Madonna R. Stengel
In the selections, Forethought, Chapter I and Chapter V from W.E.B. De Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk, the author is attempting to explain the inner struggle playing out in the subconscious of African-American’s minds following the era of reconstruction, as well as offer his common sense solutions to this matter. He refers to this battle of dueling realities within the mind as double consciousness, using “the veil” as a metaphor to illustrate the isolation and sometimes the protection felt when living within the veil. He attempted to help African-Americans, as well as whites find peace with each other and within their souls, by being true to themselves, instead of accepting the ascribed identities or being the offenders who ascribe those identities.
This theme of autonomy and injustice is obviously a common thread of many African American authors, although De Bois takes the concepts a bit further by analyzing ascribed vs. avowed identity and the reality of human limitations. The message, especially in Chapter V is a forward thinking, broad view that involves setting ethical priorities, educating people appropriately, while not allowing imposed limitations regarding race, gender or socio-economics to hold some back nor the stumbling block of human limitations hold other back. Therein lies the difference between De Bois and some other authors, who endeavor to empower by offering only grandiose ideals without common sense solutions.
W.E.B De Bois was very concerned with this dual consciousness theory and image of the “veil” as an approach to bringing broad understanding to the African-American experience. He believed that it was important for African-Americans to recognize this phenomenon, but equally important was the education and recognition of those who imposed the “veil.” De Bois is implying, not so subtly, with the veil analogy that it’s a tool to separate and diminish whoever is wearing...