The Souls of Jewish Folk

W. E. B. Du Bois, Anti-Semitism, and the Color Line

Title Details

Pages: 180

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in



Pub Date: 10/01/2023

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6507-7

List Price: $24.95


Pub Date: 10/01/2023

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6506-0

List Price: $114.95

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Published with the generous support of Path to Open

The Souls of Jewish Folk

W. E. B. Du Bois, Anti-Semitism, and the Color Line

How the roots and routes of antisemitism and anti-Black racism intertwine

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  • Reviews

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 well known 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’s The 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 Folk asks 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 late nineteenth-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.

The Souls of Jewish Folk is a sweeping intellectual history of W. E. B. Du Bois’s thinking as impacted by currents of global racisms centering on his time in, but then going far beyond, Germany. . . . This book marks a significant contribution to sociology, both as an indepth intellectual history of W. E. B. Du Bois and one addressing global and international circuits of different forms of racisms: anti-Blackness and antisemitism alone, together, in the United States, Germany, and internationally. This is a truly remarkable work of historical and intellectual sociology that has resulted in a book rich in both detail and theory.

—Melissa F. Weiner, coeditor of Smash the Pillars: Decoloniality and the Imaginary of Color in the Dutch Kingdom

About the Author/Editor

JAMES M. THOMAS is associate professor of sociology at the University of Mississippi. He is the author of Working to Laugh: Assembling Difference in American Stand-Up Comedy Venues and Diversity Regimes: Why Talk Is Not Enough to Fix Racial Inequality at Universities. He is also the coauthor of Are Racists Crazy? How Prejudice, Racism, and Antisemitism Became Markers of Insanity and Affective Labor: (Dis)Assembling Difference and Distance.