Black History Month: “The Souls of Black Folks”

dubois.gifW.E.B. Du Bois The Souls of Black Folks, 1903.
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was born in 1868 in Great Barrington, Mass., and by the time he died in 1963 had become one of the most influential black writers ever in America, due largely to the work he is known best for, The Souls of Black Folks.

The collection of essays in the book is both a seminal work in the field of sociology and in the study of African-American culture. In it, Du Bois coins the term “double-consciousness”

After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world,—a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. 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.
The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife,—this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He would not Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face.

The complete text of this book is available for free from such sources as Project Gutenburg and

Special thanks goes to Barbara Smith, author and member of the Albany Common Council, for her suggestion.


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