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The Concept of Double-Consciousness in The Souls of Black Folk Essay

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Updated: Jul 21st, 2021

Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk, written in 1903, is an undoubtedly powerful work representing a series of essays and concerning the topic of the people of color in the twentieth century. In this series, Du Bois introduces the notions of “double consciousness” and “a veil,” interpreting them as phenomena regarding the life of Afro-American folks in the United States. The author’s concepts are the touchstones of black people’s presence within and out of the community. They are about the life behind the veil that results in double consciousness, which presupposes evaluating oneself through the perception of others. Though these concepts were introduced long ago and greatly affected not only the blacks, the theme of double consciousness is still persecuting Afro-Americans around the globe.

Du Bois strived to present the previously mentioned ideas and concepts fully, therefore reflected them in a collection of situations and experiences a black man was exposed to during the reconstruction period. The author described the life within “the veil” and how people of color faced discrimination due to skin color. Du Bois mentioned the process of marginalization of Negroes, leading to misunderstandings and even wars.

However, before Emancipation, Negroes did not lose hope that slavery would be abolished, and violence, along with injustice, would become infamous phenomena. When slavery was over, but the rest remained changeless and not subjected to any alterations. Then Du Bois told about his teaching background in a rural community when the industrialization occurred, and the population became obsessed with wealth and materialization.

Later the author describes the South part of the United States where African-Americans were endeavoring to establish their healthy lives; however, the invisible color-line was still an impediment. Moreover, Du Bois mentioned some black people who fought for their folks through education and religion but were defeated by racism. It is necessary to mention that every chapter starts with the lines from the musical passages, which means the music can be powerful and meaningful despite appearance, race, and gender. The last chapter is dedicated to the spirituals that represent an art form of the African-American layer and connect whole generations.

Du Bois introduced double-consciousness, explaining it as a sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others and measuring one’s soul through to outlook of pity and contempt (1997, 38). The concept remains recurrent throughout the text and refers to having several identities interrelatedly conflicting due to the racialized oppression. A black person trying to accept both characters may lose and reject real himself because of the confusion in his mind.

It is evident that this concept addresses some acute issues, therefore resonates even now, as double-consciousness leads to internal conflict among black people. Contemporary society presupposes pots-racial relationships; however, some would disagree because there are still many colored people trying to reconcile with being both: black and American. However, even if they confess both, the society is likely to react negatively as people are used to standards and patterns. The problem is that social media dictates us day by day that black people are rappers or criminals; therefore white Americans see such models as the only way of their evolution. This aspect is the reason why our perception of Afro-Americans is destructed.

The issue of duality is also addressed through the color-line, expressing the idea that Negroes were inferior in comparison to white people and claiming that black people were excluded from society. A historically known fact that the black race was devalued and oppressed created hardships for black folks to live peacefully. This line did not allow the people of color to access institutions, churches, and other opportunities available to the white population. Thus, they tried to create their own institutions to acquire a feeling of belonging but still were alienated.

Even though this color-line is symbolic and invisible, it continues to differentiate groups of people living within the same community on the level of understanding differences. Wright suggested that each community owns a set of standards, and if a person does not fit one of them, they will be perceived differently and sometimes alienated (2018, 71). This facet is particularly crucial because it deals with the domination and excellency of the white race over the black one. However, these borders are constantly disappearing now, even though it is hard for white people to admit that blacks should have the same rights, privileges, and so on.

Considering the abovementioned things, I believe it is relevant to state that the application of the concept of double-consciousness in contemporary society is not overcome yet. Many black people are still condemned due to the attitude of white people towards their origin and common prejudices, which make it difficult to steer clear of racism. Struggling to accept one’s several identities is truly an issue because modern world prescribed standards that people are supposed to stick to. Du Bois himself urges to leave the confines of racism to dispose of the psychological challenge called “double-consciousness.”

Reference List

Du Bois, W. E. B., Blight David W., and Robert Gooding-Williams. 1997. The Sousl of Black Folk. Boston: Bedford Books.

Wright, Kevin L. 2018. ”The Relevance of Double Consciousness among Black Males in College.” The Vermont Connection, vol. 39 no. 12: 69-76.

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IvyPanda. "The Concept of Double-Consciousness in The Souls of Black Folk." July 21, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-concept-of-double-consciousness-in-the-souls-of-black-folk/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "The Concept of Double-Consciousness in The Souls of Black Folk." July 21, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-concept-of-double-consciousness-in-the-souls-of-black-folk/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'The Concept of Double-Consciousness in The Souls of Black Folk'. 21 July.

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