The Souls of Black People Summary

In the field of Universal Literature, it is known under the title The Souls of Black Folk to a classic of American literature, written by William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, which was published by first v Ez in the form of independent essays, in the journal Atlantic Monthly, and later published as a book in 1903, thanks to the work of the publishing house A.C. McClurg.

Transcendence of The Souls of Black People

Translated in some editions also as The Souls of the Black People, this compilation of essays by W.E.B. Du Bois is considered by critics as a pillar of the history of sociology, since it offers a reliable testimony of what it was to be and live as a ciu African-American in the United States of the early 20th century.

Likewise, its success is probably to have presented African-American citizens as part of a whole, and to it as a people or society. On the other hand, it is also regarded as one of the first sociological books in the United States, as well as a piece of great importance in the American literary tradition.

Summary of The Souls of the Black People

Being a work composed of a series of essays, the best way to assume a summary of its contents, will be to present a brief mention of the content of each of these texts. However, before beginning this review, it will be pertinent to note – since the criticism places special attention on this detail – that each chapter of this work begins with an epigraph in which its author uses two texts:

One belonging to European culture, citing some of the most emblematic verses of his poetry.

And another belonging to the African-American people, especially some fragments of some of his spiritual songs, which tell of his struggle, suffering, and above all his hope.

As regards the content of each of its chapters, the following could be said:

Chapter I

In this chapter of The Souls of the Black People there are two themes that are important to highlight. First, its author will address what will be the central thesis of the whole work, as well as its stance on the racial issue: the human and civil rights of the black American people, who according to this author’s approach, had equal right to vote, and above all to other rights such as health, education, justice, and above all, to be treated as equals.

Likewise, during this first chapter, W.E.B. Du Bois puts forward another of his most important thesis: the veil theory, which broadly consisted of a metaphor with which this American author posed that due to differences in the treatment of black people , as well as in his situation of slavery and his impossibility of access to education, he grew up and lived with a kind of veil, which conditioned his worldview, as well as his own potentials as a society and people.

At times, this veil is seen as a kind of blessing, while at other times, depending on the consequences, it is equally understood as a curse.

Chapter II

For its part, the second chapter of this work is called The Dawn of Freedom. As for its content, it can be said in general terms that it is an essay that aims to take into account the historical and sociological facts experienced by the black people during the period of reconstruction of the Agency of Libertos, institution created in 1865, in order to facilitate the transition from slavery to freedom.

Chapter II and IV

During these chapters of The Wings of the Black People, W.E.B. Du Bois will develop one of the points he will most defend in his career against racism in the United States: the right of black people to a quality education, equal to that of whites , even if it was dictated by members of their own community.

In this sense, W.E.B. Du Bois was totally against the stance advocated by some educators such as Booker T. Washington, who was of the opinion that blacks should receive an education, that was only of the industrial type, in order to prepare for the jobs that would be theirs depending on the place of this community within American society. However, Du Bois was against it, and demanded the opportunity of this people to also access a classical education.

Chapters VII, VIII and IX

Although each chapter covers a different theme, it could be said that these can be grouped and recognized as the chapters of the work in which its author, Du Bois is dedicated to analyzing the black American people, from a sociological point of view , then trying to name, classify and study those characteristics that make up the identity of this community, especially those that it considers or believes directly related to spergation, racism and even stereotypes that have been generated upon this people, by the dominant white power.

Chapter X

For its part, this chapter is entitled Of the Faith of The Fathers, being entirely dedicated to the role played by the Black Church in the process of inclusion of black people in American society.As for Du Bois’s opinion, this institution has not made great strides in liberating this community,  and on the contrary an institution that has led the black community to continue to see itself as a tribal group.

On the other hand, the black church also reinforced the idea that we should wait for the arrival of another world, the spiritual world to come to salvation, when on the contrary, Du Bois insisted that the black man should seek salvation and a good life in the now , and in earthly reality.

Last chapters

During his last chapters, Du Bois takes the biographical license to draw broadly the lives of three black characters: his own son, who dies prematurely; Alexander Crummell, a black priest, and John’s, a black boy who manages to get to college. All these characters are presented to the obstacles of segregation and racism, which offers them a society that allows them to be, but not fully integrated.

In the last chapter of The Souls of the Black People, Du Bois takes a moment to reflect on the musical manifestations of this community, especially those fragments he has used as epigraphs in all the beginnings of the chapter, pointing without room to doubts that the right way to see them is to understand that this is the message that the enslaved black community has for the rest of the world. A silenced voice, which however found in the music a way to keep screaming.

Picture: Portrait of William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, Author of The Souls of the Black People / Source:

The Souls of Black People Summary
Source: Education  
September 30, 2019

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