English Lit

Topics: African American, Black people, Race / Pages: 2 (472 words) / Published: Apr 7th, 2014
In 1903, Du Bois published his best-known work, The Souls of Black Folk. The book is a collection of essays that analyzed the oppressive conditions African Americans endured under racial segregation. “Jim Crow” was an all-encompassing system of racial subordination under which blacks were disenfranchised, barred from hotels and restaurants, relegated to separate neighborhoods and schools, and limited to the lowest-paying, least-desirable occupations.
In the book's first chapter, “Of Our Spiritual Strivings,” Du Bois explained “double consciousness,” the psychological duality African Americans experienced in a segregated society. He wrote:
The Negro is … gifted with second-sight in this American world,—a world which yields him no true self-consciousness. … It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others. … One ever feels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. (Du Bois 1903, p. 3)
The Forethought
Addressing both white and black readers, Du Bois explains that all people should be interested in understanding the culture of African Americans; if America is ever to achieve racial harmony, he argues, it must understand "the strange meaning of being black." He goes on to outline the main topics of the book, addressing Emancipation, Negro leadership, life within and without the racial divide, the black lower classes, and the legacy of slavery. He closes by setting out to lift the cover, or "the Veil," so all people can see what life is really like for African Americans. He also indicates that each chapter will begin with an excerpt from a Sorrow Song, the songs created by the slaves.

In "Of Our Spiritual Strivings," Du Bois makes reference to the experience of "double-consciousness, this sense

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