The Souls of Jewish Folk: W. E. B. Du Bois, Anti-Semitism, and the Color Line by James M. Thomas
Sociology of Race and Ethnicity
The Souls of Jewish Folk argues that late nineteenth-century Germany’s struggle with its “Jewish question”―what to do with Germany’s Jews―served as an important and to-date underexamined influence on W.E.B. Du Bois’s considerations of America’s anti-Black racism at the turn of the twentieth century. Du Bois is wellknown for his characterization of the twentieth century’s greatest challenge, “the problem of the color line.” This proposition gained prominence in the conception of Du Bois’sThe Souls of Black Folk (1903), which engages the questions of race, racial domination, and racial exploitation. James M. Thomas contends that this conception of racism is haunted by the specter of the German Jew.
In 1892 Du Bois received a fellowship for his graduate studies at the University of Berlin from the John F. Slater Fund for the Education of Freedmen. While a student in Berlin, Du Bois studied with some of that nation’s most prominent social scientists. What The Souls of Jewish Folkasks readers to take seriously, then, is how our ideas, and indeed intellectual work itself, are shaped by and embedded within the nexus of people, places, and prevailing contexts of their time. With this book,Thomas examines how the major social, political, and economic events of Du Bois’s own life―including his time spent living and learning in a latenineteenth-century Germany defined in no small part by its violent anti-Semitism―constitute the soil from which his most serious ideas about race, racism, and the global color line sprang forth.
Year first published: 2023