The Souls of Black Folk

The Souls of Black Folk Summary and Analysis of "Afterthought"


In the Afterthought, Du Bois explains why he chose to begin every chapter with a Sorrow Song. He states that he chose songs that were important for the souls of black folk, and that he had inherited from his youth. Very few people know about these songs, so they do not have a place outside of the African-American community.

As the music progressed throughout the years, a Northerner moved to the South to teach Sunday school. While teaching, he heard these songs, and decided to create a group that would raise money for Fisk University. This group was called the "Jubilee Singers" (Du Bois Page 180).

Du Bois studies these songs because of the rich history with which they come. In his own personal history, Du Bois had stories of how his ancestors would sing these songs on slave ships. They were passed down for two centuries until Du Bois' era.

Du Bois notes that throughout the book, there is a progression that the songs take. They begin as fully African, develop into African-American, and then become African and American. He believes that after this, there will be white music that will have black melodies.

Du Bois ends the chapter by stating that he hopes racial prejudice will soon become a problem of the past.


Different from the rest of the book, the afterthought is written from a tone of anger and despair. Du Bois is not content with the status of the Negro people within the United States, and is angry that their condition is even allowable. By acknowledging these songs, Du Bois also acknowledges that whites have placed African-Americans into their positions within society. Their ignorance to the real racial plight of African-American ultimately serves to create even more prejudice. While these songs symbolize hope, this hope can only do so much to save the Negro people.