The Souls of Black Folk (Oxford World's Classics): W. E. B. Du Bois
Oxford University Press, USA | ISBN: 0192806785 | 2007-05-01 | PDF (OCR) | 256 pages | 2.07 Mb
Originally published in 1903, The Souls of Black Folk is a classic study of race, culture, and education at the turn of the twentieth century. With its singular combination of essays, memoir, and fiction, this book vaulted Du Bois to the forefront of American political commentary and civil rights activism. It is an impassioned, at times searing account of the situation of African Americans in the United States, making a forceful case for the access of African Americans to higher education and extolling the achievements of black culture. Du Bois advances the provocative and influential argument that due to the inequalities and pressures of the "race problem," African American identity is characterized by "double consciousness." This edition includes a valuable appendix of other writings by Du Bois, which sheds light on his motivation and his goals.
This was required reading for a graduate course in the Humanities. William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (February 23, 1868 - August 27, 1963) was an American civil rights activist, leader, Pan-Africanist, sociologist, educator, historian, writer, editor, poet, and scholar. He became a naturalized citizen of Ghana in 1963 at the age of 95. David Levering Lewis, a biographer, wrote, "In the course of his long, turbulent career, W.E.B. Du Bois attempted virtually every possible solution to the problem of twentieth-century racism--scholarship, propaganda, integration, cultural and economic separatism, politics, international communism, expatriation, third world solidarity. After graduating from Fisk University in 1888, Du Bois took a bachelor's degree cum laude from Harvard College in 1890 (Harvard having refused to recognize the equivalency of his Fisk degree), and in 1892 received a stipend to attend the University of Berlin. While a student in Berlin, he travelled extensively throughout Europe, and came of age intellectually while studying with some of the most prominent social scientists in the German capital, such as Gustav von Schmoller. In 1896, Du Bois became the first African American to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard University. After teaching at Wilberforce University in Ohio and the University of Pennsylvania, he established the department of sociology at Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University).
"The Souls of Black Folk" is the most well-known work of African-American W.E.B. Du Bois, a writer, leader, and civil rights activist. The book, published in 1903, contains several essays on race, some of which had been previously published in Atlantic Monthly magazine. Du Bois drew from his own experiences to develop this groundbreaking work on being African-American in American society. Outside of its notable place in African-American history, The Souls of Black Folk also holds an important place in social science as one of the first works to deal with sociology. In Living Black History, (p. 96) esteemed scholar and Du Bois biographer Manning Marable makes the following observation about the book: "Few books make history and fewer still become foundational texts for the movements and struggles of an entire people. The Souls of Black Folk occupies this rare position. It helped to create the intellectual argument for the black freedom struggle in the twentieth century. Souls justified the pursuit of higher education for Negroes and thus contributed to the rise of the black middle class. By describing a global color-line, Du Bois anticipated pan-Africanism and colonial revolutions in the Third World. Moreover, this stunning critique of how 'race' is lived through the normal aspects of daily life is central to what would become known as 'whiteness studies' a century later."
For Du Bois the problem of 20th century is problem of color line. Concept of double consciousness is looking thru eyes of others. Notion of authenticity what does it mean to be authentic? His idea is very Freudian. Du Bois says authenticity is a longing for Blacks, but impossible because blacks can't be authentic have to live another way. Cornell West says Du Bois is a pragmatist. He is connected to the Harlem Renaissance. Paul Gilroy says Du Bois is more connected with Pan Africanism experience of displaced Africans around the world. What does he mean "souls of Black folk"? It is a metaphor for spirituality. Book is meant to provide progress for black folks. Freedman's bureau had some success like schools. He had issue with B. T. Washington populist message of wanting blacks to concentrate on jobs not the vote, higher education, or civil rights. Du Bois resents Booker T. Washington as spokesperson for blacks. Critiques American materialism. Standard of human culture and lofty ideals of life, the talented tenth. Book is pioneering for 6 reasons: 1. Identification of hyphenated self. 2. Recognition of Black culture like music, the Blues vernacular culture. The soul of the nation itself, West says musically is key to text, it "sings" the "sorrow song" is motif of life. 3. Important to Harlem renaissance period. 4. Pioneering work of sociology and psychology. 5. Higher education is means to self realization. 6. Relations to economics drives development of black life.
Double consciousness. His double consciousness gives us a vivid picture of how tragic the racist discourse is, defined by skin color. Black or white thus it strengthens arguments that each race had unique properties thus polarizing us. His book gives us this understanding of our mind and self identity. If Blacks accept the racial divide they then deny equality. He does see a black identity and celebrates difference made real in Black experience. Celebrates difference made real in peoples experience and beyond our racial fictions. How does he do this, what is the key? It is music the "sorrows song." Those voicings, these songs speak to slow tragedy. He precedes each chapter with sorrow song. The doubleness of consciousness is extended throughout the work. They convey resistance and defiance. Last chapter how prejudice works on people. Whiteness is non race. The great chain of being, your place in society. Rise of Enlightenment human is now sovereign leads to systematic study of man.
Du Bois was investigated by the FBI, who claimed in May of 1942 that "his writing indicates him to be a socialist," and that he "has been called a Communist and at the same time criticized by the Communist Party." Du Bois visited Communist China during the Great Leap Forward. Also, in the 16 March 1953 issue of The National Guardian, Du Bois wrote "Joseph Stalin was a great man; few other men of the 20th century approach his stature." Du Bois was chairman of the Peace Information Center at the start of the Korean War. He was among the signers of the Stockholm Peace Pledge, which opposed the use of nuclear weapons. In 1950, he ran for the U.S. Senate on the American Labor Party ticket in New York and received 4% of the vote. He was indicted in the United States under the Foreign Agents Registration Act and acquitted for lack of evidence. W.E.B. Du Bois became disillusioned with both black capitalism and racism in the United States. In 1959, Du Bois received the Lenin Peace Prize. In 1961, at the age of 93, he joined the Communist Party USA.
Du Bois was invited to Ghana in 1961 by President Kwame Nkrumah to direct the Encyclopedia Africana, a government production, and a long-held dream of his. When, in 1963, he was refused a new U.S. passport, he and his wife, Shirley Graham Du Bois, became citizens of Ghana, making them dual citizens of Ghana and the United States. Du Bois' health had declined in 1962, and on August 27, 1963, he died in Accra, Ghana at the age of ninety-five, one day before Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.
Recommended reading for anyone interested in history, psychology, or philosophy.
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