I made it a point earlier this year to try to be better. One of the things I told myself that I would do is read more books by black authors, especially those that I should have already read. I was assigned Should of Black Folk in college. I probably still have my copy on a bookshelf in my house but I doubt that I read it for class. Maybe enough to get by in case I was called on but I didn’t really read it. So, I decided that I would remedy that. I started with Up From Slavery, Booker T. Washington’s autobiography as it was a recommended as a good starting point though as I write this, I think that perhaps I should have started with Frederick Douglass but I can work on that too. I started with Washington because I was told, or read, that as the founder of the Tuskeegee Institute, his story is the beginning of the modern era of civil rights. It is hard to read Up From Slavery without putting a modern-day interpretation on it.
Du Bois argues against nearly everything Washington suggested . He could not disagree more with Washington. the Souls of Black Folk reads like a modern book, not something over 100 years old. I think that might be more sad than good. Sad that the same arguments are relevant generations later. Baldwins essays also felt very modern. He heavily criticized Richard Wright’s Native Son, which is another book I should have read.
If I’m completely honest, I don’t think that my take on these books in necessary. I didn’t read thesis books when I should have and so it took me far too long to realize that life for many black people in America is unchanged 100 years later. I will do better.