The Souls of Black Folk

Education, self fulfilment and double consciousness in W. E. B. DuBois’ The Souls Of Black Folk College

The power of education and the power of the literary form within slave narratives has been a consistent and resounding theme. From Frederick Douglass’ Narratives In The Life Of A Slave to Harriet Beecher Stowe saying in 1879 that “[Freedmen] rushed not to the grog shop but to the school room- they cried for the spelling book as bread, and pleaded for teachers as a necessity of life”. Throughout these works we see repeatedly the value afforded to education as the tool with which slavery and subjugation could be escaped. First published in 1903 by one of few black individuals enjoying a decent standard of life (often attested to his mixed ancestry - his grandfather James Du Bois has been a white French-American), his work The Souls Of Black Folk can be read as a testament from the white community as to what African Americans at the turn of the 20th century could manage with ‘proper education’, as exemplified by his utilisation of the Sorrow Songs across this narrative.

In DuBois’ own words, though he knows little of technical music he found the Sorrow Songs “I know something of men, and knowing them, I know that these songs are the articulate message of the slave to the world.” and this once more brings up the integral...

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