The Souls of Black Folk is W.E.B. Du Bois' most famous work. While the work is often viewed as a classic in African American literature and the history of the African American experience, the sociological significance of the work has been understated. In his initial discussions with the book's original publisher, Du Bois desired to prepare a volume that would showcase his ongoing sociological work on "the Negro problems." While many editions of Du Bois' classic text have appeared, no edition has focused primarily on the eight previously published essays in their original form and chronological order. This fact alone makes The Sociological Souls of Black Folk unique. An introductory essay by the volume's editor, Robert Wortham, highlights the sociological significance of the original essays by addressing such themes as the concept of the self, the social construction of the African American experience, and racial inequality. Eight additional essays originally published between 1897 and 1900 are added by the editor in a second section. These additional sociological essays focus on African American entrepreneurship, crime, race relations, liberal arts education, the Black Church's function within the African American community, and the quality of African American life in the Southern Black Belt. The essays included in The Sociological Souls of Black Folk provide the reader with an opportunity to gain a greater appreciation for Du Bois' early sociological work and recognize that Du Bois was indeed one of the pioneering figures in the development of sociology in the United States.
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Robert A. Wortham is professor of sociology at North Carolina Central University.Review:
By lifting up out of the scholarly reservoir the essays of Du Bois, Wortham (North Carolina Central Univ.) calls attention to one of the most significant works by one of the most gifted scholars of sociological thought in the modern era. Wortham's contribution raises one major academic question immediately: why has Du Bois not been given the academic accolades of other scholarly giants in the discipline of sociology? Wortham makes the point that The Souls of Black Folk has been mostly viewed as a classic in African American literature, or for scholars studying the African American experience. But it has not been seriously considered a major scholarly contribution within the discipline of sociology. Also, why are not Du Bois's works, especially the essays, a part of the core curriculum within the discipline of sociology, including a focus on Du Bois's research methodology and conceptual and analytical skills as demonstrated in the essays? Wortham's presentation, including the reconstructed essays, makes one of the most significant contributions to the modern era of sociological thought. And he raises a most significant question: where is Du Bois's place among the discipline's scholarly giants, such as Tönnies, Weber, Parson, and Durkheim? Summing Up: Essential. All academic levels/libraries. (CHOICE)
From now on, no one can deny the sociological nature of DuBois work. Professor Wortham has forced the hands of sociologists by bringing back the eight original sociological essays―and other eight contextual pieces―upon which The Souls of Black Folk was based. And his astute “Introduction” makes readers appreciate DuBois's pioneering work in several sociological fields and his use of various methodologies. Bravo for a job well-done! (Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Duke University; author of Racism Without Racists)
The study proves that we still have much to learn from Du Bois. Wortham's imaginative book is the first to examine key sociological issues in eight essays, the sociological core, of The Souls of Black Folk, supplemented by eight additional sociological essays which Du Bois published during the same period. The sixteen essays, together with Wortham's incisive and lucid commentary, complete an excellent addition to the growing Du Bois literature. Although sociologists are not noted for their eloquent exposition, this book is a rare exception. (Dan Green, co-editor of On Sociology and the Black Community)
This book offers us positive proof that Du Bois's contributions to the origins and evolution of American sociology extend far beyond The Philadelphia Negro and urban sociology. Perhaps the most stunning feature of The Sociological Souls of Black Folk is the often-overlooked fact that Du Bois's sociological discourse may very well prove to be the epitome of what makes American sociology thoroughly 'American'—that is to say, his unrepentant emphasis on race, gender, class, and culture within the context of the United States. Robert Wortham should be openly applauded, because here he reprints another classic Du Bois collection that will undoubtedly make a major contribution to those bold souls who sincerely seek to understand the real roots of American sociology. (Reiland Rabaka)
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