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Although the book is entitled The Souls of Black Folk, at times it is equally about the soul of America and the souls of white Americans.  While discussing issues relevant to how blacks are treated in America since the end of slavery and the alliance of black Americans to the U.S., it often brings up the contradiction of America being a country of freedom and yet a harbinger of slavery.  Although black slaves were freed and the end of the Civil War is supposed to have guaranteed that freedom, Dr. Du Bois notes that freeing the slaves and the end of the Civil did not bring the US peace from its sins and the former black slaves did not find “freedom in his promised land.”  This idea more or less sets the tone for the book.  Blacks had problems as black people resulting from their past history in the US and from the lack of acceptance as normal human beings in American society.  Yet, blacks were so handicapped and strapped by the pangs of white hatred that they had little time to deal with their personal problems as individuals or their group problems as an ethnic group in America.Du Bois notes that the treatment of blacks in America could not help but lead many of them to question their own self worth, their ideals and their existence.  The prejudice blacks faced in America certainly led many to “self-questioning, self-disparagement, and lowering of ideals.”  Du Bois outlines the theme of his book by saying that the “Negro Problem” is a “concrete test” of the basic underlying principles American society.   As a former black slave, Dr. Du Bois felt that the travail of black men’s souls was a burden beyond their strength, but one they had to bear “in the name of this the land of their fathers’ fathers, and in the name of human opportunity.”I learned one lesson in particular, perhaps, among the many lessons the book had to offer.  I am often struck by the way society is today.  Gangster rap filled with vile language, violent messages and evil, men with their pants hanging below their bottom of their ass ON PURPOSE as if that is supposed to convey some message of intelligence and “cool” and other symbols of the direction in which some in our society are heading.  I was of the impression that such things were what America, not just black America, but America as a whole was trying to avoid.  I was of the impression that America was and is a country to uplift the spirit rather than take it a giant step backward.  Nudity and the beauty of the nude body is one thing, but sloppiness is quite another.  Yet, today, we seem to be heading in the direction of being vile, sloppy, nasty and violent.  Du Bois says, “In the Black World, the Preacher and Teacher embodied once the ideals of this people–the strife for another and a more just world, the vague dream of righteousness, the mystery of knowing; but to-day the danger is that these ideals, with their simple beauty and weird inspiration, will suddenly sink to a question of cash and a lust for gold.”  Likewise, I wonder if the ideals we are witnessing today haven’t likewise sunken “to a question of cash and a lust for gold.”The Souls of Black Folk outlines the black man’s struggles and travails after “freedom” was attained, the difficulties blacks faced when grudgingly given “freedom” while continually being mistreated throughout America.  It is relevant to black history courses because it outlines the gradual struggle blacks had to reach the point of being treated as free humans with equal privileges and rights.  Du Bois more or less focuses on the social enslavement of “freed” slaves after their “freedom” and their struggle to attain true freedom in a free society.  To be sure, it was not an impossible struggle, but it was a virtually endless and very difficult struggle with victories won only by pulling teeth.  Du Bois’ work describes an aspect of history referred to but seldom discussed in history books, a history known to exist but not so much discussed.Perhaps I learned one lesson in particular from among the many lessons the book had to offer.  I am often struck by the way society is today.  Gangster rap filled with vile language, violent messages and evil, men with their pants hanging below their bottom of their ass ON PURPOSE as if that is supposed to convey some message of intelligence and “cool” and other symbols of the direction in which some (perhaps far too many) in our society are heading.  I was of the impression that such things were what America, not just black America, but America as a whole was trying to avoid.  I was of the impression that America was and is a country to uplift the spirit rather than take it a giant step backward.  Nudity and the beauty of the nude body is one thing, but sloppiness in the name of fashion is quite another.  Yet, today, we seem to be heading in the direction of being vile, sloppy, nasty and violent.  Du Bois says, “In the Black World, the Preacher and Teacher embodied once the ideals of this people—the strife for another and a more just world, the vague dream of righteousness, the mystery of knowing; but to-day the danger is that these ideals, with their simple beauty and weird inspiration, will suddenly sink to a question of cash and a lust for gold.”  Likewise, I wonder if the ideals we are witnessing today haven’t likewise sunken “to a question of cash and a lust for gold.”I like the following passage as a summary of how Du Bois’ book bears on black history, American history and a message of things to come—a  message of where we are heading.  Note,”The old leaders of Negro opinion, in the little groups where there is a Negro social consciousness, are being replaced by new; neither the black preacher nor the black teacher leads as he did two decades ago. Into their places are pushing the farmers and gardeners, the well-paid porters and artisans, the business-men,–all those with property and money. And with all this change, so curiously parallel to that of the Other-world, goes too the same inevitable change in ideals. The South laments to-day the slow, steady disappearance of a certain type of Negro, –the faithful, courteous slave of other days, with his incorruptible honesty and dignified humility. He is passing away just as surely as the old type of Southern gentleman is passing, and from not dissimilar causes,–the sudden transformation of a fair far-off ideal of Freedom into the hard reality of bread-winning and the consequent deification of Bread.”This passage has historical significance and is relevant to black history and black history courses, but it also has significant bearing on where America is heading today.  Certainly, blacks have more opportunities than in the past although their strivings are probably no less fervent.  Yet, the black preachers and teachers of the past are being replaced, in part, by gangster rappers, sloppiness, sloppy attire and violent ideas not encountered in the past.  While, in Du Bois’ time, “The South” may have lamented the passing away of a certain type of Negro, today, the entire country can lament.  There are many messages to take away from this book, messages about blacks, the past history of the black struggle before and after the ending of slavery and the soul of America today (not just black America, but America as a whole) and where we are heading.  Perhaps we can all ask, “Do we like what we see,” and, if not, “What can we do to alter the things that are leading us in a direction that may lead to less desirable outcomes?”;

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