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The Souls of Black Folk Discussion Questions

Instructor: Grace Pisano

Grace has a bachelor's degree in history and a master's degree in teaching. She previously taught high school in several states around the country.

'The Souls of Black Folk' is an important work published by W.E.B. Du Bois in 1903. Use these discussion questions with your high school students after reading the book.

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

One of the best ways for students to understand race relations in the early 20th century and what life was like for African-Americans is through W.E.B. Du Bois' book The Souls of Black Folk. In this collection of essays on race, W.E.B. Du Bois articulates what it was like to be black in a country where black Americans were technically free but faced extreme segregation and racism. Use these questions to help your high school students think critically about the book.

Critical-Thinking Questions

  • Throughout the book, Du Bois uses the term ''double consciousness.'' What does this mean? What do you think it would be like to live a life with a double consciousness?
  • W.E.B. Du Bois' philosophy on improving life for blacks in the United States was to work hard at the jobs they were in, accept racism as it came and look to advance themselves in skilled trades. This provided a sharp contrast to the ideas of Booker T. Washington. What evidence do you see of Du Bois' philosophy in the book?
  • Du Bois frequently references ''the Veil.'' What is he referring to and what does it represent?
  • What time period does Du Bois' book cover? Why do you think that he stopped here and did not try to extend further into the past?
  • What are Du Bois' thoughts on Booker T. Washington? What is the tone of the chapter where he talks about Washington?
  • What does Du Bois say about the role of religion in the black community? What did you think about this chapter?
  • The first half of the book has a very factual tone. This contrasts with the personal essays at the end of the book. Why do you think the personal narratives were included? What did the inclusion of both parts do for your overall takeaways from the book?
  • What does Du Bois say about slave songs? Think about one or two of these songs that you have heard. Does this interpretation of the songs change how you view them?

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