W.E.B. DuBois Points in the Souls of Black Folks

Du Bois' Argument in the Souls of Black Folk

Du Bois centers his Argument around three key issues in his book The Souls of Black Folk. Starting from the irrationality of the concept called 'race' -- the ambiguity and pairing of Black man into both Negro and American, Du Bois discusses how the 'race' concept (or "problem of the color-line" (p.23)) is indistinguishable from prejudice -- the harmful effects of White man's treatment towards and perspective of Black man -- but Du Bois culminates his argument in hope. Ironically, both of destructive and irrational planks of 'race' and 'prejudice' may consequent in hope that is comprised of the resourcefulness, determination, and resilience of the Negro to surmount his difficulties and to better himself into a superior human being.

During Du Bois' time, race was prominently considered in terms of scientific connotations. The contemporary scientist or thinker then was a Typologist who perceived ' 'race as type' namely one who divided Homo sapiens into different subtypes, species, or subspecies (Banton, 2005). Many 'typologists' argued that races had to be kept distinct for thus nature ordered (Jackson, 2009).

Seemingly, Du Bois has problems with this perspective, for he, over and again, tries to extend race beyond' scientific definitions' in a way that would accord similarities between ethnic groups and surmount "common blood, descent and physical peculiarities" (182).

Over and again, the issue of race crosses his mind and particularly the conflation of being both American and Negro, yet demarcated as the one -- i.e. Negro -- whilst seeming, and considering himself to be an American. And intractably and ultimately seeing and feeling no difference between himself and the sense of other White Americans:

Here, then, is the dilemma, and it is a puzzling one, I admit…. What, after all, am I? Am I an American or am I a Negro? Can I be both? Or is it my duty to cease to be a Negro as soon s possible and be an American? .. Does my black blood place upon me any more obligations to assert my nationality than German, or Irish or Italian blood would?

It is such incessant self-questioning and the hesitation that arises from it, that is making the present period a time of vacillation and contradiction for the American Negro (184)

Du Bois, in other words, agonizes on the irrationality of severing humans into categories of race and nationality whilst, at essence, a human is just that: a human being.

Closely linked to the issue of race is the related one of prejudice, of human's irrational malice to that of another color or race, and the harmful ramifications of this irrational prejudice. In 'Strivings of the Negro People', Du Bois movingly recounts the first period in his childhood when he was faced with the 'shadow' of discrimination. Evocatively and memorably allegorized with the description of a 'veil', Du Bois describes how:

The Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world- a world that yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see…