A Critical Analysis of W E B Dubois Sorrow Songs

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As the music progressed throughout the years, a Northerner moved to the South to teach Sunday school. While teaching, he heard these songs, and decided to create a group that would raise money for Fisk University. Du Bois studies these songs because of the rich history with which they come.

In his own personal history, Du Bois had stories of how his ancestors would sing these songs on slave ships. They were passed down for two centuries until Du Bois' era. Du Bois notes that throughout the book, there is a progression that the songs take. He believes that after this, there will be white music that will have black melodies. Du Bois ends the chapter by stating that he hopes racial prejudice will soon become a problem of the past. Different from the rest of the book, the afterthought is written from a tone of anger and despair.

Du Bois is not content with the status of the Negro people within the United States, and is angry that their condition is even allowable. I know little of music and can say nothing in technical phrase, but I know something of men, and knowing them, I know that these songs are the articulate message of the slave to the world.

He also introduces themes that reappear in his later works including The World and Africa , which formed the seeds of Afropolitanism and many modes of enquiry of Sound Studies. As incipits or epigraphs for each essay in the book, he entered the songs into a new literary and scholarly canon, ultimately changing the concept of what a book could be by fusing language and music in a new way.

Even in a divided society following the U. Booker T. Washington and Others. The songs are indeed the siftings of centuries; the music is far more ancient than the words, and in it we can trace here and there signs of development. Du Bois makes no mention of a spoken oral tradition throughout Souls. In fact, quite the contrary.


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In this passage, he implicitly argues it is not the meaning of the words, but the meaning of the music that survived the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. The search for continuity between African and American culture has been a quest for many, including African-born scholars such as Lazarus Ekwueme. It is clear that melody both pitch and rhythm is the most idiosyncratic element of a piece, more so than lyrics, and is the most durable when a people and their culture experience extreme duress. At an early date , Du Bois already arrives at a point that is now a consensus: the Gullah-Geechee communities of the Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia have closely retained African practices, such as the ring shout.

The Gullah-Geechee are exceptional because of their linguistic retentions, documented by Lorenzo Dow Turner in his book.

The Souls of Black Folk

The preservation of linguistic features was possible because of relative isolation, but as Du Bois notes, this source of African music is fundamental to American music in steps 2 , 3 and 4 , of which he offers famous examples of each. Racist musicologist George Pullen Jackson fought hard against the position that white hymnody had been influenced by black spirituals for much of his career. William H. Jackson, after examining white items and black items, found only pairs which he thought demonstrated tune similarities, and of these , only 70 pairs actually prove to have had a valid melodic relationship… These seventy items represent slightly less than eight percent of the black spirituals Jackson could not find the empirical support for his claim to of primacy perhaps supremacy of white spirituals, even with some ample confirmation bias.

Essentially, it took a nearly a century for musicology to recognize what Du Bois laid out in What is often arrested in writing is a particular version, a particular rendering, … as performed by a particular performers at a particular moment.

The Souls of Black Folk

Nature, then, in orature manifests itself as a web of connections of mutual dependence … in active communications within themselves and with others 5. Even in a segregated society, under which racist laws separated the performers, a mutual dependence developed between black and white spirituals.

In The World and Africa , he confronts colonialism and Eurocentric history, foreshadowing Afrocentrism and to some extent Afropolitanism. The African Negroes are uncommonly gifted for music-probably, on an average, more so, than the white race. This is clear not only from the high development of African music, especially as regards polyphony and rhythm, but a very curious fact, unparalleled, perhaps, in history, makes it even more evident; namely, the fact that the negro slaves in America and their descendants, abandoning their original musical style, have adapted themselves to that of their white masters and produced a new kind of folk-music in that style.

Presumably no other people would have accomplished this. In fact the plantation songs and spirituals, and also the blues and rag-times which have launched or helped to launch our modern dance-music, are the only remarkable kinds of music brought forth in America by immigrants Du Bois studied in Germany from —94 before attending Harvard.

W.E.B. DuBois' The Souls of Black Folk: Two Worlds Thesis

Hornbostel too had a complicated relationship to Germany: though celebrated in his home country for much of his life, in he was forced into exile because his mother was Jewish; he died in An evil omen was golden hair in my life. Du Bois ends with, "Sleep, then, child,—sleep till I sleep and waken to a baby voice and the ceaseless patter of little feet-above the Veil. In this chapter, Du Bois recounts a short biography of Alexander Crummell , an early black priest in the Episcopal Church.

Du Bois starts with, "This is the history of a human heart. The penultimate chapter, "Of the Coming of John", is fictional. When he returns to his place, he discovers that "[l]ittle had they understood of what he said, for he spoke an unknown tongue" Du Bois John's return to the South has made him a foreigner in his own home.

After he attempts to teach a class for the local children, John is compared to a different John, the son of wealthy Judge Henderson. John Henderson has become bored after his own return from college.


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  7. He begins to sexually assault Jennie, the sister of black John, when the young white man sees her outside his home. John kills white John and bids his mother goodbye. In the final part of the story, there is an implication that he is about to be lynched by a gathering mob, and John "softly hum[s] the 'Song of the Bride ' " in German. Du Bois He refers to the short musical passages at the beginning of each of the other chapters. Du Bois mentions that the music was so powerful and meaningful that, regardless of the people's appearance and teaching, "their hearts were human and their singing stirred men with a mighty power.

    He says, "Your country? How came it yours?.. Du Bois heralds the "melody of the slave songs", or the Negro spirituals, as the "articulate message of the slave to the world. For Du Bois's contention that the sorrow songs contain a notative excess, and untranscribable element Yolanda Pierce identifies as the "soul" of the sorrow songs. Few books make history and fewer still become foundational texts for the movements and struggles of an entire people. The Souls of Black Folk occupies this rare position. It helped to create the intellectual argument for the black freedom struggle in the twentieth century.


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    5. By describing a global color-line, Du Bois anticipated pan-Africanism and colonial revolutions in the Third World. Moreover, this stunning critique of how 'race' is lived through the normal aspects of daily life is central to what would become known as ' whiteness studies ' a century later. At the time of its publication, the Nashville Banner warned of The Souls of Black Folk , "This book is dangerous for the Negro to read, for it will only incite discontent and fill his imagination with things that do not exist, or things that should not bear upon his mind.

      In his introduction to the edition, writer Saunders Redding observed, "The boycott of the buses in Montgomery had many roots. As Yale professor Hazel Carby points out, for black writers before the abolition of slavery in , it was impossible "even to imagine the option of returning to the South once black humanity and freedom had been gained in the North", and it was rarely found in later literature as well.

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      Carby traces the ways in which Du Bois gendered his narrative of black folk, but also how Du Bois's conceptual framework is gendered as well. According to Carby, it seems that Du Bois in this book is most concerned with how race and nation intersect, and how such an intersection is based on particular masculine notions of progress.

      According to Carby, Du Bois "exposes and exploits the tension that exists between the internal egalitarianism of the nation and the relations of domination and subordination embodied in a racially encoded social hierarchy. However, this unified race is only possible through the gendered narrative that he constructs throughout Souls , which renders black male intellectuals himself as the only possible leader s of the unified race.

      Carby explains that "in order to retain his credentials for leadership, Du Bois had to situate himself as both an exceptional and a representative individual The terms and conditions of his exceptionalism, Du Bois argues, have their source in his formation as a gendered intellectual. In other words, "the figure of the intellectual and race leader is born of and engendered by other males.

      Such a reading of Du Bois calls attention to "queer meanings" that, according to Charles Nero, are inherent in Souls. Nero, who uses Anne Herrmann's definition of queer, conceptualizes queerness as the "recognition on the part of others that one is not like others, a subject out of order, not in sequence, not working.

      The Souls of Black Folk Summary and Analysis of "Afterthought"

      Nero analyzes Du Bois's discussion on the Teutonic and Submissive Man to conclude that such a contract would lead to a "round and full development" to produce a "great civilization". However, Nero is concerned with violence and the "rigid policing of sexual identity categories at the turn of the century", which ultimately made such a homosocial, biracial contract impossible.

      Nero marks "Of the Coming of John" as a central chapter that demonstrates his queer reading of Souls. Nero argues that John Jones's absence of masculinity is a sign of his queerness and that the killing of his "double" represents Du Bois's disillusionment with the idea that a biracial and homosocial society can exist. Du Bois had transdisciplinary training and he provided a historical context for black religion and culture. His concept of "double-consciousness" and other concepts from Souls have been highly influential on other scholars in their interpretations of black culture and religion.

      Summary of The Souls of Black Folk; Essays and Sketches

      These are some of the scholars who take up themes or concepts found in Souls for their own work in religious and theological studies or cultural criticism. In Beyond Ontological Blackness , Victor Anderson seeks to critique a trope of "black heroic genius" articulated within the logics of ontological blackness as a philosophy of racial consciousness.

      Du Bois's double-consciousness depiction of black existence has come to epitomize the existential determinants of black self-consciousness. Anderson's critique of black heroic genius and a move towards black cultural fulfillment is an attempt to move beyond the categories deployed by Du Bois in Souls.