Injustice, and a Tangent About Sabbath

In this post, I will blog about two essays in W.E.B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk: “Of the Black Belt,” and “Of the Quest of the Golden Fleece.” Both essays talk about injustice.

In “Of the Black Belt,” something on page 83 stood out to me:

“And here, too, is the high whitewashed fence of the ‘stockade’, as the country prison is called; the white folks say it is ever full of black criminals,—the black folks say that only colored boys are sent to jail, and they not because they are guilty, but because the State needs criminals to eke out its income by their forced labor.”

In the “Golden Fleece” essay, Du Bois notes that unjust law enforcement is elected by white suffrage, which entails depriving African-Americans of the right to vote. Du Bois thinks that African-American suffrage is important. One question I have is this: Would it have made much of a difference, since African-Americans in the South were a minority? I don’t know. The racists in the South thought African-American suffrage could make some difference, for they instituted restrictions on it.

Also in the “Golden Fleece” essay, Du Bois talks about the lack of incentive for African-Americans soon after the end of slavery. The African-Americans who appear “shiftless” actually do work hard, Du Bois argues, for hard work is an aspect of personal fulfillment, and yet their incentive to work harder and to care for their products is undermined by white society, which saps African-Americans of their earnings. Specifically, Du Bois discusses this situation in the area of sharecropping. But he does see signs of hope. He notices that certain systems work—especially when the sharecropper is allowed to pick what he will plant, and is given a degree of freedom. Du Bois marvels at the economic accomplishments of African-Americans in the midst of an economic depression in the 1890’s. According to Du Bois, “for a few thousand poor ignorant field-hands, in the face of poverty, a falling market, and social stress, to save and capitalize two hundred thousand dollars in a generation has meant a tremendous effort” (103-104). Du Bois sees spirit in African-Americans in the midst of harsh challenges.

Something else I want to note: In the “Black Belt” essay, Du Bois observes that Southerners have worn out the land, which is evident in the declining cotton harvest.  That reminds me of the land Sabbaths in the Bible: some have argued that they were in place because the land needed rest.  Others have contended, however, that the land does better with more frequent rests, rather than one rest every seven years.  The same argument occurs in debates about the weekly Sabbath: is it better to have a weekly Sabbath, or times of rest throughout the week?

But that’s just my tangent.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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