Dr. Watson Jennison

Associate Professor of History

Dr Watson Jennison

The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches
by W. E. B. Du Bois

I first read The Souls of Black Folk in college, and I have re-read W. E. B. Du Bois’s masterpiece many times in the intervening years. On each occasion I have gleaned some new or fresh insight. Though close to one hundred years old, Souls continues to resonate with readers just as it did when it was first published in 1903. A masterful blend of sociology, anthropology, and history, the book offers a nuanced portrait of black life at the turn of the 20th century, a time of profound social, political, and economic disruption. Peering behind the veil to reveal the complexity and diversity of black society, Du Bois’s pioneering work challenged the simplistic and monolithic images of blacks that had emerged in American popular culture in the decades after the Civil War. In addition to its scholarly value, Souls is a beautifully written piece of work. Du Bois’s elegant literary flourishes and poetic prose make reading the book both an enjoyable and edifying experience.