Critical Response to “Strivings of the Negro People” by W.E. Burghardt Du Bois

In Du Bois’ article, messages of perseverance and strength were powerfully conveyed.  He detailed the struggles of blacks, and everyday challenges that they must overcome. But Du Bois continuously stated, and was proud to do so, that every day, blacks are making a name for themselves and will continue to grow and thrive in the world despite seemingly overwhelming challenges. “The spiritual striving of the freedmen’s sons is the travail of souls whose burden is almost beyond the measure of their strength, but who bear it in the name of an historic race, in the name of this the land of their fathers’ fathers, and in the name of human opportunity.” Rather than focusing on the crushing horrors of racism and discrimination, Du Bois’ writing seems to draw his readers’ eyes towards this powerful theme of the black’s concrete culture, and the fact that no matter what struggles blacks are forced to overcome, their strivings are what will have a lasting impact on their world.

Du Bois also highlights the fact that often times, the goal of the strivings, a better life for the African-Americans and their children and their children’s children, does not seem to be worth the struggles that blacks face. “The dull understandings, of the dark pupils of these schools know how faithfully, how piteously, this people strove to learn. It was weary work. The cold statistician wrote down the inches of progress here and there.” Du Bois paints a bleak picture. Bleak, but important to understand. I find myself pondering the fact that racism is still very much prevalent today. This article was written almost 120 years ago but its relevance is still felt even now. More often than not, blacks face far more challenges in everyday life than whites. Lots has changed, and Du Bois’ writing is so profound and important because it helped affect some of this changes. But things are far from perfect. This article was interesting to me, more than any other reason, because I could tie it to the lives of some people right now.

It still must be said that what I appreciate about this article most is that Du Bois is looking ahead with hope, and in turn, giving hope to others. ”They still press on, they still nurse the dogged hope,—not a hope of nauseating patronage, not a hope of reception into charmed social circles of stock-jobbers, pork-packers, and earl-hunters, but the hope of a higher synthesis of civilization and humanity, a true progress, with which the chorus “Peace, good will to men” may make one music as before, but vaster.” Is it hope that inspires us to change our world for the better? If Du Bois were to come back now and write another article, the context would change, but would the message stay the same?

Upon reading his work, I have a greater appreciation not only for the struggles of blacks, but also for their incredible perseverance, and their strivings to make a better life for themselves, and a better world for everyone. Put that way, one might say that the strivings of the negro people, minus the overcoming of many challenges, are the strivings of all people. A better life, and a better world. Through writings like Du Bois’ “The Strivings of the Negro People” and communication amongst all races, the strivings may prove fruitful and our world may be improved.


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