Landscape of American Thought: Popular Literature Assignment

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William Edward Burghardt Du Bois

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, also known as W. E. B. Du Bois, was an American artist. He was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, on February 23, 1868. (Editors, He was a scholar as well as an activist. He was the first African American to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1895. He was an outspoken advocate for African-American citizenship, a prolific writer, and a co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909. In 1963, he died in Ghana. This assignment focuses on book reviews focused on three of his novels. Book Review One: The Souls of Black People.

Editorial, New York Times. "The Negro Question". The New York Times, 1915,

This article begins with a comparison of W.E.B Du Bois to another African American Booker T. Washington. It draws a contrast on the upbringing of both seeming to indicate that Du Bois has a lesser experience of being black than Washington. The review goes on to delve into the Southern and Northern racial biases with detail on the impossibility of justice for both races. To Du Bois, effort attempted had not brought goodwill between races as anticipated. This, combined with Washington’s assessment, was disappointing. The reviewer concludes by considering the Negro person as “little understood” and the book “interesting.”

About: The New York Times Newspaper

The New York Times is a major publication founded by John Gordon Bennett, Sr. in the US. It began publishing 165 years ago on September 18th ("Our History | The New York Times Company"). It is still in business and currently one of the world's largest newspapers by circulation. The paper features news, editorials, business, arts, science, styles, home, travel, sports, and features. The target audience is the New York Metropolitan area residents as well as highly educated foreigners particularly from Europe and Asia.

Similar Publication: The Washington Post

A similar publication to New York Times is The Washington Post. It provides both hardcopy and online content covering similar topics and it focuses on both a local and well educated foreign audience. This makes the two similar in both purpose and perspective.

Book Review Two: The Philadelphia Negro

Blackman, William F. "The Philadelphia Negro". Yale Review, 1900, pp. 110-111.

This review referred to this book as an addition to current scholarly knowledge on a topic unknown. Blackman opined that more such works were necessary. In his view, the Negro problem was serious, involving and one that required a non-biased approach in solving. He considered this work as an "inquiry," properly elucidated and whose outcome was to him “being interpreted with intelligence and sympathy,” providing a roadmap to solving racial problems. To achieve this, the reviewer urged similar studies to be done in the south and other parts to construct accurate knowledge on race and lead to proper conclusions.

About: Yale Review

This magazine began publishing as a journal in 1819 then called The Christian Spectator later changing to The New Englander and finally The Yale Review in 1892. It originally dealt with theological issues but currently covers national and international politics, economics and history ("About | The Yale Review"). As a university magazine, it gives the Yale community an authoritative presence in exploring academic disciplines and other societal issues.

Similar Publication: Harvard Magazine

Harvard Magazine is a publication available both in print and online. It serves the university community of Harvard in providing academic information and other trending news. This makes it similar to the Yale Review based on the common purpose of informing university communities.

Book Review Three: Darkwater

Foerster, Robert F. "Darkwater". The Survey, 1920, p. 384.

This review looks at Du Bois as a courageous man, ready to tackle issues that many would rather ignore. With themes ranging from motherhood, oppression, discrimination among others, Foerster feels black and wonders for how long such issues will continue being ignored by whites. He assesses Du Bois view that Africa has to prosper without exploitation from Europeans. Darkwater, to him, is a pointer of mistakes made by the white man and highlights the issue of race as a product of the social environment. He ends with a question on why the book has no answers to issues of Negroes.

About: The Survey Magazine

The Survey was a magazine than began publishing periodically starting in 1909 and wound up in 1937. It was published by Charity Organization Society of the City of New York. It covered social problems and conditions, charities, and other issues affecting the United States. As such, the main audience included those in humanitarian agencies, religious and human rights advocacy organizations.

Similar Publication: Mother Jones

This American magazine published by the Foundation For National Progress deals with current issues related to news, politics, environment, human rights and culture ("What Is Mother Jones? | Mother Jones"). The main audience for this magazine is people with an inclination to specific issues that affect humanity and people’s way of life. In this regard, the magazine is similar to The Survey.

Understanding W.E.B. DuBois

These reviews develop an understanding of the nature and character of the author. Written from a third person’s point of view, they reveal key issues of affecting Du Bois at the time and his feeling and reaction about them. All three dwell on social issues, reflecting the author’s deep inclination to attempt corrective measures. This essay attempts to correlate the reviews and expand the scope of discussion on the person and times of William Edward Burghardt Du Bois.

Racial issues prominently appear in all three reviews. Despite silence by the administrative white powers of the time, the reviewers point this out as a social and moral issue that needed to be addressed. The three titles: The Soul of a Black Man, The Philadelphia Negro, and Darkwater all speak for the black person, an ignored individual by all standards. The reviewers seem to suggest that this ignored issue affects both the black and white population. Du Bois is appealing to the conscience of those in power to act and address the problem. The manner in which he presents his issues in the books paints the picture of a very intelligent man his educational accomplishments notwithstanding.

In his lifetime, Du Bois achieved a lot, he was the first African-American to get a Ph.D. from Harvard, and this implies that he could be listened to unlike many of his contemporaries. His messages were focused on the emancipation of the professional middle class with regard to political reform, positivity and administrative reorganization. Indeed, his consistency in advocating for black empowerment and failure to see quick progress put him in conflict with the authorities and disillusioned him. According to the New York Times, he mutated from an elitist black to a communist exiling himself to Ghana (Wolfe, Alan). Indeed, reviews of his work show him alienating both his own people like Booker T. and white people in his effort to inspire and convert. This conversion from conservatism to communism in a way was contradictory and unexpected but nonetheless understandable.

In my understanding, Du Bois was able to achieve much more than he might have thought. His works have left legacies that make him be referred to as a “great sociologist, essayist and political activist (Wolfe, Alan). Indeed, work written by him is a reference when critiquing the past and current racial issues in the US and other parts of the world. His contemporaries, on the other hand, had similar views on the social problems facing their people but their backgrounds and methods used set them apart. Du Bois writings favored full liberation of the black man, while contemporaries like Booker T. Washington wanted a compromise where Africans would remain submissive to white people and seek” their acceptance and respect” (Editors, This is what makes him different from his colleagues.

In conclusion, the work and life of Du Bois as shown in the reviews is an expression of how much he desired to see social injustice addressed conclusively once and for all.

Works Cited

"About | The Yale Review". Yalereview.Yale.Edu, 2017,

Blackman, William F. "The Philadelphia Negro". Yale Review, 1900, pp. 110-111.

Editors, "Booker T. Washington". Biography.Com, 2017,

Editors, "W.E.B. Du Bois". Biography.Com, 2017,

Editorial, New York Times. "The Negro Question". The New York Times, 1915,

Foerster, Robert F. "Darkwater". The Survey, 1920, p. 384.

"Our History | The New York Times Company". Nytco.Com, 2017,

"What Is Mother Jones? | Mother Jones". Motherjones.Com, 2017,

Wolfe, Alan. "A Bewildering Array Of Belief". Nytimes.Com, 1997,

July 19, 2022

Sociology History

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