vol. 6, no. 2 (Spring 2003)
ISSN 1094-902X



Symposium: W.E.B. Du Bois's The Souls of Black Folk
and African American Religion

Editor's Note

In April of 1903 the Chicago-based publisher, A.C. McClurg and Company published The Souls of Black Folk by William Edward Burghardt Du Bois. In the words of Du Bois biographer David Levering Lewis, the publication of Souls "redefined the terms of a three-hundred year interaction between black and white people and influenced the cultural and political psychology of peoples of African descent throughout the western hemisphere as well as on the continent of Africa." Lewis continues, "It was one of those events epochally dividing history into a before and an after. . . . It was an electrifying manifesto, mobilizing a people for bitter, prolonged struggle to win a place in history. Ironically, even its author was among the tens of thousands whose conceptions of themselves were to be forever altered by the book."1 Indeed, The Souls of Black Folk is a stunning work with its profoundly poetic and ranging discussions of religion, philosophy, music, education, political economy, labor history and, in it, Du Bois presented the reader with, what he called a view "within the Veil" of "the strange meaning of being black here in the dawning of the Twentieth Century." "This meaning is not without interest to you, Gentle Reader," Du Bois insisted in the most famous words he penned, "for the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line."2

It is fitting that we commemorate the centennial of the publication of Du Bois's manifesto and consider the importance of his attention to religion in the text. We have invited three scholars, one of Religion, one of Literature, and one of Sociology to discuss Du Bois's approach to religion and to reflect on Souls' contribution to their disciplines. We are grateful to Anthony Pinn, Yolanda Pierce and Sandra Barnes for their contributions.

Judith Weisenfeld







1. David Levering Lewis, W.E.B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868-1919 (New York: 1993), 277.

2. W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk in Writings (New York: Library of America, 1986), 359.