things which if read with patience may show the strange meaning of being black here in the dawning of the Twentieth Century. This meaning is not without interest to you, Gentle Reader; for the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line.”(Du Bois xli) In the section titled, “The Forethought,” which is essentially the preface to The Souls of Black Folk, DuBois explains that he will be opening each chapter by presenting one of the “Sorrow Songs,” “haunting” melodies “from the only American music which welled up from black souls in the dark past” (1704). Although the book has fourteen chapters, it is actually fourteen separate essays where some of them had been published earlier while he wrote for The Atlanta University. This gives the reader the ability to skip around chapters not having to read from start to end like a traditional book. There is no story line or plot to follow. Du Bois drew from his own experiences as an African-American in the American society. Outside of its notable relevance in African-American history, The Souls of Black Folk also holds an important place in social science as one of the early works in the field of sociology. Chapter I presents an overview of Du Bois thesis for the book. It says that the blacks of the South need to enjoy the right to vote, to a good education, and to be treated with equality and justice. It also defines a term he coined -double consciousness. The first chapter also introduces Du Bois' famous metaphor of the veil. According to Du Bois, this veil is worn by all African-Americans because their view of the world and its potential economic, political, and social opportunities is so vastly different from that of white people. The person in chapter one is battling with the idea of being different from everyone else.