The Souls of Black Folk
The Souls of Black Folk
By W. E. B. Du Bois
Introduction by Vann R. Newkirk II
Illustrations by Steve Prince
Restless Classics presents The Souls of Black Folk: W. E. B. Du Bois’s seminal work of sociology, with searing insights into our complex, corrosive relationship with race and the African-American consciousness. Reconsidered for the era of Obama, Trump, and Black Lives Matter, the new edition includes an incisive introduction from rising cultural critic Vann R. Newkirk II and stunning illustrations by the artist Steve Prince.
Paperback List Price: $19.99 • ISBN: 9781632060976 • Publication: 2/7/17 • 5.5” x 8.25” • 208 pages • Sociology: African-American Studies / Discrimination and Race Relations • Territory: World • Nonmerch ISBN: 9781632061461 • eBook ISBN: 9781632060983
About the Book
“The problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line.” This infamous formulation is the central idea around which W. E. B. Du Bois crafted what would become the most influential work about race in America: The Souls of Black Folk. Since he penned these words in 1903, the fraught relationship between the races has dominated the country’s policies, economy, and social developments. Published forty years after the Emancipation Proclamation, Du Bois’s radioactive essays addressed an American nation that had still not yet found “peace from its sins.” Today, amid furor over voting rights, mass incarceration, police brutality and extrajudicial killing, the ghosts of white supremacy and ethnonationalism, and the apparent fragility of the equality and desegregation gains of the Civil Rights Movement, Du Bois’s work has proven prophetic, and more urgently necessary than ever.
Striking in their psychological precision and political foresight, the fourteen chapters of The Souls of Black Folk move between historical and sociological essays, song and poetry, personal recollection and fiction, laying out the foundational ideas of “double-consciousness”—an inner conflict created by the seemingly irreconcilable “black” and “American” identities—and “the veil,” through which African-Americans must see a spectrum of economic, social, and political opportunities entirely differently from their white counterparts. For anyone interested in understanding race in America, or in the literary lineage that Du Bois generated—from James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, to Toni Morrison’s Sula, to Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me—The Souls of Black Folk is essential reading.
About Restless Classics
We all have “the list”: those classic books that we have the best intentions of reading, but which, after graduating from school, become less urgent priorities. We've set out to address this problem with Restless Classics—a series of beautifully packaged, newly introduced and illustrated great books from the past that still speak to our time, our place, and, especially, our restlessness. In addition to their original artwork and fresh introductions, each Restless Classic brings the classroom experience to the reader with linked online teaching videos.
Find out more at restlessbooks.com/classics
Praise for the Restless Classics Edition
“With a striking new introduction written by Atlantic journalist Vann R. Newkirk II and riveting artwork from printmaker Steve Prince, Restless Classics' new edition of The Souls of Black Folk is presented—in all its relevancy—as a crucial work of sociology that is applicable to the current political, economic and social climate more than a century later. To understand the driving force behind today’s current Black liberation movement, to recognize the historic pattern and large scope of state violence against communities of color, to dissect the most recent wave of white nationalism surging through the nation is to know the duality of African-American life presented by W.E.B Du Bois in The Souls of Black Folk. Hailed as the bedrock of any examination on Blackness in America—from literature to front-line resistance—the century-old exploration of 'the color line' stands unblemished by time, its wholeness applying fully to the era of Barack Obama, Black Lives Matter, and Donald Trump. Presented by Restless Classics, with a pointed introduction by journalist Vann R. Newkirk II, the newest edition of Du Bois’s work presents itself through the lens of today’s political and social climate, highlighting the ugly truth that white supremacy’s roots still grip America and serving as an introduction to a generation fighting a familiar battle for liberation, one that our elders have already witnessed…. Newkirk’s introduction... examines the immortality of what can be considered the most important piece of literature to date.”
—Christina Coleman, Essence
Praise for Previous Editions
“Dr. Du Bois was not only an intellectual giant exploring the frontiers of knowledge, he was in the first place a teacher. He would have wanted his life to teach us something about our tasks of emancipation. One idea he insistently taught was that black people have been kept in oppression and deprivation by a poisonous fog of lies that depicted them as inferior, born deficient and deservedly doomed to servitude to the grave… Dr. Du Bois recognized that the keystone in the arch of oppression was the myth of inferiority and he dedicated his brilliant talents to demolish it.”
—Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Du Bois… wrote knowing full well that what he said was neither palatable nor negotiable, that a large portion of the country would not be swayed, and that the truth, in and of itself, must be enough. It is often said that this space lacks for hope. Here is your bone for the day: In the academy, Du Bois was victorious. He did not live to see that victory, but it is his view on the centrality of white supremacy that now carries the day.”
“What Dr. Du Bois showed is that he had enormous courage. I would encourage young men and women, black and white and Asian and Spanish speaking and all, all to look at Dr. Du Bois and realize that courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can’t be consistently fair or kind or generous or forgiving any of those without courage.”
"Du Bois's most important gift to the black literary tradition is, without question, the concept of the duality of the African-American, expressed metaphorically in his elated metaphors of ‘double-consciousness’ and the ‘veil.’”
—Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
“The impact of The Souls of Black Folk on black American writing, and on writing about black America, is all the clearer. The descent of the imaginative treatments of two-ness, invisibility, and the magic behind the veil, from Ellison to Baldwin to Morrison, has by now become a stock theme in accounts of modern American literature. But the book’s radicalism, its astonishing precocity, hardly ends there. It would take more than fifty years for mainstream American historical writing to catch up with Du Bois’ insight about the resilience and spiritual depth of the slaves’ culture, and about the benefits of Reconstruction and the ex-slaves’ role in achieving those benefits… And historians have only begun to comprehend and amplify Du Bois’ claim that American culture has been marked, indeed defined, by black people’s presence.”
“Du Bois is the brook of fire through which we all must pass in order to gain access to the intellectual and political weaponry needed to sustain the radical democratic tradition in our time.”
"I never emulated white men and brown men whose fates didn’t speak to my own. It was into my father’s image, the black man, son of Africa, that I’d packed all the attributes I sought in myself, the attributes of Martin and Malcolm, Du Bois and Mandela.”
About the Author
William Edward Burghardt "W. E. B." Du Bois (1868 – 1963) was an American sociologist, historian, civil-rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author, and editor. Born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, Du Bois grew up in a relatively tolerant and integrated community. After completing graduate work at the University of Berlin and Harvard, where he was the first African American to earn a doctorate, he became a professor of history, sociology and economics at Atlanta University. Du Bois was one of the co-founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909. He rose to national prominence as the leader of the Niagara Movement, a group of African-American activists who wanted equal rights for blacks. He was a proponent of Pan-Africanism and helped organize several Pan-African Congresses to fight for independence of African colonies from European powers. His collection of essays, The Souls of Black Folk (1903), was a seminal work in African-American literature. The United States' Civil Rights Act, embodying many of the reforms for which Du Bois had campaigned his entire life, was enacted a year after his death.
Now, over fifty years after Du Bois’s death and the Civil Rights Act, we need this seminal work more urgently than ever. Long overdue for reconsideration, it is the latest installment of Restless Classics, featuring illustrations by master printmaker Steve Prince and a new introduction by Atlantic staff writer Vann R. Newkirk II.
About the Introducer
Vann R. Newkirk II is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he covers politics and policy. Vann is also a co-founder of and contributing editor for Seven Scribes, a website and community dedicated to promoting young writers and artists of color. In his work, Vann has covered health policy and civil rights, voting rights in Virginia, environmental justice, and the confluence of race and class in American politics throughout history, and the evolution of black identity. He is also an aspiring science-fiction writer, butterfly lover, gardener, gamer, and amateur astrophysicist. Vann lives in Hyattsville, MD with his wife Kerone.
About the Illustrator
Steve Prince is an artist, educator, and art evangelist. He is a native of New Orleans, and the rhythms of the city's art, music, and religion pulsate through his work. Steve's favorite medium is linoleum cut printmaking. Through his complex compositions and rich visual vocabulary, Steve creates powerful narrative images that express his unique vision founded in hope, faith, and creativity.
Essence publishes Atlantic writer Vann R. Newkirk II's striking introduction to the Restless Classics edition of The Souls of Black Folk with the riveting illustrations of printmaker Steve Prince.
Stunningly illustrated by master printmaker Steve Prince, the Restless Classics' edition of The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois comes out in February, in time for Black History Month. Get a preview of Prince's linoleum cuts below, and preorder the book to reacquaint yourself with a seminal work on race in America.