Du Bois begins his argument by declaring: “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line,” and he repeats this statement several times throughout the book. The color line refers to the divide between races, often invisible but sometimes physical. The line is inherently hierarchical, ensuring that white people receive better treatment, services, and opportunities, while black people receive the inferior version—or nothing at all. The color line was instituted and solidified by slavery, yet has survived Emancipation and taken new forms. Jim Crow segregation, for example, is a particularly distinct way in which the color line is enshrined in the law and custom of the South. However, although the color line may seem overwhelmingly powerful and unbreakable, Du Bois suggests that it might be unstable. There is only so long that two races can live alongside one another in close but highly unequal proximity before the line between them is broken.
The Color Line Quotes in The Souls of Black Folk
The problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line.
Why was his hair tinted with gold? An evil omen was golden hair in my life. Why had not the brown of his eyes crushed out and killed the blue? –For brown were his father's eyes, and his father's father's. And thus in the Land of the Color-line I saw, as it fell across my baby, the shadow of the Veil.