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W.E.B Du Bois "The Souls of Black Folk" 1903

“At such a time true lovers of humanity can only hold higher the pure ideals of science, and continue to insist that if we would solve a problem we must study it, and that there is but one coward on earth, and that is the coward that dare not know” (Du Bois, “The Study of Negro Problems.” P. 27 1898)

The Souls of Black Folk

W.E.B. Du Bois


“Herein lie buried many things which if read with patience may show the strange meaning of being black here in the dawning of the Twentieth Century. This meaning is not without interest to you, Gentle Reader; for the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line.” P. 3

“Leaving, then, the world of the white man, I have stepped within the Veil, raising it that you may view faintly its deeper recesses, -- the meaning of its religion, the passion of its human sorrow, and the struggle of its greater souls. All this I have ended with a tale twice told but seldom written.” P.3

“I who speak here am bone of the bone and flesh of the flesh of them that live within the Veil?” p. 4 (See Genesis 2:23)

Of Our spiritual Strivings

“Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it. All, nevertheless, flutter around it. They approach me in a half-hesitant sort of way, eye me curiously or compassionately, and then, instead of saying directly, How does it feel to be a problem? They say, I know an excellent colored man in my town; or, I fought at Mechanicsville, or, Do not these southern outrages make your blood boil? At these I smile, or am interested, or reduce the boiling to a simmer, as the occasion may require. To the real question, How does it feel to be a problem? I answer seldom a word.” P. 7-8

“The sky was bluest when I could beat my mates at examination time, or beat them at a footrace, or even beat their stringy heads. Alas, with the years all this fine contempt began to fade; for the worlds I longed for, and all their dazzling opportunities, were theirs, not mine.” Pg. 8

“It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, the 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” pg 9

“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.” Pg. 9
(^Favorite Quote)

“Throughout history, the powers of single black men flash here and there like falling stars, and die sometimes before the world has rightly gauged their brightness.” Pg. 9

“The would-be black savant was confronted by the paradox that the knowledge his people needed was a twice-told tale to his white neighbors, while the knowledge which would teach the white would was Greek to his own flesh and blood” pg. 10

“It was the ideal of “book-learning”; the curiosity, born of compulsory ignorance, to know and test the power of the cabalistic letters of the white man, the longing to know.” Pg. 12

“To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships” pg. 12

He felt the weight of his ignorance,--not simply of letters but of life, of business, of the humanities; the accumulated sloth and shrinking and awkwardness of decades and centuries shacked his hands and feet. Nor was his burden all poverty and ignorance. The red stain of bastardy..” pg. 13

“ A people thus handicapped ought not to be asked to race with the world, but rather allowed to give all its tie and thought to its own social problems.” Pg. 13

“But Alas! While sociologists gleefully count his bastards and his prostitutes, the very soul of the toiling, sweating black man is darkened by the shadow of a vast despair. Man call the shadow prejudice, and learnedly explain it as the natural defense of culture against barbarism, learning against ignorance, purity against crime, the “higher” against the “lower” races. To which the Negro cries Amen! And swears that to so much of this strange prejudice is founded on just homage to civilization, culture, righteousness, and progress, he humbly bows and meekly does obeisance” pg. 13

“What need of education, since we must always cook and serve?” Pg. 13

“The bright ideals of the past,--physical freedom, political power, the training of brain sand the training of hands,--all these in turn have waxed and waned until even the last grows dim and overcast. Are they all wrong,--all false? No, not that, but each alone was over-simple and incomplete,--the dreams of a credulous race-childhood, or the fond imaginings of the other world which does not know and does not want to know our power” pg. 14

“There are to-day no truer exponents of the pure human spirit of the Declaration of Independence that the American Negroes” pg. 15


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