Last Updated 28 Jan 2021

The Souls of Black Folk Critical Analysis

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Critical Analysis Madonna R. Stengel Spalding University In the selections, Forethought, Chapter I and Chapter V from W. E. B. De Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk, the author is attempting to explain the inner struggle playing out in the subconscious of African-American’s minds following the era of reconstruction, as well as offer his common sense solutions to this matter. He refers to this battle of dueling realities within the mind as double consciousness, using “the veil” as a metaphor to illustrate the isolation and sometimes the protection felt when living within the veil.

He attempted to help African-Americans, as well as whites find peace with each other and within their souls, by being true to themselves, instead of accepting the ascribed identities or being the offenders who ascribe those identities. This theme of autonomy and injustice is obviously a common thread of many African American authors, although De Bois takes the concepts a bit further by analyzing ascribed vs. avowed identity and the reality of human limitations.

The message, especially in Chapter V is a forward thinking, broad view that involves setting ethical priorities, educating people appropriately, while not allowing imposed limitations regarding race, gender or socio-economics to hold some back nor the stumbling block of human limitations hold other back. Therein lies the difference between De Bois and some other authors, who endeavor to empower by offering only grandiose ideals without common sense solutions. W. E. B De Bois was very concerned with this dual consciousness theory and image of the “veil” as an approach to bringing broad understanding to the African-American experience.

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He believed that it was important for African-Americans to recognize this phenomenon, but equally important was the education and recognition of those who imposed the “veil. ” De Bois is implying, not so subtly, with the veil analogy that it’s a tool to separate and diminish whoever is wearing it and if there is no ability to look figuratively into the eyes, one can’t know the soul, and if one can’t know the soul, one does not have to recognize the humanity. Therefore, injustices and sub-human treatment is much easier to carry out and defend.

Also, as educator De Bois was concerned with access to an equitable and appropriate education for all, even if that meant “teaching the worker to work. ” He realized that the key to empowerment was education. He also realized that it was not only the African- Americans population that was in need of an education. He held strong to the belief that it was imperative to train blacks and whites with respect to one another’s culture, in an effort to bring peace and understanding between the races. He also realized that some people, regardless of their race, social status or gender were more inclined to be scholarly than others.

He writes, “Neither or both: teach the worker to work and the thinker to think; …And the final product of our training must be neither a psychologist nor a brickmason, but a man. And to make men, we must have ideals, broad, pure and inspiring ends of living-----not sordid money-getting, not apple of gold. ” The worker must work for the glory of his handiwork, not simply for pay; the thinker must think for truth, not fame. So, the message is be true to oneself, and the rest will follow. Works Cited Du Bois, W. E. B. (1969) The souls of black folk: Essays and sketches. New York: Fawcett World Library.

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