Education as a Tool to Eradicate Racial Segregation in The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1095 |

Pages: 2|

6 min read

Published: Sep 1, 2020

Words: 1095|Pages: 2|6 min read

Published: Sep 1, 2020


Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Analysis of "Of the Coming of John"
  3. Education as a tool for socioeconomic mobility
  4. Conclusion


W. E. B. Du Bois' masterpiece, "The Souls of Black Folk," stands as an enduring pillar of American literature, continuing to exert its profound influence on contemporary society. Esteemed for its transformative impact on the field of sociology and its pivotal role in shaping African American literature, this book's significance remains unrivaled. Comprising fourteen chapters, it serves as a poignant exploration of the pervasive influence of racism in early 20th-century America. Du Bois, drawing on his personal experiences as an African American, skillfully employs ethos, pathos, and logos to articulate his powerful message. As Nelson Mandela once wisely stated, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." This assertion finds its most compelling validation in the thirteenth chapter of Du Bois' work, titled "Of the Coming of John." Within this chapter, the potential of education in dismantling the veil of racial segregation is illuminated, along with the multifaceted consequences entailed by such a transformation.

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Analysis of "Of the Coming of John"

"Of the Coming of John" juxtaposes the life experiences of a Black man named John with those of a White man bearing the same name, offering a poignant commentary on the enduring racial segregation that persisted in the aftermath of slavery's abolition in the 1800s. Beyond their shared namesake and place of origin, the two Johns have little in common. John (Black) emerges as a humble, intelligent individual, while John (White) is depicted as a privileged, irate, and ignorant man. This stark contrast underscores the existence of a complex veil, woven from the threads of social, economic, and racial dynamics, perpetuating cultural stratification and racism. As Du Bois astutely observes,

"To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships."

While Black John pursues education at the cost of almost everything else in his life, White John effortlessly accesses education by virtue of his privileged upbringing. This dichotomy illustrates that privilege remains the primary determinant enabling access to elite educational institutions. Upon returning home, Black John endeavors to uplift his community through education, sharing the knowledge he has acquired. Regrettably, his efforts are met with resistance, leading to his alienation from both neighbors and the community at large. As Du Bois poignantly notes,

"The people moved uneasily in their seats as John rose to reply… he spoke of the rise of charity and popular education… the age, he said, demanded new ideas… A painful hush skied that crowded mass. Little had they understood of what he said, for he spoke an unknown tongue."

From these reflections, it becomes apparent that education holds the potential to unlock an individual's and society's fullest potential, while simultaneously carrying specific adverse consequences, as vividly illustrated in this chapter.

Education as a tool for socioeconomic mobility

The recurring theme of education as a tool for socioeconomic mobility is palpable throughout "The Souls of Black Folk," with "Of the Coming of John" serving as an exemplary representation. Du Bois underscores the importance of education for African American individuals and its capacity to bring about positive change. Historically, the White populace in America perpetuated oppression against African Americans through the institution of slavery. As Du Bois aptly states,

"The opposition of Negro education in the South was at first bitter, and showed itself in ashes, insult, and blood; for the South believed an educated Negro to be a dangerous Negro."

This suppression led to a protracted state of submission and stifled the ability of African Americans to reach their full potential. By deliberately restricting the education of Black individuals, White oppressors sought to maintain their dominance. "Of the Coming of John" underscores education as the primary means of achieving social mobility and character development within the African American community. However, it also sheds light on the complexities surrounding these reforms, as many African Americans faced limited opportunities upon completing their education, failing to realize its full benefits.

This chapter vividly elucidates the diminished value placed on the lives of Black men and women, perpetually subjected to the oppressive forces of the dominant White class. The lack of adequate education left these individuals unaware of their plight, rendering them susceptible to exploitation. Such circumstances fostered a state of pseudo-freedom, where society as a whole resisted cultural, social, and economic integration. Upon returning home, Black John gradually becomes aware of this quasi-freedom, stating,

"He had left his queer thought-world and come back to a world of motion and of men. He looked now for the first time sharply about him, and wondered he had seen so little before, He grew slowly to feel almost for the first time the Veil that lay between him and the white world; he first noticed now the oppression that had not seemed oppression before."

It is essential to acknowledge that Black John's realization was made possible by his education. Thus, Du Bois unequivocally positions education as the foremost mechanism for uplifting one's economic and social standing.

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Education remains one of the central and recurring themes in Du Bois' "The Souls of Black Folk." "Of the Coming of John" skillfully encapsulates the diverse dynamics associated with an enhanced educational background, showcasing both its positive and negative outcomes. By contrasting the lives of Black and White Johns, Du Bois effectively highlights the contradictions in the experiences of White and Black Americans. Moreover, the transformation in Black John's character underscores the potential of education to redefine individual lives. However, Du Bois also sheds light on the numerous challenges associated with education, including alienation, limited opportunities, and even depression. In conclusion, "Of the Coming of John" embodies the multifaceted dimensions of education, expertly portrayed through various elements of narrative fiction, point of view, characterization, and dramatic structure.


  1. Du Bois, W. E. B. (1903). The Souls of Black Folk. Bantam Classic.
  2. Mandela, N. (1994). Long Walk to Freedom. Back Bay Books.
  3. Anderson, J. D. (2008). The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860-1935. The University of North Carolina Press.
  4. Crouch, M. (2011). The Veil and Double Consciousness in The Souls of Black Folk. African American Review, 45(3), 395-406.
  5. Lichtenstein, A. (2019). White Supremacy in The Souls of Black Folk: A Reconsideration. The Journal of American History, 106(1), 31-45.
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Education As A Tool To Eradicate Racial Segregation In The Souls Of Black Folk By W. E. B. Du Bois. (2020, September 01). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 25, 2024, from
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Education As A Tool To Eradicate Racial Segregation In The Souls Of Black Folk By W. E. B. Du Bois. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 May 2024].
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