Tuesday, February 15, 2011

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

Source: LibriVox (zipped mp3s)
Length: 7 hours, 59 min

The book: I chose this book as my reading for Black History Month. Du Bois was a civil rights leader and a professor at Atlanta University in the early 20th century. This work, one of his greatest, lays out his views on a wide range of subjects related to racial inequality in the United States, particularly in the South.

The book consists of a series of poetic essays with subjects ranging from a history of the Freedman's Bureau to a biography of Alexander Crummell, a black priest in the Episcopal Church who was rejected by the white church hierarchy and ignored by the black congregations he tried to reach.  Along the way, Du Bois paints a detailed picture of the black community of the late 1800's and early 1900's, arguing that although some of the stereotypes of the Negro have some element of truth, much of the perceived failings are due to the injustice and hopelessness of his condition. As is fitting for a college professor, he spends a good deal of time on education, rejecting Booker T. Washington's view that blacks should confine their studies to an industrial education and instead advocating the addition of a classical education to train leaders and educators.

For me, the book culminates in the thirteenth chapter, "Of the Coming of John," in which Du Bois tells the fictional story of a the life of a black man who gets a college education then returns to his town only to be rejected by both whites and blacks. The story seems to illustrate all the descriptions and arguments from previous chapters. Du Bois's prose here, as in the rest of the book, sings with melody while stating the most ugly truths.

Rating: 8 /10

The reader:  At first, I was a bit thrown off by description "music performed by toriasuncle," but later I realized that each chapter in the print version is introduced by a short musical passage from a Negro spiritual. The music is unobtrusive and is the perfect audio translation for the way it's presented in the book. The reader himself is superb. He reads with a slow, measured cadence, sounding remarkably similar to President Obama's narration of The Audacity of Hope.  When there is dialog or expressions in dialect, he performs an excellent Southern accent, varied for the race and education level of the speaker. There's a bit of background sound, but in an otherwise excellent reading, that's a minor complaint.

(Entered in the Book Review Wednesday contest at Cym Lowell. Follow the link for reviews of other books by various bloggers)


Felbrigg said...

Thanks for posting this, I probably would have missed it otherwise. It sounds well worth a listen.

Listener said...

With your interest in Civil War history, I highly recommend the second chapter, which tells the history of Reconstruction and the Freedman's Bureau from the African-American perspective.

Joy Tamsin David said...

Hopping by from Cym's.
Oh my goodness, I have often wondered if there were free audio books ever offered like there were free e-books all the time, and here you are! What a great resource.

Elizabeth said...

Sounds great...I love Civil War information.

I am stopping by from Cym Lowell's Book Party Review.
Hope you can stop by mine as well.


There is also a book blog giveaway ending tonight, February 23, on my blog if you want to stop by.