Ideas Matter: the boi podcast

Ideas Matter: The troubled universalism of ‘The Souls of Black Folk’

February 12, 2021

Fifth podcast in the series on Race and Racism, theme of BoI charity’s event The Academy, held online in late 2020.

In this episode we feature the talk: The troubled universalism of ‘The Souls of Black Folk’.

‘The Souls of Black Folk’ was published in 1903 by W.E.B. Du Bois, the American sociologist, historian, author and campaigner. Today, identity politics and campaigns such as decolonising the curriculum emphasise racial difference rather than common humanity. At a time when universalism has fallen distinctly out of fashion, what can we learn from revisiting this seminal work from Du Bois?

Lecturer: Brendan O’Neill; editor, spiked; writer for The Sun, The Spectator and The Australian; broadcast commentator, Sky News and the BBC; host, The Brendan O’Neill Show podcast.

The Academy II was a half day online event via zoom that took place in November 2020. 

To view the full programme and some suggested background reading to the talks, please visit

For this lecture on civil rights, we you may wish to read:-

  • ‘The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois (1903). Purchase this book at
  • ‘Black privilege:Why white liberals venerate Ta-Nehisi Coates’ by Brendan O’Neill, spiked

In the context of today’s instrumental approaches to knowledge, The Academy summer school is a modest attempt to demonstrate the value of scholarship, and of the worth of the university as a place of free enquiry dedicated to the pursuit of truth.

The BOI charity is committed to continuing to host discussion and debates throughout this period when society is restricted by measures to tackle coronavirus. In order to realise events such as the Academy Online, none of our staff are furloughed and instead remain working. If you can, then please consider a donation, small or large. Visit:

Ideas Matter is a podcast that takes the most important issues of our times and explores the ideas and intellectual trends that have shaped where we are today.

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