The book, “The Souls of Black Folk” contains essays written by W.E.B. Du Bois. Some of them are very historical and narrate the African American events and progress, and some of them are very personal, in which Du Bois tells about his personal life.
Du Bois uses these essays to describe how Blacks' gave up acceptance of racism and slavery only stifles their chances for improvement in a society that basically considers them a problem. He is fully convinced that racism exists because America has not been educated about the souls of Black folks.
The Souls of Black Folks is a masterpiece of African American thought. It is even more than that when we consider the time and context in which the book was written. Most of what Bois discusses is still applicable today, and this is a tribute to the man, not only as a scholar, but also as someone who was constantly adapting his views in the best image and interests of black people.
Du Bois argues his points moderately but with great power. Slavery in the United States was "not the worst slavery in the world, not a slavery that made all life unbearable, rather a slavery that had here and there something of kindliness, fidelity, and happiness, but withal slavery, which so far as human aspiration and desert were concerned, classed the black man and the ox together." He recognized that "The present generation of Southerners is not responsible for the past, and they should not be blindly hated or blamed for it."
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Long passages of the book, for example, "Of the Black Belt," report on the diverse condition of blacks in the United States, differences that he would no doubt ascribe to differences in intelligence, energy, perseverance, foresight, and thrift. But Du Bois took strong issue with those who, in his view, took the degradation of blacks in the United States as evidence of their inferiority.
A closing passage in "Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others" seeks to replace dangerous half truths with supplementary truths.He points out that slavery and racial prejudice were potent if not sufficient causes of the position of black Americans at the end of the reconstruction period. He acknowledges that while it is a great truth to say that the Negro must strive and strive greatly to help himself;it is also true that unless his striving be not merely seconded, but rather encouraged and aroused, by the initiative of the wiser and richer environing group, he cannot hope for great success. In other words,whites have tended to "shift the burden of the Negro problem to the Negro's shoulders and stand aside as critical and rather pessimistic spectators; when in fact the burden belongs to the nation". In fact, Du Bois reminds us, the problem of race in the United States is "a concrete test of the underlying principles of the great republic".Du Bois criticizes the racism that plagued America after the end of slavery. Particularly attractive is his iconoclastic analysis of controversial Black leader Booker T. Washington, whom Du Bois saw as too willing to cooperate with a white racist establishment. There is a strong concern with economic related issues in "Souls"; DuBois criticizes a heartless capitalism which turns human beings into commodities, and considers how the "slavery of debt" changed literal slavery for many Blacks.
While Du Bois' contributions to discussions of racial problems are extremely formidable, it is striking how much of the value of this book has nothing to do with race whatsoever. Perhaps its greatest value is to remind us of what a fine thing a man can be: broad-minded, courageous, passionate, and a lover of truth and fairness. Du bois' literary style is worthy of note: learned and elegant, direct and passionate.
The Souls of Black Folk is an important narrative that predates critical race theory. It is an important reading, which predates proper Black Studies. Du Bois shows the mindsets of black people from different perspective of life. Anyone who wants to learn in African-American history should begin with this book.