The Process of Attaining Freedom
In W.E.B. Du Bois’ “The Souls of Black Folks” 1903 and Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” 1952 both authors convey that the “double consciousness” of the African American is what is slowing down their race’s progress towards true freedom in American society. After Emancipation occurred African Americans were expected to take their freedom wholeheartedly and fit into society contently. This is not what ended up happening. Slavery took on a different form for African Americans who had, “thought and dreamed, slavery was indeed the sum of all villainies, the cause of all sorrow, the root of all prejudice” (Du Bois 10). They were now succumbed to a mental slavery, denying them true freedom in American society. Hundreds of years of racism, segregation, and prejudice left African Americans looking at themselves through the eyes of their oppressors causing strife and low self esteem. These negative repercussions are reflected in these two works and are manifested in a self contradicting consciousness identified by the authors.
In Du Bois’ “The Souls of Black Folks” he describes how the double consciousness weakens the African American’s spirit. Du Bois explains that the African American wishes for a true self conscious, one that is not clouded by racial stigma and doubt. The average black only wishes to be, “both a Negro and an American without being cursed and spit upon by fellows” (Du Bois 9). But this simple freedom cannot be attained until the African American is able to “merge his double self into a better and truer self” (Du Bois 9). The double consciousness causes one to feel constantly torn and undermined and therefore less powerful. Du Bois recognized that this lack of pride and power is what was keeping freedom an unreachable reality for blacks.
In the first chapter of his story, “The Invisible Man”, Ellison delivers his version of double consciousness as whites fomenting black conflict. Ellison expresses the internal...
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