“Honest and earnest criticism from those whose interests are most nearly touched,- criticism of writers by readers, of government by those governed, of leaders by those led, – this is the soul of democracy and the safeguard of modern society” – W.E.B. Du Bois

The Souls of Black Folk
Written by W.E.B. Du Bois
Published in 1903
5 out of 5

Last summer while reading both Colson Whitehead novels The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys I knew I wanted to dig deeper. This resulted in watching a four part PBS documentary series called, “The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow”, which can be found on the inter-webs and is packed with information along with book recommendations and pioneers who have led the way to end slavery and combat racism. 

Among those recommendations was, The Souls of Black Folk, written by W.E.B. Du Bois. This was one of the many texts I knew was a mandatory read for myself. Over the last year when discussing how to combat racism I found myself in an interesting space, usually resulting with those who identify as straight, white, cisgendered, liberals saying, “I’ve been reading White Fragility…” with a nod and a sad face. Immediately something would feel wrong, wrong to the core of my being, because these people weren’t being genuine. In reality they were just virtue signaling, which became apparent when they couldn’t have an articulate conversation about other writers and pioneers, especially ones of color. 

I say this not to shame anyone. Yes. To the core this is all a very blunt statement; however, I share this to guide a productive conversation in order to make our world a better place. 

Recently Juneteenth became a federal holiday here in the United States commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. Again to be frank it’s also one of the few things I applaud Biden for. Regarding Juneteenth, what’s unfortunate is that this history lesson is not taught in schools. In-fact if not for one of my best friends @dskibler I would have been totally clueless. That said, it needs to be taught in our schools. 

Another lesson that needs to be taught in our schools, especially here in South Carolina, is the importance of the Penn School, which was founded in 1862 by Laura Towne and Ellen Murray; established as one of the first schools for freed African-American slaves living on St. Helena Island and the surrounding Sea Islands. There is a vast amount of knowledge at the Penn School campus yet most don’t even know about it. They also don’t know that it was a retreat for the great Martin Luther King Jr. who would go there to escape from the world to recharge. He even wrote the renowned “I Have a Dream Speech” at this very sight. Yet most South Carolinians have no idea. 

The Souls of Black Folk is a collection of insightful essays written by W.E.B. Du Bois and needs to be required reading for all. I found that these essays provided a great perspective while presenting historical facts that again most don’t even know about. I also believe that this text has the ability to bridge the gap within conversations regarding those who are right leaning or left leaning. Have you read it? What are your thoughts?