With the publication of The Souls of Black Folk in 1903, W. E. B. Du Bois emerged as a leading black intellectual of the new twentieth century. The book was a collection of fourteen essays, provocative and often poetic in their prose, about the black experience in America and the quest for equality. The most celebrated essay in the book—which is the second of the selections that appear below—is Du Bois’s attack on Booker T. Washington’s approach to the improvement of American Negroes. Washington had won the leadership of blacks through his famous Atlanta Compromise, a bargain with the South in which he was willing to trade the Negro’s striving for civil and political rights—at least temporarily—in return for educational training and the economic advancement of his race. Du Bois’s criticism of this strategy was the most powerful objection to Washington’s leadership. Today the argument remains unsettled. The other three selections below concern the establishment and operation of the Freedmen’s Bureau after the Civil War, whose promise for black progress was not fulfilled; the relations between whites and blacks in the South, then and for the future; and the influence of black religion, especially the church as a social center. Each of these essays is filled with insights and trenchant observations about the black condition; together they form an enlightening perspective on American Negro life at the turn of the twentieth century. A hundred years later, the reader may gauge how much progress has been made in the struggle for black equality, and how much remains the same.
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Everyone should read this.
W.E.B. DuBois is considered perhaps the greatest voice and pen of his generation. As an African-American, DuBois’ contribution to the growth in culture and respect among his race at a time when racism and rampant discrimination were utilized by white Americans to hold down the advance of black Americans.
“The Color Line” is a collection of four selections from the author’s celebrated book, “The Souls of Black Folk”. In “Color Line”, DuBois discusses the impact of Reconstruction, the absence of employment opportunities for the former slaves, the absence of fairness in black lives, especially among those who migrated to the North, and, finally, the role of the church in black society.
I enjoyed learning about black life in America asI read these four selections. My sole complaint is that I sensed DuBois was trying to impress white readers with his vocabulary and his ability to express himself as a superior intellect. If the intent of this book was to reach out to blacks and motivate his peers to rise above the limits placed on them by white residents of the North and South, it is my observation that he rested his arguments entirely too much on the stereotypes held by white Americans.