Of the Dawn of Freedom – W. E. B. Du Bois

Of the Dawn of Freedom is a collection of essays taken from W. E. B. Du Bois’s 1903 work The Souls of Black Folk. Within them, he details the struggles of the African American population from before, during and after the Emancipation. Each essay starts with a snippet of musical notation and extracts of famous poems or songs that beautifully set up the themes and emotions of the ensuing text. Du Bois’s writing style is wonderful to read; he cleverly matches use of dark imagery and language to bring out the focus on his topic. Du Bois’s style could best be described as evocative, his views are stated strongly and courageously in a manner that is difficult to match in its poignancy and impact.

It is so refreshing to read a first person account of the struggles of the black population of America even following the Emancipation, to be reminded that the turmoil and injustice did not end with the freeing of the slaves, and it is unusual to be able to hear a detailed account of historical events that is not written by the dominant force.

But what I really admire and appreciation about the work, is that Du Bois never wishes to undermine or condemn the white population, he gives credit to those whom deserve it and he is honest about those who are potentially to blame, regardless of their race. Du Bois’s account really reinforces just how much work went into trying to make a better life for the black population after the Emancipation, and the societal and political obstacles that were faced.

Whilst I immensely enjoyed reading essays number one and two, three and four were my favourites. The switch to an autobiographical style and the increase in descriptive imagery and fictional techniques such as alliteration from the third essay onwards really works well structurally. I was astounded at the ingenuity of the switching between past and present tenses to subtly show how the past still affects the present, and I thought that the fence metaphor used in the third essay is outstanding. Du Bois clearly took a long time to consider his structuring and his approach to writing throughout the four essays, as you can see from the fact that he gets more personally involved as the text goes on. Similarly, he works to draw you in further at the beginning of the fourth essay by using a direct address to the reader which is incredibly effective. I consider this work to be a masterpiece.

Despite a few typographical or grammatical errors throughout (but mainly visible in the fourth essay) such as numerous extraneous ‘s’s appearing on the end of words and the use of the world ‘builded’, I have nothing to criticise about this work. There is nobody that I would not recommend this work to. Despite being over a century old, it is enlightening, it is upsetting and it is still relevant. It is a true tour-de-force.


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