The Souls Of Black Folk, By W.E.B. Du Bois

2042 words - 8 pages

W.E.B. Du Bois The Souls Of Black Folk is a sentinel work both in terms of describing for the modern reader the struggle of the freed slaves in their movement from slave to truly free, but also in describing the character or soul of the black community of the time. Du Bois is very careful in his introduction of the work to point out "and, finally, need I add that I who speak here am bone of the bone and flesh of the flesh of them that live within the Veil?" (Du Bois, 1994, p. vi) Of all the choices, Du Bois makes in his work, his choice to include quotes and a bar of the sorrow song as lead ins to the chapters is the most interesting.
"Before each chapter, as now printed, stands a bar of the Sorrow Songs,- Some echo of haunting melody from the only American music which welled up from black souls in the dark past." (Du Bois, 1994, pp. v-vi) This made me wonder as I read what these songs sounded like, unfortunately, unless one has a deep understanding of sheet music hearing the notes leap off the page in a written format is not possible. My hope is that the selected quotes before each bar of text tell us not only something of the tone which follows the chapter but also something of the tone of the music itself. The best that can be hoped for without a piano is to look at the quotes and the chapter that follows in hopes that if the tone between those two matches then one would see the quote and the music match as well.
The first chapter is called "Of Our Spiritual Strivings" and opens with a quote from Arthur Symons. There is a sense of tiredness in the Arthur Symons quote "O water, crying for rest, is it I, is itI?/ All night long the water is crying to me." (Du Bois, 1994, p. 1) There is also in the quote a sense of sadness in his words, speaking of tears and morning. A sense of sadness paired with hopelessness runs through the entire poem. These are interesting notes to open up a chapter on spiritual strivings. I would expect this to be a chapter of positive things sought after, things that may not yet be attained but which are every day closer. This chapter is the clearest description that Du Bois gives of the veil. It is phrased in the form of the unspoken question "To the real question, How does it feel to be a problem? I answer seldom a word." (Du Bois, 1994, p. 1) He starts after this rather stark description of the veil talking about past strivings of the black man. He speaks of how freedom was the thing that they wanted most, going so far as to say, "[...]few men ever worshipped Freedom with half such unquestioning faith as did the American Negro for two centuries." (Du Bois, 1994, pp. 3-4) Du Bois does not leave this want of freedom in the past, indeed, he points out that they still do not have the freedom that they sought and so they struggle on towards that goal. He speaks of how so many things stand in the way of that freed, like carpet baggers and the Ku-Klux Klan. (Du Bois, 1994, p. 4) This tone seems to match very well with the...

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