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W.E.B. Du Bois: The Souls of Black Folk and Beyond

at Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

(28)
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Description
Class Level: All levels
Age Requirements: 21 and older
Average Class Size: 12
System Requirements:

You will need a reliable Internet connection as well as a computer or device with which you can access your virtual class. We recommend you arrive to class 5-10 minutes early to ensure you're able to set up your device and connection.


Class Delivery:

This class will be held via Zoom unless otherwise specified.

Flexible Reschedule Policy: This provider has flexible, free rescheduling for any-in person workshop. Please see the cancellation policy for more details

What you'll learn in this lecture class:

When W.E.B. Du Bois declared that “the problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line” in The Souls of Black Folk, it was not some miraculous prophecy or intuition. Having already authored the foundational text of American sociology, The Philadelphia Negro, Du Bois synthesized his social scientific training in Germany, including with renowned social theorist Max Weber, nascent American empirical methods, and Du Bois’ own research on Black experience into this insight. Du Bois was a pioneer of American sociology and of modern data visualization techniques, which remain influential to this day. However, The Souls of Black Folk—often regarded as a quintessential work of Black and American letters—is much more than a summary of this work. It is a stunning literary and theoretical text, comprised of rhapsodic, detailed essays on post-Reconstruction sharecroppers’ socioeconomic conditions and recuperations of Black history, on controversies in education and philosophical investigations, and even reflections on music and more. What Du Bois calls “sorrow songs” (Black spirituals, work songs, early forms of the Blues) are juxtaposed with contemporary European poetry and composition, from Lord Byron to Richard Wagner. Aristotle, Shakespeare, Omar Khayyam, Honoré Balzac, Elizabeth Barret Browning, and Marcus Aurelius. Du Bois asks readers to consider Black thought, creation, and experience as equal to canonical works and their neglect as central to failed social progress. Souls contains early critiques of imperialism, colonialism, and capitalism that would coalesce in a scathing polemic against the “new religion of whiteness” in Du Bois’ 1920 follow-up essay “The Souls of White Folk.” All of Souls’ seemingly disparate elements orbit the question, as easily asked today as at the turn of the century: “how does it feel to be a problem?”

In this course, we’ll read The Souls of Black Folk as well as other related selections from W.E.B. Du Bois and current secondary scholarship. Students will contextualize the book’s construction and reflect on its legacy. How does Souls relate to Du Bois’ previous studies and his political activism in this period, ranging from work in the NAACP, pan-African movements, educational reform, the Socialist Party, and struggles against imperialism and colonialism? How does Du Bois understand what he calls the “veil” of race-hatred? What is the “double consciousness” that he sees produced through the paradoxical experience of seeing oneself through White eyes? Why does Souls argue against moderate measures – like the educational programs of Booker T. Washington? What are the strengths and limitations of Souls’ program for nurturing a “Talented Tenth”—a radical Black vanguard or elite—to revolutionize the social position of Black people and potentially society as a whole? How did these ideas inform, change, and transform in the short period between the two “Souls” texts? In addition to other excerpts from Du Bois, readings will feature interventions by Henry Louis Gates Jr., David Levering Lewis, Aldon Morris, Earl Wright II, Manning Marable, Paul Gilroy, Keith Byerman, Dolan Hubbard, Jonathan Scott Holloway, and others. What does “the color line” mean today—both in the United States and in the world? And how does it still feel to be a problem?


Remote Learning

This course is available for "remote" learning and will be available to anyone with access to an internet device with a microphone (this includes most models of computers, tablets). Classes will take place with a "Live" instructor at the date/times listed below.

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Refund Policy

Upon request, we will refund the entire cost of a class up until 1 week before its start date. Students who withdraw after that point but before the first class are entitled to a 75% refund. After the first class: 50%. After the second: 25%. No refunds will be given after the third class.

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Reviews of Classes at Brooklyn Institute for Social Research (28)

School: Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research was established in 2011 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. Its mission is to extend liberal arts education and research far beyond the borders of the traditional university, supporting community education needs and opening up new possibilities for scholarship in the...

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