Monday, 1 January 2018

The Souls Of Black Folk by W E B Du Bois

The Souls Of Black Folk by W E B Du Bois
Published in America by A C McClurg and Co in 1903. Audiobook edition narrated by Rodney Gardiner published by DreamScape Media in 2016.

My 1910s read for my 2017-18 Decade Challenge
T for my 2018 Alphabet Soup Challenge

Where to buy this book:

How I got this book:
Downloaded as part of the 2017 AudioSYNC season.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Listeners will quickly realize that Du Bois's classic treatise on life in a post-slavery U.S. society still has resonance today. Du Bois examines how black progress was systematically obstructed for two generations after the abolition of slavery. He also discusses the unique and creative ways in which African-Americans must negotiate a system that regularly dehumanizes them and takes their lives. With a light crackle in his voice, narrator Rodney Gardiner captures listeners' attention, but it's his rhythmic intonation that proves most appealing. His ability to emphasize the most important elements in each sentence while maintaining its cadence carries listeners through the production, making this a powerful experience.

Originally written well over a century ago, The Souls Of Black Folk is an insightful and still depressingly relevant survey of the lives of and opportunities for black people in the American South. Du Bois collected together a number of essays he had written addressing aspects of this theme, some of which had already been published in various periodicals, and the result is this book. I did find it a little disjointed as a result. The essay about his child's death seemed awkwardly emotional and personal next to sociology and history pieces. Taken as a whole though, this was a fascinating and informative view of America in the decades immediately following their Civil War.

I already knew that the North had won the Civil War and that slavery had been abolished, in name at least, as a result, but I had never really considered what that would involve. Neither it seems had anyone else because the resulting chaos across the southern states for years and years is incredible. Du Bois relates various schemes and plans for negro emancipation and personal independence, most well-meaning but hopelessly inadequate to the crisis at hand. One essay delves into the discussions of whether black people should be educated and, if so, to what degree! That such conversations were being seriously held a hundred years ago is mind-blowing enough, but I have noticed disturbing echoes of such bigotry in Trump's present-day America. It is unbelievably sad that so many lives and talents are still squandered for simple lack of opportunity in a country that loves to push itself forward as The Example to follow. This book helps explain how these attitudes came about and the mindsets which perpetuate them.

Du Bois wrote in quite the Victorian style so some of his quotes and allusions were lost on me. (I really must study more ancient Greek philosophy!) I learned so much from listening to this audiobook and am happy to praise Rodney Gardiner for his excellent narration. I think, for me, hearing the essays was best because the slower pace allowed me to absorb more information and understand the various arguments from each side, whether or not I agreed being quite another matter.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by W E B Du Bois / Sociology / Books from America


  1. It's very true that even though slavery was abolished, this wasn't something that went down smoothly everywhere and incredibly well. I think we can tell that because we are still feeling effects of hatred between the two groups of people now in society! I am glad these essays really brought new things to light for you. I guess because it is a collection without a theme or being written to be grouped together that results in the disjointedness as a whole.

    1. I think so, but the disjointedness is just a minor thing. The collection is worth a read (or a listen!) by everyone, American or not. So much here that had never previously occured to me