W. E. B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk (1903) is a series of essays in American classic as well as African American literature presenting arguments regarding paths for African American progress including education, enfranchisement and also political power. It gives insight into the African American experiences during the early 20th century. W.E.B Dubois explained that the problem of the 20th century was the problem of color lines whereby he described the segregation and the concept of double consciousness experienced by the African Americans. To back up his description of the African American experiences, Du Bois provided case studies from Jim Crow South. He emphasizes the racial prejudice and segregation of African Americans who experienced the problem of the color line. His book has made a significant contribution to the understanding of the African American contributions to the contemporary U.S history. It also helped in shaping modern America as well as world civilization by identifying the achievements and shortcoming reconstruction projects and decades after the civil war. Therefore, this paper will focus on discussing the achievements and shortcomings of the decades after the reconstruction projects and civil wars that Du Bois identified. It will also discuss how Du Bois’ book has contributed to the understanding of African American contributions to modern U.S history.
Achievements identified by Du Bois
An important achievement noted by Du Bois is the Freedmen bureau achievement in fighting for African American education and ended up setting up many public schools that were meant for the freed African Americans as well as the poor whites. In these public schools, the African Americans and the poor whites were offered free elementary and higher education. Some of the reputable institutions that prove the achievements of the Freedmen bureau are; Hampton University, Fisk University as well as Dillard University. Moreover, another university was opened by General Howard and was named Howard University. General Howard also was made the president of this historically black college. The achievements made by the Freedmen bureau was contributed by the support that various Christian organizations that were advocating for racial equality like the American Missionary Association.
Du Bois identifies that another important achievement after the civil wars and reconstruction projects, cotton plantations became prevalent especially in Georgia and became the lifeblood of the Black Belt economy. The economic success was achieved from cotton plantations which still exists up to date although only a few African Americans enjoyed the economic benefits. But, the number of African Americans who enjoyed economic success had increased. Initially, only the whites would enjoy the economic success of cotton yet the African Americans were used as slaves in cotton farms and denied the opportunity to economically benefit from the cotton.
Moreover, Du Bois identified achievement in the legal system as well as the tenant farming system in the form of the abolition of slavery. Slavery was slightly abolished in the legal system and also in the tenant farming system. Slavery was illegalized and this helped in reducing slavery in the country. The most affected with slavery were the African Americans, and the slight abolishment of slavery slightly improved the livelihood of the African Americans which had already significantly deteriorated.
Shortcomings identified by Du Bois
One of the shortcomings identified by Du Bois years following the Civil war as well the reconstruction projects is the failure of the Freedmen Bureau in playing its role to achieve racial equality. The bureau failed because of the intense southern opposition as well as the national neglect. The bureau was significantly opposed by the people from the southern region including President Andrew Johnson who was pro-slavery and strongly upheld racial inequity. The federal government also neglected the bureau by failing to support the bureau by playing its role in the establishment and maintenance of racial and also economic equality in the country. Another factor that led to the failure of the bureau is the mismanagement in it. The bureau was poorly managed to lead to its failure to achieve its goal of ensuring racial equity is achieved. The biased courts also contributed to its failure. The courts tended to be favoring black litigants.
One of the substantial shortcomings in African American history is the emergence of the educator, Booker T. Washington became a spokesman for their race. Instead of Booker T. Washington fighting for the racial inequality on behalf of the African Americans, he took a different strategy to race relations which contradicted the long term progress that the race had made towards realizing racial equality. Essentially, Washington admitted racial segregation as well as emphasizing on material progress which was an outdated way of adjusting and submitting. This negatively affected African Americans resulting in the loss of their civil status, loss of the vote also loss of financial aid in higher education institutions. In essence, their right to vote, educating your based on ability as well as the right to civil equality is fundamental for African American progress which Washington reaped it off from them by accepting segregation which denied them all these rights.
Du Bois also identified the American materialism to be a shortcoming whereby single-minded attention on obtaining wealth was menacing to substitute the other considerations. Concerning education, they were only taught how to earn money instead of balancing between human culture standards as well as haughty ideals of life and lower training standards. The African American educational institutions ought to have trained African Americans on the talented tenth which will eventually contribute to lower education as well as playing the role of improving race relations.
Contributions of the book to our understanding
Du Bois’ book has significantly contributed to my understanding of African American contributions to modern U.S history since it has examined on the African American religion for the origin of this religion within the African society, throughout its development during slavery up to the eventual forming of the Methodist and Baptist churches. He has critically examined this religion from where it started throughout all the phases of development and transition. This helps in giving a clear understanding of U.S history since it gives details of the history of the African Americans including the origins and transformations encountered overtime in their religion. Moreover, the book presents a study of the Negro religion which is essential to African American history and is essential in shaping American history. Through the Negro religion, we get to understand that African Americans have significantly contributed to the modern U.S history by forming modern churches such as the Methodist and Baptist churches.
This book has also contributed to my understanding of African American’s contribution to modern U.S history through Du Bois’ usage of materialist strategy as a way of apprehending the primacy of capitalist economy as well as class formations arising from it. This acts as the starting point for the way we are understanding the creation as well as the persistence of race including racism within the capitalist societies, precisely the United States. To aid on the importance of class as the key distinction within a capitalist society, does not diminish the myriad means whereby racism undermines, confines and also diminish the lives of the African Americans who were mostly distressed by racial oppression. We get to understand that it is not a practical exercise to privilege class over race. It is simply thriving to locate the origin of racism that mostly affects African Americans. It facilitates the modern U.S history by answering the question of why racism has been persistent and where racism emerged from. U.S history is based on grounded facts and Du Bois has proven this by linking ancient history with modern U.S history by providing an adequate explanation of African American experiences and their transformation that have facilitated the modern U.S history.
We get to understand that African Americans made a significant contribution to modern U.S history since they were most affected by all sorts of prejudice and segregation which they fought against until they overcame such mistreatment and oppression. The African Americans fought and worked towards achieving African American education by establishing schools. Some educational institutions such as Howard University, Hampton University, Fisk University as well as Dillard University are the universities that were established due to the efforts of the African Americans and still exist up to date. This contributes a lot to the modern U.S history. It gives a history of African Americans on their thirst for education and also their achievement in setting a pace in education by building educational facilities that still exists up to these modern days.
In his book, Du Bois helps us to understand the ways racial prejudice affects individuals. He achieves this by relating real events such as Alexander Crummel’s story who strived against racial prejudice as he worked towards being an Episcopal priest. He also presents a story of a black man called John who was educated and his knowledge placed him at odds with the southern people and finally got destroyed by racism. Essentially, it appears that African Americans were the most affected by racism. Similarly, in modern U.S history, African Americans are the most victims that are affected by racism.
To sum up, W. E. B. Du Bois’ book is indeed an incredible African American literature presenting argument regarding paths for African American progress including education, enfranchisement and also political power. His book has made a significant contribution to the understanding of African American contributions to the contemporary U.S history. It also helped in shaping modern America as well as world civilization by identifying the achievements and shortcoming reconstruction projects and decades after the civil war. Among the achievements identified by Du Bois after the civil wars and reconstruction projects are; fighting for African American education and ended up setting up many public schools that were meant for the freed African Americans as well as the poor whites; enjoyment of cotton’s economic benefits by African Americans; and the abolition of slavery by legal system and the tenant farming system. The shortcomings identified include; failure of Freedmen Bureau in playing its role to achieve racial equality, Booker T. Washington’s acceptance of segregation as a strategy to race relations which contradicted the long term progress that the race had made towards realizing racial equality and also single-minded form of education whereby African Americans were only taught to earn money instead of balancing between the standards of human culture as well as haughty ideals of life and the standards of lower training. Moreover, Du Bois’ book has significantly contributed to my understanding of African American contributions to modern U.S history since it has examined the African American religion for the origin of this religion within the African society. It also facilitated my understanding through Du Bois’ usage of materialist strategy as a way of apprehending the primacy of capitalist economy as well as class formations arising from it and also to understand on ways racial prejudice affects individuals.