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W. E. B. Du Bois

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W. E. B. Du Bois, the African American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author, and editor, is most known for his pursuit of social justice and literary imagination. One of the best African American writers to date, Du Bois published over 1,000 essays and writings. Some standing the test of over 100 years and still used in classrooms today.

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Below is a list of the most influential writings of W. E. B. Du Bois. Feel free to add to the list below by adding your comment.

1. The Souls of Black Folk

Said to be W. E. B. Du Bois’ most influential piece of writing, this classic piece of American Literature by W. E. B. Du Bois changed the perspective on African American writers, as well as the horrible social life for blacks in the early 1900’s. The Souls of Black Folk also holds an important place in social science as one of the early works to deal with sociology.

2. The Philadelphia Negro

In 1897 W. E. B. Du Bois worked as the Assistant in Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, where he conducted a social experiment of the Negro community in Philadelphia. His publication that would soon follow his experiment would turn out to be one or the greatest writings on the “Negro” in America. Du Bois gathered information by traveling house to house and conducted personal interviews with each individual head of household.

3. The Negro

This non-fiction writing was the first comprehensive history of African and African-derived people, from their early cultures through the period of the slave trade and into the twentieth century. Published in 1915, this book influenced both white and black communities of its time, bringing a better awareness to the plight of the African American. This book was also highly instrumental in helping to inspire generations of people to see things from an African perspective.

4. The Talented Tenth, second chapter of The Negro Problem, a collection of articles by African Americans

The talented Tenth is a term that was created by W. E. B. Du Bois to give name to a group of African Americans who had the distinct duty of lifting African Americans from poverty and discrimination to a middle class standard. Du Bois used the term “the talented tenth” to describe the likelihood of one in ten black men becoming leaders of their race in the world, through methods such as continuing their education, writing books, or becoming directly involved in social change. He believed that this was the only way for African Americans to strive in an environment that was set up for failure in the black community.

Men we shall have only as we make manhood the object of the work of the schools — intelligence, broad sympathy, knowledge of the world that was and is, and of the relation of men to it — this is the curriculum of that Higher Education which must underlie true life. On this foundation we may build bread winning, skill of hand and quickness of brain, with never a fear lest the child and man mistake the means of living for the object of life.

5. Black Reconstruction in America

Published in 1935, Black Reconstruction In America took an in-depth look at the Reconstruction of the south after its defeat in the American civil war. Du Bois’ basic argument was one of rich vs. poor and how Black and White laborers, who are the proletariat, were divided after the civil war on the lines of race, and as such were unable to stand together against the white propertied class, the bourgeoisie. Du Bois stated this was the reason for the rise of Jim Crow Laws and the failure of reconstruction. What makes this book so important is how relevant it is when you look at the problems in today’s society.

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