"The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line," wrote W.E.B. Du Bois in The Souls of Black Folk, one of the most prophetic and influential works in American literature. First published in 1903, this eloquent collection of essays exposed the magnitude of racism in our society. The book endures today as a classic document of American social and political history: a manifesto that has influenced generations with its transcendent vision of change.
John Edgar Wideman observed: "Like Freud's excavations of the unconscious, Einstein's revelations of the physical universe, Marx's exploration of the economic foundations of social organization, Du Bois's insights have profoundly altered the way we look at ourselves."
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William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (1868-1963) in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. A brilliant student and natural leader, he experienced little prejudice during his early years; it was while attending Fisk, a Southern university for Negroes, that the young Du Bois first fully awoke to the realities of race in America. His response was to make the cause of the black people his own. After graduation from Fisk, he earned his Ph.D. from Harvard, studied in Berlin, and become one of the great pioneer sociologists. In 1903, The Souls of Black Folk appeared. This prophetic masterpiece was but the beginning of a long, often lonely crusade that saw Du Bois forced into an increasingly radical position in his search for a solution to the American racial dilemma. His final years were marked by disillusionment with his native land, renunciation of his citizenship, and final self-exile in Ghana, where he died at the age of ninety-five.
From the Trade Paperback edition.