The Souls of Black Folk, by W.E.B. Du Bois Essay

The Souls of Black Folk, by W.E.B. Du Bois Essay

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W.E.B. Du Bois The Souls Of Black Folk is a sentinel work both in terms of describing for the modern reader the struggle of the freed slaves in their movement from slave to truly free, but also in describing the character or soul of the black community of the time. Du Bois is very careful in his introduction of the work to point out "and, finally, need I add that I who speak here am bone of the bone and flesh of the flesh of them that live within the Veil?" (Du Bois, 1994, p. vi) Of all the choices, Du Bois makes in his work, his choice to include quotes and a bar of the sorrow song as lead ins to the chapters is the most interesting.
"Before each chapter, as now printed, stands a bar of the Sorrow Songs,- Some echo of haunting melody from the only American music which welled up from black souls in the dark past." (Du Bois, 1994, pp. v-vi) This made me wonder as I read what these songs sounded like, unfortunately, unless one has a deep understanding of sheet music hearing the notes leap off the page in a written format is not possible. My hope is that the selected quotes before each bar of text tell us not only something of the tone which follows the chapter but also something of the tone of the music itself. The best that can be hoped for without a piano is to look at the quotes and the chapter that follows in hopes that if the tone between those two matches then one would see the quote and the music match as well.
The first chapter is called "Of Our Spiritual Strivings" and opens with a quote from Arthur Symons. There is a sense of tiredness in the Arthur Symons quote "O water, crying for rest, is it I, is itI?/ All night long the water is crying to me." (Du Bois, 1994, p. 1) There is also in the quote a sense of sadness in...


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...how things might change with the exercising of the black vote. From the fact that the tone of each chapter matches so well with the quote, it is safe to assume that the tone of each bar from the sorrow songs would stay true to that tone. Although it is true how the notes are played would be as important as the order and which notes are played. It is clear that an accurate interpretation of the bars in The Souls of Black Folk would need to be informed by the tone of the chapter in which they appear. It would be interesting with modern technology to see an e-book version where such audio clips played at the opening of each chapter. Perhaps a full-blown audio book would provide that same depth, although the contrast between reading and hearing would present still other issues.


Works Cited

Du Bois, W. (1994). The Souls of Black Folks. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

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