The Souls of Black Folk

The Souls of Black Folk Summary and Analysis of "Of the Training of Black Men"


In Of the Training of Black Men, Du Bois continues to explain the process by which black Americans were relegated to their lowly positions within society. For years, whites had justified slavery by claiming that blacks were significantly inferior. By enslaving the Negro, whites were able to ensure that this group would never become men. While blacks had the ability to achieve the status of full man, the barriers set up by the white people made this impossible.

Due to the position in which the black man was put within society, it was difficult for this group to not only call for more freedom, but also to seek training opportunities that would allot them better opportunities. Essentially, the Negro had begun to accept the judgments made of them by the rest of American society. Because of the economic and social position of the African-American in the country, the actual vocation of training black men to be prepared for life was particularly difficult. The solution to this problem, he realizes, is to allot educational opportunities to African-Americans. With this academic preparation, the Negro would be equipped to engage in society. A complete man needed to learn about both practical matters and also about theory and academic ideals.

The Southern university system, however, provided few opportunities for the training of black men. For decades after the Civil War, the rigor and importance of the Southern University deteriorated significantly. Upon the freedom of black men from the chains of slavery, the South banded together to create a school system that would not only train teachers, but also provide education to newly freed men. New factories, businesses, and general industrialization, however, resulted in many more problems for the scarcely available southern institutions. Along with the government’s expansion of schools came a stronger spread of racism. As newly freed men, African-Americans were not aware of what they should expect within society. Thus, they were left alone to negotiate learning and employment opportunities. In order to ease the problems faced by the Negro, the government supported creating industrial schools that would be able to position this newly freed group into American society. Du Bois, however, had some qualms of his own with this proposal.

Although he does not entirely negate the importance of industrial education, Du Bois does strive to make the reader understand the importance of classical and theoretical education. While it is true that black men were in need of vocational training, it was also true that many African-Americans possessed inherent intelligence that would be better used at academic institutions. At the time of publishing, Du Bois stated, four hundred African-American men had graduated from elite institutions throughout the United States. Another 2100 received degrees from black institutions, thus proving the black man’s ability to succeed in educational settings.

While many had argued that it was impossible to tell whether these black men were actually successful, Du Bois presents the reader with statistical data on the career trajectory of black men who had graduated from these institutions.

In 1900, the Conference of Atlanta collected survey data on all of these graduates. The Conference wanted to know what these alumni were doing, and were successful in receiving a 66% response rate. Out of these 2100 black men, more than one thousand were teachers, followed by a small percentage that was serving in the clergy, and an even smaller percentage who were in health and related professions. The smallest proportion, however, were those with proletariat vocations and who served in the civil service. Comparing these men to the men with whom Du Bois had attended school in New England, Du Bois contends that their desire for success, determination, and devotion was beyond anything that his white peers in New England had ever demonstrated. He also states that the beauty of the black educated man is within his realness; despite receiving a first-rate education, these men retain a semblance of the gaucheness with which they were raised.

If the government were to deny providing an education to the nine million African-Americans in the United States, it would provide more opportunity for this group to wallow over the difficulties and wrongs presented to them in the past and in the present. This would thus disable them from creating opportunities for success for themselves in mainstream American society. He further contends that if this group of highly capable of men were to accept positions as farm workers and peasants instead of going to school, they would continue to desire an education. Since they had already been granted relative freedoms and some education, they would no longer be submissive to a forced position within society.

Du Bois concludes this essay by stating that the Negro college has one main goal, which is to keep the standards of popular education. Along with keeping these standards, these institutions must provide discourse opportunities and solutions to the American racial problem, and also aid these African-American students in developing into men. The Negro’s desire is to understand himself, and these colleges would provide a perfect opportunity for him to do so.


In "Of the Training of Black Men", Du Bois realizes that the social position of "the Negro" has changed since slavery. He first states that not only the United States, but the entire world, needs to help African-American achieve their dreams. He realizes that regardless of hard work, if the actual government and the rest of the country and the world does not allow for this group to succeed, they will not. The omnipresence of racism, thus, is very important to Du Bois' work.

It is difficult to allot opportunities to these groups, however, particularly because of the social position of the Negro. Throughout the institution of slavery, African-Americans were considered property. During Emancipation and after it, however, blacks were relegated to positions within society that placed them above animals but below white men. It was difficult for this group to fully achieve success and to fully understand their experience within the Veil, if the rest of American society did not fully accept that they were even fully human. The condition of the African-American was not entirely up to the African-American, but up to more dominant groups.

African-Americans, however, do also limit themselves within society. Often, they begin to consider that they are less than men and that ultimately makes it more difficult to succeed. This characteristic does not exist in any particular African-American, but to the entire African-American group. This internalized racism makes it difficult for this group to succeed and to pursue profitable positions within society. Du Bois therefore realizes that while the onus is mostly on the white majority, blacks also play some fault in their own failures. This is somewhat ironic, as he had previously argued against Booker T. Washington's same contention about the black race.

Du Bois promotes education, but he is very clear that he does not promote vocational institutions. According to Du Bois, classical education is most important because it provides blacks a voice with which to protest the injustices done against them. This also allows this group of people to learn how to work for wages, instead of working throughout enslavement. Thus, education provides a blurring of the color line and a process by which the black man can transform. Vocational institutions, however, place too much emphasis on training, which the African-American had during slavery, and not enough on education. Education, according to Du Bois, was about feeding the mind along with sustenance.

Du Bois continues to prove his elitism by proving that African-Americans who have attended institutions of higher learning gin New England have achieved success. These people, according to Du Bois, achieved positions as teachers, priests, and within the medical field. His mentioning of success, however, is relative, as the Southern black man could have also achieved success through crop sharing and harvesting.