Web Du Bois and Double Consciousness

Tags: Racism, Double consciousness, The Souls of Black Folk

W.E.B. Du Bois: Double-Consciousness
Ashanti Johnson
Lestine Shedrick
October 18, 2011

W.E.B. Du Bois (1968-1963) was a huge contributor to sociology through the eyes and experience of an African-American scholar (Vissing, 2011). Du Bois was an author, activist and student of Black sociology. In his 1897 article, Strivings of the Negro People”, Du Bois introduced the term “double-consciousness”, a concept I believe to be just as relevant in today’s African-American communities. Double consciousness refers to what Du Bois considered an absence of “true self consciousness” (Du Bois, 1897) amongst Africans in America. In place of that absence, lies a dual awareness- awareness of one’s self combined with an awareness of how others perceive you. Is being an American a contradiction to Black identity, even in contemporary society? In his 1903 book, ‘The Souls of Black Folk’, Du /bois gives an analysis of African-Americans and double-consciousness, that Black people are caught between separate self conceptions, as an American and as an African. “The negro ever feels his two-ness, an American, a negro, two souls, two warring ideals and one dark body whose dogged strength keeps it from being torn asunder” (Du Bois, 1903). Du Bois broke his concept of double-consciousness down into three manifestations: First, the power of White stereotypes on Black life and thought. Second, racism and the exclusion of Black Americans from mainstream American society. Lastly, Du Bois points out the internal conflict between being of African descent and being an American. What is the power and influence of White stereotypes on the everyday lives of African-Americans today, in the 21st century? We live in a society that, many could argue, is saturated with Black culture. Commercial television, film and radio are largely influenced by African-American language, imagery and music. Examples of what used to be considered African-American youth vernacular, have seeped...
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