The Souls of Black Folk

The Souls of Black Folk Summary and Analysis of Forethought to "The Souls of Black Folk"


In the Forethought to The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois allows the reader to better understand the struggle of the black man by providing an introduction to the rest of his book of essays. In the first two chapters, he will explain what Emancipation meant to blacks in the United States in the late 1800s. In following chapters, he explains how he will detail the ascendance of black Americans into leadership roles, and at the same time will provide critiques to prominent figures that carry the burden of the entire race. The forethought initially introduces the reader to Du Bois’ concept of “the veil," and to what the existence of this metaphor means for the community. While short, the forethought provides a framework for modern readers to better understand the experiences of the African-American community in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The author extends his forethought into a brief description of his final chapters, which discuss black workers and the relation of master to man, and reaffirms his own identity as a black man.


By introducing the readers to “the veil” in the forethought, Du Bois is able to provide the readers a lens with which to read the rest of his work. The veil, as explained to the reader in the fought, is the way in which African-Americans experience social relations in the United States. Although they are American, the existence of the veils also produces them with another identity: the identity of a person of color, from which he or she cannot distance him or herself. A black person in the United States, thus, does not carry only one identity, but two conflicting identities that can never be separated from one another. By briefly mentioning the plight of African-Americans following Emancipation, Du Bois is able to touch upon the resilience of this group of people in the United States, and the struggles that they continue to face despite gaining freedom. It could be argued that the black American did not necessarily gain his freedom, as he continued to exist with these two identities.