The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow A Century of Segregation
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Souls of Black Folk (1903)
W.E.B. Du Bois

W.E.B. Du Bois published THE SOULS OF BLACK FOLK, a collection of essays, in 1903. It was immediately acclaimed as an extraordinary work of literature. THE SOULS OF BLACK FOLK explored a variety of subjects of black life, from the history of the Freedmen's Bureau and black music to Du Bois' experiences teaching in rural Georgia and Tennessee. His brief "Forethought" includes one of his most famous lines: "The problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line."
Du Bois famously wrote, Newspaper headlines
In one memorable and eloquent passage, he describes one of the challenges African Americans must face: "It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness -- an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder."
What made the book a sensation was that it was the first widely public shot in the debate between Du Bois and Booker T. Washington. Until the turn of the century, Du Bois had supported Washington and had even congratulated him on his Atlanta Compromise speech in 1895. In SOULS, Du Bois, while praising Washington for his contributions to the progress of the race, also criticized Washington for his failures to speak out in its behalf:
"... so far as Mr. Washington apologizes for injustice, North and South, does not rightly value the privilege and duty of voting, belittles the emasculating effects of caste distinctions, and opposes the higher training and education of our brighter minds -- so far as he, the South or the Nation does this -- we must unceasingly and firmly oppose them."
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W.E.B. Du Bois'
comments on Booker T. Washington.

THE SOULS OF BLACK FOLK marks the beginning of Du Bois' transition from a scholar to an activist. He criticized Washington in a number of articles, and in 1905 he formed a civil rights organization, The Niagara Movement, which, although short-lived, was a precursor of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), which Du Bois helped found in 1909.

-- Richard Wormser

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Historical Documents
Congratulatory note from Du Bois to Washington
The congratulatory note sent by W.E.B. Du Bois to Booker T. Washington after his speech at the 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta.
Related Pages
W.E.B. Du Bois


Booker T. Washington

Atlanta Compromise Speech

Freedmen's Bureau

Niagara Movement

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