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Double Consciousness and the American Narrative Essay

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The American Narrative includes a number of incidents throughout American history, which have shaped the nation into what it is today. One of the significant issues that emerged was slavery, and the consequent emancipation of the slaves, which brought much confusion regarding the identification of these new citizens and whether they fit into the American Narrative as it stood. In The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B Dubois introduces the concept of double consciousness as “the sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others” (Dubois 3). This later became the standard for describing the African-American narrative because of the racial identification spectrum it formed. The question of double consciousness is whether African-Americans can identify themselves as American, or whether the African designation separates them from the rest of society. President Barack Obama and Booker T. Washington, who both emerged as prominent figures representing great social change and progress for the African-American race in America, further illustrate the struggle for an identity.
DuBois presents the question “[h]ow does it feel to be a problem?”, introducing the attitude towards African-Americans upon their emancipation (DuBois 3). The idea of freedom for slaves meant equality, but “the freedman has not yet found in freedom his promised land […] the shadow of a deep disappointment rests upon the Negro people” (6). The challenge faced during this time was how to deal with the now freed slaves who once had no rights. DuBois states that African-Americans merely wish “to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly i...


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...outcast group of that set range attempt to conform themselves. The meaning of who is an American continues to change gradually over time, embracing different cultures and races into that definition, but the task is nowhere near completion as long as the hyphenated racial classifications and double consciousness still exist.



Works Cited

Bumbaugh, Steve. “Barack Obama: Next in a Long Line of Bi-cultural Black Leaders.” The Washington Post. Dec. 7, 2012. Web. April 5, 2014
Du Bois, W. E. Burghardt. The Souls of Black Folk. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Co.1903. Print. 1-12
Washington, Booker T. Up from Slavery, An Autobiography. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc. 1963. Print. 218-237



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