The Souls of Black Folk
In this 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.
The curriculet is being added to your library
Burghardt and Yolande are Du Bois's children with his first wife, Nina.
What does the image of 'the Veil' most likely symbolize?
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently.
Symons was a contemporary British poet (1865-1945). Think about why Du Bois included white British and American poets in addition to African-American poets in these lyrical epigraphs.
What is Du Bois's understanding of the "veil" as a child?
One of the dominant motifs that runs through all 14 essays that make up "The Souls of Black Folk" is the destructive duality of being African-American in post-slavery America.
What is the "wild carnival of blood and passion" that Du Bois refers to?
This is an allusion to Toussaint Louverature (1743-1803), leader of the Haitian Revolution at the end of the 18th century. (This annotation contains an image)
Consider the elevated tone and style of Du Bois's writing. Who is his audience, and does it affect his writing style?
This is probably one of the most famous lines of the book, most likely because of its succinctness and accuracy. Sadly, in the 21st century it is still an accurate statement, though expanded in its definition of 'color'. (This annotation contains a link)
Du Bois seems to view the Freedmen's Bureau with
It seems paradoxical that freedom would be demoralizing to former slaves, but what Du Bois is pointing out is that the assimilation of freed men and women into society was poorly prepared for and mismanaged. The hard won freedom that these former slaves longed for was not the panacea some thought it would be.
What is this highlighted line an example of?
As Du Bois points out, this is a hefty charge indeed. However, its creation began with set limitations. The Bureau was only meant to function until one year after the war. It would have no more than 10 staff members to oversee all refugees and freedmen. There was no way that the Bureau would be able to function effectively.
Du Bois uses a lot of kennings in this work. Who is the 'weary Emancipator'?
The Ninth Crusade is the last medieval crusade for the Holy Land in the 13th century. Du Bois claims that these women who lost everything to war, and who now crusaded for education, were more idealistic than King Louis IX in his quest to capture the Holy Land. (They were more successful, too.)
Even with its somewhat expanded oversight, what does the Freedmen's Bureau fail to do to further the rights and acceptance of freedmen in the South? What must be done that Bureau is not outfitted to organize and administer?
The two typified images or people that remain are of the master and the mammy. The master is remembered as a gentleman in society, who perpetuated slavery as a necessary evil. It is interesting that the brutality of the master is not included in this description. The slave woman is hardened by life and circumstance (as well as history), put upon by the master, and a mammy to his children even as she had to give up her own children. This image will be caricatured and stereotyped for generations to come. (This annotation contains an image)
What was the only saving grace of the Bureau's labor situation?
Du Bois describes a system that caused a lot of ill will with everyone involved. Here is a propaganda advertisement against Congress and the Freedmen's Bureau (not the racist caricature of the "negro"). Can you guess what group put out this advertisement? (This annotation contains an image)
Why shouldn't one blame the Freedmen's Bureau for all of the evils described here?
Senator Garrett Davis (1801-1872) (This annotation contains an image)
Can you explain what Du Bois means here?Why would some feel gratitude, and others indifference or contempt?
As you will learn, Booker T. Washington is a polarizing figure. As you read Du Bois's arguments against most of Washington's philosophies consider how he or his supporters might respond. (This annotation contains an image)
What is the best way to summarize Washington's words of compromise in Atlanta?
Consider what Du Bois is saying here about the importance of constructive criticism of leaders. Does this still hold true today?What is wrong with the "you're either with us, or you're against us" mentality?
What is being implied here about Washington's role as a leader?
This cartoon depicts the kind of intimidation tactics used to suppress black voters in the 1876 election. (Rutherford B. Hayes won against Samiel J. Tilden, despite losing the popular vote.) (This annotation contains an image)
What is Du Bois's criticism of Washington's ideology here? Cite evidence from the text to support your response.
Notice Du Bois's repetition of listing arguments in threes throughout this essay. What is the impact of this on the reader?
Which aspect of Washnigton's philosophy does Du Bois think is demoralizing and ultimately harmful to progress?
Benjamin Tillman, or "Pitchfork Ben", was a senator and governor of South Carolina, a white supremacist, and a proponent of lynching. (This annotation contains an image)
What is the one point that Washington fails to understand that puts his credibility into question?
Fisk University is one of 106 historically black colleges and universities (HBCU). It was founded in 1866, and continues to be one of the top rated HBCUs in the nation. (This annotation contains a link)
What do you think it means to "live like folks," according to Josie's mom? Cite evidence from the text to support your response.
Hard-Shell Baptists are better known as Primitive Baptists. They are very conservative, and are mostly concentrated in the southeastern United States. Currently, African-Americans make up the majority of this religious group.
What held Jim back from achieving his potential?
Jim Crow segregation laws were in effect until the 1960s. (This annotation contains an image)
Which literary element is the first line of the poem an example of?
Du Bois is alluding to the different Estates of the realm under feudalism in Medieval Europe. The First Estate is the clergy, the Second Estate is nobility, and the Third Estate is the common man.
In your own words, explain what Du Bois says about greed in the contemporary South. Why does he use the myth of Atalanta and Hippomenes as an example?
Pay attention to Du Bois's use of the term 'catholic' here. It may not mean what you think initially.
What is the ultimate goal of education?
"Zeitgeist" means "the spirit of the time." it is attributed to 19th century German philosopher Georg Hegel. He believed that art and culture are intractably entwined. (This annotation contains an image)
Though universal and effective application would be difficult, Du Bois views Education (with a capital 'E') as
Schools were desegregated after the Brown vs. Board of Education supreme court ruling in 1954. Sixty years later, the re are still issues about educational disparity based on race and socio-economic status in this country. segregation-is-back-60-years-after-brown/ (This annotation contains a link)
Clarify the significance of progress being more of a "pull" than a "push." What is the difference?
Men like Richard T. Greener, the first African-American to earn a degree from Harvard University (in 1870) are proof positive that statements like these are "extreme and overdrawn." Greener even earned his law degree from the University of South Carolina, and taught there. (This annotation contains a link)
What is the only way to settle the debate about Negro Education?
It is interesting to note that even though Du Bois writes a lot about education, he is not really studied in the field of education. Watch this brief video clip for one theory as to why this might be. (This annotation contains a video)
The fact that Du Bois is one of these "Negro college-bred men," gives him ___________ on this subject.
Du Bois addresses his audience directly here. Who is the "you" he is speaking to? Is it one person or group in particular? Or is he using the 'universal you?' Are there any clues here?
Common schools and trade schools are very important, but why are colleges and universities the "foundations of knowledge" for any race?
This chapter is one example of Du Bois's ethnographic essays (there are several in 'The Souls of Black Folk'). An ethnography is the scientific description (through social research) of the customs of individual peoples and cultures. This video, created by student ethnographers, goes into more detail. (This annotation contains a video)
Why is a writing snake an apt analogy in this instance?
Why do you think Du Bois compares these "country folk" to those from Germany, Italy and Poland? Consider the flux of immigrants from Europeat the turn of the last century, and how their situations (socially and economically) were not entirely dissimilar to African-Americans.
What is the overall atmosphere of this area of Albany?
Interior of an African-American schoolhouse at the turn of the last century. (This annotation contains an image)
Can you explain why Du Bois tell this story in the style of a fairy tale?
Osceola (1804-1838) (This annotation contains an image)
These dilapidated plantations, and other relics of the Old South stand out as
The Internet Archive has some very interesting 'educational' films that portray plantation life and its legacy from a very different perspective. Watch this short film from 1950 that has a very Eurocentric view; one that is very different than what Du Bois observed about fifty years prior. (This annotation contains a link)
What differentiates these men on the convict farm from the other people Du Bois interviewed?
Have you noticed that Du Bois says "we" throughout the essay? Who do you think he is he working/traveling with?
Why might it be a "joy" to meet someone like Jack Delson at this point in their travels?
Du Bois continues with the motif of allusions to Greek mythology with the title of this essay. Based on your knowledge of the myth of the Golden Fleece, what do you think will be the tone of this essay?
In what way is the "fleece" of the cotton field "golden"?
Picture of a slave cabin (This annotation contains an image)
In what ways are the lives of the Negro peasants more miserable than those of immigrants in large cities? What do these two groups have in common?
Du Bois blames the breakdown of traditional marriage among Negroes on
After emancipation, the Freedmen's Bureau created documents to legalize some of these slave marriages. Here is one such document that shows a formal marriage date of 1866, even though they had been living together as man and wife since 1843. (This annotation contains an image)
In many of these households this holds true of all members of the family - the men, women, and children toiled in the fields. For the most part, these people have been working since they can remember, with very little respite. Imagine the kind of toll this can take mentally and physically on a person.
Explain how the situation of the freedman was not much different from when he was a slave in this case. However, what is the one main difference?
One contemporary trade report had this to say about cotton in 1898, "Raw cotton, on the other hand, reflects probabilities of continued plentiful supply, and gather slow demand in quotations, lower than the lowest point reached in the year of depression, 1594, when a large yield was conceded with poorer trade, industrial troubles and tight money. From the West and Northwest advices continue largely in the former cheerful strain. Some retaliation in activity is perceptible in some lines at large markets, but the volume of trade as a whole is evidently equal to any previous record. At the South low priced cotton and yellow fever quarantine affect trade adversely, improvement in one section being counterbalanced by less favorable advices from others. " (Sacramento Daily Union, September 1898)
Evaluate the ragged man's estimation of how the world works. How does this kind of understanding of injustice lead to a "cheap and dangerous socialism"?
Sam Hose was tortured and killed by a lynch mob in Georgia in 1899. It was a brutal killing, and parts of his body were even sold as souvenirs. These kinds of spectacle lynchings would unfortunately gain momentum throughout the first quarter of the 20th century. (This annotation contains an image)
What do you think is a "car-window sociologist"?
Du Bois uses this term frequently throughout this essay. "Rack-rent" means an extortionate amount of money charged for the rental of a piece of property. In 1800, Maria Edgeworth wrote "Castle Rackrent," a satirical novel about the mismanagement of an Anglo-Irish estate. (This annotation contains an image)
In addition to the previous reasons Du Bois gave about the decline of lasting marriages, what is another reason that marriage is on the decline among this population?
This video goes into some aspects of Du Bois's views on politics and the role of black laborers in the struggle for Democracy later in his life. (This annotation contains a video)
Explain the differences between what the author views as the future of the competition of races with what it has been in the past.
Forty years after the end of slavery, its descendants' success is limited by the lack of effective education and training to be a free worker. The state of tenant farming has kept these laborers in a kind of stasis.
In using this example, it is implied that the state of the economic system of the South at the start of the 20th century was in fact
There is at least one name we readers know Du Bois wouldn't include among these "Negro leaders", right? This need for leaders within the African-American community is one of the reasons why Du Bois helped create the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909. (This annotation contains an image)
For all this talk about universal suffrage and disenfranchisement, what demographic at this point in time was still unable to vote in the United States? What was the argument against allowing this group to vote, and are there any similarities here?
Racial disparity in the criminal justice system is a remnant of this era that still exists in the 21st century. (This annotation contains a link)
What is one of the lasting detrimental effects of these police and court systems?
Do you think there was a conspiracy of silence? Conspiracy implies complicity, so who do you think would be behind the conspiracy, and what did they have to gain (or lose)?
How is this a manifestation of the "Veil"?
There were several successful black communities throughout the South where conditions could be said to have been much better than in Dougherty County. One such town in Tulsa, Oklahoma was even coined "Black Wall Street." Unfortunately, this town was later burned to the ground in the Tulsa race riot in 1921. (This annotation contains a link)
What best describes the arguments made against equality and opportunity for the Negro as described in this section?
This video will give you an idea of the frenzy (as well as the grotesque and funny) atmosphere surrounding a revival meeting. (This annotation contains a link)
Illustrate how religion was a cathartic experience. Cite evidence from the text to support your response.
River baptisms were also a regular ritual. (This annotation contains an image)
The fact that the clergy holds perhaps the highest position within this social structure extends the earlier comparison to
What can be inferred by this comment?
Slave masters used religion as a form of
'Oh Freedom' by The Golden Gospel Singers (This annotation contains a video)
What is the problem that all of this duality poses?
About six years before the publication of 'The Souls of Black Folk,' poet Paul Laurence Dunbar wrote a poem about this 'deception' titled "We Wear the Mask." (This annotation contains a link)
What have African-American groups developed more in the North than they have in the South?
Du Bois's son, Burghardt, died of diphtheria in 1899. They were living in Georgia at the time, and in this essay Du Bois claims that his son might have survived if there had been access to better medical treatment for African-Americans in Atlanta.
Describe the effect of Du Bois's imagery in describing his son and what he represents.
The word "wraith" inherently has a ghostly context, but here it probably also refers to a wisp, or a faint trace. Life is fleeting, and his son's existence and innocence was ethereal.
Why does Du Bois lament that burying his son in the North was "in vain"?
Crummell (1819-1898) was an Episcopal priest. He developed the idea of Pan-Africanism, which promoted solidarity of Africans and their descendants. (This annotation contains an image)
How does Du Bois describe the temptation of Hate?
Crummell would go on to study at Queen's College in Cambridge.
Why do you think Du Bois uses the recurring motif of temptation in reference to Crummell?
Formally titled 'Acts and Monuments,' Foxe's 'Book of Martyrs' was published in the 1560s, and influenced Protestant views of the Catholic church (and its brutality) for centuries. (This annotation contains an image)
What is the tone of Du Bois's writing about Crummell?
Not many know his name today, either. People remember others who took up the mantle of Pan-Africanism and the Back to Africa movement; more polarizing figures like Marcus Garvey (pictured), and even Du Bois himself. (This annotation contains an image)
All of the following literary devices are used in this first paragraph EXCEPT
Unlike the other chapters, "Of the Coming of John" is fiction. Can you find any stylistic clues that illustrate a difference between his essays and this work of fiction?
What does this mean? How does this signal a turning point for John?
This hearkens back to slave naming practices. It also reveals a hierarchy -- they are roughly the same age, but "Black John" is named after "White John."
Why is the woman seated next to John so listless?
In 'Black Skin, White Masks' (1952), Frantz Fanon explains the isolation that educated blacks faced, being that they never truly belonged anywhere. White America saw him as a novelty; people of his own race saw him variably as a traitor/outsider/parvenu. "Society refuses to consider [black academics] genuine Negroes. The Negro is a savage, whereas the student is civilized. 'You're us,' and if anyone thinks you are a Negro he is mistaken, because you merely look like one.'"
What is the core of John's statement to the congregation? Why do they react the way that they do?
"Uppity" is a loaded term, and today is considered by many to be a derogatory slur towards African-Americans who "do not know their place." (This annotation contains a link)
Despite his desire to educate the Negroes in his town, what emotion does this description show he sometimes feels for them?
John's discussion with his mother has double meaning. What does he mean when he says he is "going away"? What could "North" mean euphemistically? (This annotation contains a video)
Analyze the reasons why John is so calm in the face of his death at the hands of a violent mob. What is his death akin to?
Slave spirituals have had a major impact on music. This clip from 'Twelve Years a Slave' depicts the emotional connection and communal bond these songs held. (This annotation contains a video)
What do these songs represent?
These early songs sung by the slaves have survived through an oral tradition. Du Bois has now ensured that this song will be preserved for future generations by printing it. People like ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax also worked hard to preserve the music of oral cultures that were threatened to disappear. Lomax is probably best known for recording and preserving the music of sharecroppers and prisoners in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi in the 1930s through the 1950s. (This annotation contains a video)
How has the music of the 20th and 21st centuries been influenced by slave songs? Can you give specific examples?
This is an excerpt from the song "Steal Away." (This annotation contains a video)
What do you make of the "ominous silence" of songs about deep and successful love?
In this instance, "minstrel" simply refers to a singer in the band. There is a long and troubled history of minstrelsy and African-American music and culture. Du Bois does point out that minstrelsy and caricature (contemporary "coon songs" as he called them earlier in the essay) threaten to dilute these sorrow songs. (This annotation contains an image)
In regards to the Veil, Du Bois seems to be ending his essay
Despite its placement, what literary device is Du Bois's 'Afterthought' an example of?