W.E.B. Du Bois earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1895 and his research interests in race relations and black civil rights animated his entire career. In 1903, he published The Souls of Black Folk, which is a profound collection of essays that examines literature, music, politics, and public policy to analyze how race, racism, and racial animus made it difficult for black people to exercise the rights of citizenship and enjoy its responsibilities in the post-Emancipation era. From his political differences with his contemporaries, including Booker T. Washington, to his introduction of ideas such as double-consciousness, the color-line, and the talented-tenth, W.E.B Du Bois has remained a central figure and interlocutor in African American Studies and other field of inquiry concerned with racial equality, black freedom, and civil rights.
This course explores the big ideas, concepts, and political propositions that Du Bois has offered, and considers their (and his) continued significance and influence American society. The course showcases how Du Bois revised—and, in some instances—renounced some of his previously held ideas as the circumstances and contexts in which he thought, wrote, and lived changed.