DuBoisNotes

DuBoisNotes - W.E.B Dubois The Souls of Black Folk DuBois believes that the problem of the color line is the problem of the twentieth century(xxxi

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W.E.B. Dubois, The Souls of Black Folk DuBois believes that the problem of the color line is the problem of the twentieth century (xxxi). ““Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it. All, nevertheless, flutter around it. They approach me in a half-hesitant sort of way, eye me curiously or compassionately, and then, instead of saying directly, How does it feel to be a problem? They say, I know an excellent colored man in my town; or, I fought at Mechanicsville; or, Do not these Southern outrages make your blood boil?. ..To the real question, How does it feel to be a problem? I seldom answer a word,” (1-2). DuBois immediately introduces the concept of the veil, which is a complex, internal and external category of racial difference (2). He perhaps best expresses his meaning in claiming that African-Americans are, “born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world, a world which yields him no true self- consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder,” (3). DuBois understands the history of blacks in America in a Hegelian fashion: it is the history of the struggle to attain ‘self-conscious manhood’ (4). He argues, “He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face,” (4). DuBois believes black America is caught in a dangerous contradiction, “Here in America, in the few days since Emancipation, the black man’s turning hither and thither in hesitant and doubtful striving has often made his very strength to lose effectiveness, to seem like absence of power, like weakness. And yet it is not weakness, it is the contradiction of double aims. The double-aimed struggle of the black artisan—on the one hand to escape white contempt for a nation of mere hewers of wood and drawers of water, and on the other hand to plough and nail and dig for a poverty-stricken horde—could only result in making him a poor craftsman, for he had but half a heart in either cause. By the poverty and ignorance of his people, the Negro minister or doctor was tempted toward quackery and demagogy; and by the criticism of the other world, toward ideals that made him ashamed of his lowly tasks…This waste of double aims, this seeking to satisfy two unreconciled ideals, has wrought sad havoc with the
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This note was uploaded on 02/25/2012 for the course 790 376 taught by Professor Murphy during the Spring '09 term at Rutgers.

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DuBoisNotes - W.E.B Dubois The Souls of Black Folk DuBois believes that the problem of the color line is the problem of the twentieth century(xxxi

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