A Look beneath the Souls of Black Folk

Part of the Black Religion / Womanist Thought / Social Justice book series (BRWT)


In the Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois strove to present, in a quasi-detached manner, a picture of the African American experience. Du Bois well understood that in order for us to understand and appreciate the existential texture of the “kingdom of color,” we would have to have more than the dead statistics, historical descriptions of the condition of slavery and its poignant aftermath. To appreciate the impact and power of the strange dynamics operative in the “kingdom of color” on the person we had to follow them into the actual lives of the people and therein witness their strange and terrible issue. Like following some half-familiar river snaking its way through an unexplored jungle, Du Bois followed its labyrinthine course into the back eddies, beneath the low overhangs, the occasional rapids and along the shadowy banks of black folks’ souls and spoke to us of the things he saw. The text was not an outright history, but no one should attempt to write one of his people without first consulting it. It was not an outright sociology of black life, but he who would write one must first pause before t he awesome i mages Du B ois gives us until they a re firmly stamped on his statistics and they take on the souls of living beings. This text was not a theoretical evaluation or examination of the religion of the African American, but he who would understand the dark and Dionysian dance that is the African American church ought first to tarry before this altar until seized by its mood.


Religious Experience African American Church African American Culture Traumatic Loss Black Folk 
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© Matthew V. Johnson 2010

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