Published 40 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois details the struggle and strife that black Americans still endure. The ratification of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments gave a glimmer of hope for racial equality, only to incur additional problems. Jim Crow laws and the ruling of Plessy vs. Ferguson nullified much of what the amendments stood for, and the struggle continued for black Americans. While racial discrimination limits many of the features of equality for blacks, Du Bois suggests that the Negro community, as a whole, plays a significant role in the fight for racial equality; the struggle is not based solely in politics, hence the ‘Negro Problem’ (12). Du Bois’ solution to the
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Secondly, the Negroes, used to such accommodations, do not as a rule demand better; they do not know what better houses mean. Thirdly, the landlords as a class have not yet come to realize that it is a good business investment to raise the standard of living among labor [...]. Lastly, among such conditions of life there are few incentives to make the laborer become a better farmer. (92)
Du Bois distributes the blame for poor living conditions almost equally among whites and blacks. white people have a mindset that because Negroes are an inferior race, they do not deserve to live in housing structures equivalent to white laborers. They believe blacks are only suited for work on the plantation and “classed the black man and ox together” (27). However, Du Bois would argue that white people are not the only ones at fault. That Negroes do not ask for better housing or demand better wages is also to blame for low income and poor housing. Without pressuring the components of a system, there is no possibility of change. What results is a vicious cycle; both whites and blacks must change. Whites must acknowledge blacks as equal human beings, and blacks must show and demand a civilized community with equivalence in order to bring about this notion of equality; sitting back to watch only works for so long. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington have differing solutions for this ‘Negro Problem’.
First, Du Bois, who grew up in the