Lifting the Veil

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Striving to Live Above the Veil

W.E.B. Du Bois's The Souls of Black Folk, a collection of autobiographical and historical essays contains many themes. Themes such as souls and their attainment of consciousness and the theme of double consciousness appear in many of the compositions. However, one of the most prominent themes is that of "the veil." The veil provides a connection between the 14 seemingly unconnected essays that make up this book. Mentioned at least once in most of the essays the veil is the stereotypes that whites bring to their interactions with blacks. African Americans are prejudged as incapable and thus not given a chance to prove themselves. This can become a self-fulfilling prophecy if one is told they can't do something, they may internalize that belief and think they can't, when in fact they can. Du Bois puts it as, “this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others" (Du Bois 2). The veil is a metaphor for the separation and invisibility of black life and existence in America; also a way to represent the idea of blacks living in a “white world”.

The veil is symbolic of the invisibility of blacks in America. Du Bois says that Blacks in America are a forgotten people, "after the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil" (Du Bois 2). The invisibility of Black existence in America is one of the reasons why Du Bois writes The Souls of Black Folk, in order to explain the "invisible" history and strivings of Black Americans, Du Bois writes in the forethought, "I have sought here to sketch, in vague, uncertain outline, the spiritual world in which ten thousand Americans live and strive" (v). Du Bois in each of the following chapters tries to build the idea of Black existence from that of the reconstruction period to the black spirituals and the stories of rural black children that he tried to educate. Du Bois in the book is contending with...
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