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DuBois_TheSoulsofBlackFolk.pdf

DuBois_TheSoulsofBlackFolk.pdf

W.E.B. Du BoOIs

WRITINGS

The Suppression of the African Slave-Trade

The Souls ofBlack Folk

Dusk ofDawn

Essays and Articles

THE LIBRARY OF AMERICA

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(D773 AZVBlo

Volume arrangement, notes, and chronology copyright © 1986 byLiterary Classics of the United States, Inc., New York, N.Y.

All rights reserved.Nopart of this book may be reproduced commercially

by offset-lithographic or equivalent copying devices withoutthe permission of the publisher.

Dusk ofDawn, selections from Darkwater, In Battle for Peace,Black Reconstruction in America, and

“The Revelation of St. Orgne the Damned” published withpermission of Kraus-Thomson Organization, White Plains, New York.

Articles from The Crisis reprinted by permission.

The paper used in this publication meets theminimum requirements of the American National Standard

for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper forPrinted Library Materials, aNsI Z39.48—1984.

Distributed to the trade in the United States

and Canada by the Viking Press.

Published outside North America by the Press Syndicateof the University of Cambridge,

The Pitt Building, TrumpingtonStreet, Cambridge cB2 1rp, EnglandISBN 0§21 32482 3

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 86-10565Forcataloging information, see end ofNotes section.

ISBN 0O—-94.0450-33—X

First Printing

Manufactured in the United States of America

NATHAN HUGGINS

WROTE THE NOTES AND SELECTED

THE TEXTS FOR THIS VOLUME

356 SUPPRESSION OF THE SLAVE-TRADE

Whydah, Africa, 149.

Wilberforce, Wm., 134.

Wilde, R. H., 132.

“Wildfire,” slaver, 190 n., 315.

“William,” case of the slaver, 315.

Williams, D. R. (of N. C.), Congress-man, 102 n., 109 n., UI.

Wiiliamsburg district, S. C., 169.Williamson (of S. C.), in Federal Con-

vention, 59, 63, 65.

Wilmington, N. C., 88.

a,

Wilson, James, in Federal Convention,56, 58, 62, 70. |

Wilson (of Mass.), Congressman, 295.296, 298.

Winn, African agent, 158.

Winston, Zenas, slave-trader, 131 n.Wirt, William, 118, 126 n., 130.

Woolman, John, 29.

Wright (of Va.), 126.

YANCEY, W.L., 171.

THE SOULSOF BLACK FOLK

e OfOur Spiritual StrivingsCQ water, voice of myheart, crying in the sand,

All night long crying with a mournfulcry,As I lie and listen, and cannot understand

The voice of my heart in myside or the voice ofthesea,O water, cryingforrest, 1s it I, 1s it I?

All night long the water is crying to me.

Unresting water, there shall never be restTill the last moon droop andthelast tide fail,

And the fire of the end begin to burn in the west;Andthe heart shall be weary and wonder andcry like the sea,

All life long crying withoutavail,As the waterall night long is crying to me.

ARTHUR SYMONS.

; h |Xi N A |

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ee$¢ &¢ #’

eTEEN me and the other world there is ever an unaskedA’ question: unasked by somethroughfeelings of delicacy;by others throughthedifficulty of rightly framing it. All, nev-ertheless, flutter round it. They approach mein a half-hesitantSort of way, eye me curiously or compassionately, and then,Instead of saying directly, How doesit feel to be a problem?they Say, I know an excellent colored man in my town;or, I

foughtat Mechanicsville; or, Do not these Southern outrages

Make your blood boil? At these I smile, or am interested, orreduce the boiling to a simmer, as the occasion may require.© the real question, How does it feel to be a problem? I“Aswer seldom a word.And yet, being a problem is a strange experience,—peculiar

~ven for one who has never been anything else, save perhapslM babyhood and in Europe.It 1s in the early days ofrollick-28 boyhoodthat the revelation first bursts upon one,all in a-“Y> as it were. I remember well when the shadow swept“Toss me. I was little thing, away up in the hills of Newhgland, where the dark Housatonic winds between Hoosacand Taghkanic to the sea. In a wee wooden schoolhouse,

363

E

364 THE SOULS OF BLACK FOLK

something put it into the boys’ and girls’ heads to buy gor.geous visiting-cards—ten cents a package—and exchange.The exchange was merry, till one girl, a tall newcomer, re.fused my card,—refused it peremptorily, with a glance. Thenit dawned upon me with a certain suddenness that I wasdif.

ferent from the others; or like, mayhap, in heart andlife andlonging, but shut out from their world by a vast veil. I hadthereafter no desire to tear down that veil, to creep through;I held all beyond it in common contempt, and lived aboveitin a region of blue sky and great wandering shadows. Thatsky was bluest when I could beat my mates at examuination-time, or beat them at a foot-race, or even beat their stringy

heads. Alas, with the years all this fine contempt began tofade; for the worlds I longed for, and all their dazzling op-portunities, were theirs, not mine. But they should not keepthese prizes, I said; some,all, I would wrest from them.Just

how I would do it I could never decide: by reading law, byhealing the sick, by telling the wonderful tales that swam inmy head,—some way. With other black boys the strife wasnot so fiercely sunny: their youth shrunk into tasteless syco-phancy, or into silent hatred of the pale world about themand mocking distrust of everything white; or wasteditself ina bitter cry, Why did God make me an outcast and a strangerin mine own house? The shades of the prison-house closedround aboutusall: walls strait and stubborn to the whitest,but relentlessly narrow,tall, and unscalable to sons of nightwho must plod darkly on in resignation, or beat unavailingpalms against the stone,or steadily, half hopelessly, watch thestreak of blue above.

After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, theTeuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son;born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this Ame!can world,—a world which yields him notrueself-conscious”

ness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation °the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-co!”sciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self througthe eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of aworld that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One evfeels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, tw°thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals ”

OF OUR SPIRITUAL STRIVINGS 365 a

one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it frombeing torn asunder. | | . |The history of the American Negro is the history of thisstrife,—this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, tomerge his double self into a better and truer self. In thismerging he wishes neither of the olderselves to be lost. Hewould not Africanize America, for America has too much toreach the world and Africa. He would notbleach his Negrosoul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knowsthat Ne-gro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes tomake it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an Amer-ican, without being cursed and spit upon byhis fellows, with-out having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in hisface.

This, then, is the end ofhis striving: to be a co-worker inthe kingdom ofculture, to escape both death andisolation,to husband and use his best powers and his latent genius.These powers of body and mind have in the past beenStrangely wasted, dispersed, or forgotten. The shadow of amighty Negro past flits through the tale of Ethiopia the Shad-owy and of Egypt the Sphinx. Throughouthistory, the pow-ers of single black men flash here andtherelike falling stars,and die sometimes before the world has rightly gauged theirbrightness. Here in America, in the few days since Emanci-Pation, the black man’s turning hither and thither in hesitantand doubtful striving has often madehis very strength to loseeffectiveness, to seem like absence of power, like weakness.And yet it is not weakness,—it is the contradiction of doubleaims. The double-aimed struggle of the black artisan—on theOne hand to escape white contemptfor a nation of mere hew-ts of wood and drawers of water, and on the other hand to

i Plough and nail and dig for a poverty-stricken horde—could

Only result in making him a poor craftsman, for he had but| half a heart in either cause. By the poverty and ignorance of_18 people, the Negro minister or doctor was tempted toward/ Wackery and demagogy; and bythecriticism of the otherWorld, toward ideals that made him ashamed of his lowlyf

tasks, The would-be black savant was confronted by the par-Sox that the knowledge his people needed was a twice-told“’€ to his white neighbors, while the knowledge which

366 THE SOULS OF BLACK FOLK

would teach the white world was Greek to

his

own

flesh2

blood. The innate love of harmony and beauty that : .ruder souls of his people a-dancing and a-singing raibell aconfusion and doubtin the soul of the black artist: fo Dutbeauty revealed to him was the soul-beauty of a rane aaahis larger audience despised, and he could not articulate oumessage of another people. This waste of double aims thalseeking to satisfy two unreconciled ideals, has wrought rehavoc with the courage and faith and deeds often thouisanlthousand people,—has sent them often wooing false goqand invoking false meansof salvation, and at times has tteseemed about to make them ashamedof themselves.Away back in the days of bondage they thoughttosee in

one divine event the end of all doubt and disappointment:few men ever worshipped Freedom with half such unques-tioning faith as did the American Negro for twocenturies. Tohim, so far as he thought and dreamed, Slavery was indeedthe sum of all villainies, the cause ofall sorrow, the root ofall prejudice; Emancipation was the key to a promised landof sweeter beauty than ever stretched before the eyes of wea-ried Israelites. In song and exhortation swelled one refrain—Liberty; in his tears and curses the God he implored hadFreedom in his right hand. At last it came,—suddenly, fear-fully, like a dream. With one wild carnival of blood and pas-sion came the message in his own plaintive cadences:—

“Shout, O children!

Shout, you’re free!For God has bought your liberty!”

Years have passed away since then,—ten, twenty, forty;forty years of national life, forty years of renewal and devel-opment, and yet the swarthy spectre sits in its accustomeseat at the Nation’s feast. In vain do we cry to this our vastestsocial problem:—

“Take any shape but that, and my firm nervesShall never tremble!”

‘The Nation has not yet found peace from its sins; th¢freedman has not yet found in freedom his promised. lan¢.

OF OUR SPIRITUAL STRIVINGS 307

Matever of good may have comein these years of change,

|, shadow of a deep disappointment rests upon the Negroje. —a disappointment all the more bitter because the

ed ideal was unboundedsave by the simple ignorance

wly people.first decade was merely a prolongation of the vain

for freedom, the boon that seemed ever barely to elude

_grasp,—like a tantalizing will-o’-the-wisp, maddeningisleading the headless host. The holocaust of war, theof the Ku-Klux Klan, the lies of carpet-baggers, the

anization of industry, and the contradictory advice ofand foes, left the bewildered serf with no new watch-

eyond the old cry for freedom. As the time flew, how-e began to grasp a new idea. The ideal of libertyded for its attainment powerful means, and these theth Amendmentgave him. The ballot, which before heoked upon as a visible sign of freedom, he now re-as the chief means of gaining and perfecting the lib-

with which war had partially endowed him. And whyHadnot votes made war and emancipated millions? Hadtes enfranchised the freedmen? Was anything impossi-

© a powerthat had doneall this? A million black mened with renewed zeal to vote themselves into the king-. So the decade flew away, the revolution of 1876 came,

andleft the half-free serf weary, wondering, butstill inspired.wly but steadily, in the following years, a new vision be-a gradually to replace the dream of political power,—aerful movement, the rise of another ideal to guide theided, anotherpillar offire by night after a clouded day.as the ideal of “book-learning”; the curiosity, born ofPulsory ignorance, to know and test the power of theistic letters of the white man, the longing to know. Herett seemed to have been discovered the mountain path to

Naan; longer than the highway of Emancipation and law,fp and rugged, but straight, leading to heights highgh to overlooklife.

Pp the new path the advance guard toiled, slowly, heavily,

edly; only those who have watched and guided the4 Sting feet, the misty minds, the dull understandings, of

© dark pupils of these schools know how faithfully, how

CLK,‘a’

368 THE SOULS OF BLACK FOLK

piteously, this people strove to learn. It was weacold statistician wrote down the inches of errs:hon Thethere, noted also where here and there a foot had slip odasome One hadfallen. To the tired climbers, the how _ever dark, the mists were often cold, the Canaan was awadim and far away. If, however, the vistas disclosed as yet agoal, no resting-place, little but flattery and criticism tidjourney at least gave leisure for reflection and self-examin :eee it changed the child of Emancipation to the youth witae self-consciousness, self-realization, self-respect. |rn sombre forests of his striving his own soul rose beforeae and he saw himself;—darkly as through a veil; and yet€ saw in himself somefaint revelation of his power, ofhisan He began to have a dim feeling that, to attain hisae in the world, he must be himself, and not another. Forhe a time he sought to analyze the burden he bore upon1s_back, that dead-weight of social degradation partially

maskedbehind a half-named Negro problem. Hefelt his pov-erty; without a cent, without a home, without land, tools, orsavings, he had entered into competition with rich, landedS lled neighbors. To be a poor man is hard, but to be a pooraie7 a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships. Heoe ir ¢ weight of his ignorance,—not simply ofletters, butod business, of the humanities; the accumulated slotheat‘tiae and awkwardness of decades and centuriesa is hands and feet. Nor was his burden all poverty

anc Ignorance. The red stain of bastardy, which two centuriesof systematic legal defilement of Negro women had stampedgponhis race, Meantnot only the loss of ancient African chas-of Te the hereditary weight of a mass of corruptioni sareemati threatening almost the obliteration of

oABe thus handicapped ought not to be asked to raceoe€ world, but rather allowed to give all its time andtought to its own social problems. But alas! while sociolo-ae ely counthis bastards and his prostitutes, the veryeerie = toiling, sweating black man is darkened by theeoOf a vast despair. Mencall the shadow prejudice, andies y explain it as the natural defence of culture against

arism, learning against ignorance, purity against crime;

he “higher

OF OUR SPIRITUAL STRIVINGS369

» against the “lower” races. To which the Negro

©. Amen! and swears that to so muchof this strange preyj-

“dice as 3S founded on just homage to civilization, culture,

ighteousness, and progress, he humbly bows and meekly

does obeisance. But before that nameless prejudice that leaps

beyond all this he stands helpless, dismayed, and well-nigh

speechless; before that personal disrespect and mockery, the

ridicule and systematic humiliation, the distortion offact and

wanton license of fancy, the cynical ignoring of the better and

jhe boisterous welcoming of the worse, the all-pervading de-

sire to inculcate disdain for everything black, fromToussaint

to the devil,—before this there rises a sickening despair that

would disarm and discourage any nation save that black host

to whom “discouragement”is an unwritten word.

But the facing of so vast a prejudice could not but bring

the inevitable self-questioning, self-disparagement, and low-

ering of ideals which ever accompany repression and breed in

an atmosphere of contempt and hate. Whisperings and por-

tents came borne upon the four winds: Lo! we are diseased

and dying, cried the dark hosts; we cannot write, our votingis vain; what need of education, since we must always cookand serve? And the Nation echoed and enforced this self-crit-icism, saying: Be content to be servants, and nothing more;what need of higher culture for half-men? Away with theblack man’s ballot, by force or fraud,—and beholdthe suicideof a race! Nevertheless, out of the evil came something of

go0o0d,—the more careful adjustment of educationtoreal life,the clearer perception of the Negroes’ social responsibilities,

and the sobering realization of the meaning of progress.So dawned the time of Sturm und Drang: storm and stress

to-day rocks ourlittle boat on the mad waters of the world-

Sea; there is within and without the sound of conflict, theburning of body and rending ofsoul; inspiration strives with

doubt, and faith with vain questionings. The bright ideals ofthepast,—physical freedom, political power, the training of

Drains and 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 aloneWas over-simple and incomplete,—the dreams of a credulous

Face-childhood, or the fond imaginings of the other world

370 THE SOULS OF BLACK FOLK

which does not know and does not want to know OUF PoweTo be really true, all these ideals must be melted and weldedinto one. The training of the schools we need to-day Morethan ever,—the training of deft hands, quick eyes and earsand above all the broader, deeper, higher culture of Liftedminds and pure hearts. The power of the ballot we neeg insheer self-defence, —else what shall Save us from a secondslavery? Freedom, too, the long-sought, westil] Seek,—thefreedom oflife and limb, the freedom to work andthink, thefreedom to love and aspire. Work, culture, liberty, —all thesewe need, not singly but together, not successively but to.gether, each growing and aiding each, and all striving towardthat vaster ideal that swims before the Negro people, the idealof human brotherhood, gained through the unifying ideal ofRace; the ideal of fostering and developingthetraits and tal.ents of the Negro, not in Opposition to or contemptfor otherraces, but rather in large conformity to the greater ideals ofthe American Republic, in order that some day on Americansoil two world-races may give each to each those characteris-tics both so sadly lack. We the darker ones come even nownot altogether empty-handed: there are to-day no truerex-ponents of the pure human spirit of the Declaration of Inde-pendence than the American Negroes; there is no trueAmerican music but the wild sweet melodies of the Negroslave; the American fairy tales and folk-lore are Indian andAfrican; and, all in all, we black men seem thesole oasis ofsimple faith and reverence in a dusty desert of dollars andsmartness. Will America be poorer if she replace her brutaldyspeptic blundering with light-hearted but determined Ne-gro humility? or her coarse and cruel wit with loving jovialgood-humor? or her vulgar music with the soul of the SorrowSongs?Merely a concrete test of the underlying principles of thegreat republic is the Negro Problem, and the spiritual striv-ing of the freedmen’s sonsis the travail of souls whose bur-den is almost beyond the measure oftheir strength, but whobear it in the name of an historic race, in the name of thisthe land of their fathers? fathers, and in the name of human‘opportunity.

a ose

OF OUR SPIRITUAL STRIVINGS 371E; now whatI havebriefly sketched in large outlinelet

n coming pages tell again in many ways, ae ees

asis and deeper detail, that men maylisten to the sin the souls of black folk.

How it Works

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NB

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