The Souls of Black Folk

This guide contains recommended resources for exploring issues in "The Souls of Black Folk."

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The Souls of Black Folk Book Cover

Explore The Ohio State University Libraries Resources

The Ohio State University Libraries provides access to a wide variety of resources. This page features resources that can help you explore themes in The Souls of Black Folk.

Author's Books
Du Bois, W.E.B. The Autobiography of W.E.B. Du Bois: A Soliloquy on Viewing My Life from the Last Decade of Its First Century. New York: International, 1968.

Du Bois, W.E.B. The Souls of Black Folk. Chicago: A. C. McClurg & Co., 1903.

Du, Bois W. E. B. Writings: The Suppression of the African Slave-Trade; the Souls of Black Folk; Dusk of Dawn; Essays and Articles. New York: Literary Classics of the United States, 1986.

Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., ed. The Oxford W. E. B. Du Bois. 19 vols. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Sundquist, Eric J., ed. The Oxford W. E. B. Du Bois Reader. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

About the Book

Welcome to The Ohio State University Libraries Guide to "The Souls of Black Folkby Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, This guide offers resources for those who want to explore issues central to the book.

"On the 100th Anniversary of the Publication of 'The Souls of Black Folk' a Look at the Life of W.E.B. Dubois"

The Souls of Black Folk

"The Souls of Black Folk is a series of essays (some of which had been previously published) in which William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (pronounced due bóyss), 1868-1963, presents his argument about a path toward progress for African Americans: enfranchisement, political power, and education. This book, both a primary source and a literary work, provides insight about the experiences of African Americans in the early twentieth century. W.E.B. Du Bois discusses segregation and “color lines” and chronicles the “double consciousness” experienced by African Americans — “this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others.” He provides case studies from the Jim Crow South and he presents portraits of men who embody life “behind the veil.” He is critical of Booker T. Washington’s vocational education and accommodationist approach to segregation and racial prejudice and alludes to his faith in a “Talented Tenth” of well-educated African Americans who would overcome the 'the problem of the color line.'"

From: "A Teacher's Guide To The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois"

How does The Souls of Black Folk relate to my life experience?
You will find many themes and events in the book that relate to your life. During your lifetime, you will encounter new  communities, cultures, ideas, and relationships. 

  • color-line
  • race
  • segregation
  • economic injustice  
  • double-consciousness
  • accommodation
  • racism
  • education
  • Atlanta Compromise
  • lynching
  • social justice
  • behind the veil

Discussion Questions

Questions for readers (adapted from A Teacher's Guide )
We hope you enjoy reading "The Souls of Black Folk."

  1. According to Dr. DuBois, what are the “spiritual strivings” of African American folks and how do these strivings affect their sense of “double-consciousness”?
  2. In Chapter II, Dr. DuBois wrote about the failed promises of the U.S. government in providing “forty acres and a mule” to the newly freed slaves. Had the freedmen received the land or the opportunity to become landowners, do you think Dr. DuBois would have agreed with Booker T. Washington’s advocacy for vocational training and self-sufficiency? Why or why not?
  3. What values and attitudes should characterize the man educated by the African American college as envisioned by Dr. DuBois? Did Why were African American women' excluded. 
  4. Dr. DuBois documents the structural and social opposition to black economic progress in the South. He also describes African American resistance to those systems. Review Chapter VIII and create a list of hindrances and responses. Do any stand out to you as being particularly detrimental or significant? Explain.
  5. According to Dr. DuBois, why were religion and the church so important to African Americans during slavery and after emancipation? 
  6. In Chapter XI, Dr. DuBois elegantly described his experience of losing his infant son. Choose one example from the text that creates a clear impression on you about what Dr. DuBois experienced and witnessed and then describe what emotions and images are depicted.
  7. In the "The Forethought" Dr. DuBois wrote "The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line: the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea."  Does the color line exist today in 21st century Columbus, Ohio?

 A Teacher's Guide To The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois by Meghan Manfra and Crystal Simmons

African American and African Studies Librarian and Comparative Studies Librarian

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