W. E. B. Du Bois's The Souls Of Black Folk

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W. E. B. Du Bois was an American sociologist, historian and civil rights activists who lived during the period of ‘reconstruction’ following the end of slavery in the US. He was an important figure in the fight for racial justice and a theorist of race and racism as a social formation. He was particularly interested in the devastating effects that living in segregation has on the souls and consciousness of black people. In his work ‘The Souls of Black Folk’ (1903), Du Bois coined the term ‘double consciousness’ (1903). This is the idea that black people are at all times conscious of how they view themselves, as well as being conscious of how the world views them.The term describes an inward ‘two-ness’ (Du Bois, 1903) which was experienced by…show more content…
Third, I will examine the criticism put forward by Molefi Kete Asante, who argued that ‘double-consciousness’ should not be seen as a universal feature of black life in America since it only applies to African-Americans in certain positions in society. However, I will conclude that through looking at modern society we can see that Du Bois’ work continues to be influential and thus must be taken to be a sound investigation into ‘The Souls of Black Folk’.

In the first chapter of ‘The Souls of Black Folk’, Du Bois defined ‘double consciousness’ as a ‘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’ (1903). Du Bois emphasised the feeling of inner conflict African-Americans feel: being Black, where you are labeled as a ‘problem’ (1903) and are ignored, pitied and stigmatised, and being American, which serves as a constant reminder of a legacy of oppression. He wrote that ‘One ever feels his two-ness, -an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled
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