The Souls of White Folk: W.E.B. Du Bois’s Critique of White Supremacy and Contributions to Critical White Studies

Research paper by Reiland Rabaka

Indexed on: 04 Aug '07Published on: 04 Aug '07Published in: Journal of African American Studies


This article utilizes W.E.B. Du Bois’s often-overlooked classic essay “The Souls of White Folk” to develop a long overdue dialogue between Africana studies and critical white studies. It demonstrates the dialectical nature of Du Bois’s philosophy of race and critical race theory by comparing and contrasting his groundbreaking critiques of racism in The Souls of Black Folk with his reconstructed and decidedly more radical critique of the political economy of race, racism, whiteness, and white supremacy in “The Souls of White Folk.” The conception and critique of white supremacy that the author develops in this article does not seek to sidestep socio-legal race discourse as much as it intends to supplement it with the work of Du Bois et al. in philosophy of race, sociology of race, radical politics, and critical social theory. One of the main reasons this supplemental approach to critical white studies and critical race theory is important is because typically legal or law-focused studies of race confine theorists to particular political, social, national, and/or disciplinary discursive arenas, which is extremely problematic considering the fact that white supremacy is an international imperialist or global racist system.