Sunday, May 6, 2012

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

  • "To the real question, How does it feel to be a problem? I answer seldom a word." - 4
  • "few men ever worshiped Freedom with half such unquestioning faith as did the American Negro for two centuries." - 7
  • "To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships." - 11
  • "The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line, -- the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea." - 15
  • "The two great obstacles which confronted the [Freedman's Bureau] officials were the tyrant and the idler, -- the slaveholder who was determined to perpetuate slavery under another name; and the freedman who regarded freedom as perpetual rest, -- the Devil and the Deep Sea." - 33
  • "This is an age of unusual economic development, and Mr. [Booker T.] Washington's programme naturally takes an economic cast, becoming a gospel of Work and Money to such an extent as apparently completely to overshadow the higher aims of life." - 52
  • "The mass of those to whom slavery was a dim recollection of childhood found the world a puzzling thing: it asked little of them, and they answered with little, and yet it ridiculed their offering." - 70
  • On a changing Atlanta, "she lay gray and still on the crimson soil of Georgia; then the blue smoke began to curl from her chimneys, the tinkle of bell and scream of whistle broke the silence, the rattle and roar of busy life slowly gathered and swelled, until the seething whirl of the city seemed a strange thing in a sleepy land." - 76
  • "in all our Nations striving is not the Gospel of Work befouled by the Gospel of Pay?" - 78
  • "the habit is forming of interpreting the world in dollars....the sudden transformation of a fair far-off ideal of freedom into the hard reality of bread winning and the consequent deification of Bread." - 81
  • "to seek to make the blacksmith a scholar is almost as silly as the more modern scheme of making the scholar a blacksmith; almost, but not quite." - 85
  • "shall we teach them trades, or train them in the liberal arts? Neither and both: teach the workers to work and the thinkers to think; make carpenters of carpenters, and philosophers of philosophers, and fops of fools." - 87
  • "Progress in human affairs is more often a pull than a push, a surging forward of the exceptional man, and the lifting of his duller brethren slowly and painfully to his vantage-ground." - 96
  • In regards to opposition to higher education for blacks (cf. Booker T. Washington), "If white people need colleges to furnish teachers, ministers, lawyers and doctors, do black people need nothing of the sort?" - 104
  • "a pall of debt hangs over the beautiful land; the merchants are in debt to the wholesalers, the planters are in debt to the merchants, the tenants owe the planters, and laborers bow and bend beneath the burden of it all." - 127
  • "America is not another word for Opportunity to all her sons." - 144
  • "The rush to town since 1880 is the counter-movement of men disappointed in the economic opportunities of the Black Belt." - 154
  • "For we must never forget that the economic system of the South to-day which has succeeded the old regime is not the same system as that of the old industrial North, of England, or of France, with their trade-unions, the restrictive laws, their written and unwritten commercial customs, and their long experience. It is, rather, a copy of that England of the early nineteenth century, before the factory acts" - 170
  • "we must not forget that under a strict slave system there can scarcely be such a thing as crime. But when these variously constituted human particles are suddenly thrown broadcast on the sea of life, some swim, some sink, and some hang suspended, to be forced up or down by the chance currents of a busy hurrying world." - 178
  • "The nineteenth was the first century of human sympathy, -- the age when half wonderingly we began to descry in others that transfigured spark of divinity which we call Myself; when clodhoppers and peasants, and tramps and thieves, and millionaires and -- sometimes -- Negroes, become throbbing souls" - 219-20
  • So woefully unorganized is sociological knowledge that the meaning of progress, the meaning of "swift" and "slow" in human doing, and the limits of human perfectibility, are veiled, unanswered sphinxes on the shores of science." - 265

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