The Souls Of Black Folk by Du Bois

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Lynch is a writer and teacher in Northern New Mexico. In the following essay, she examines ways that the text of The Souls of Black Folk embodies Du Bois' experience of duality as well as his "people's." In Du Bois' "Forethought" to his essay collection, The Souls of Black Folk, he entreats the reader to receive his book in an attempt to understand the world of African Americans—in effect the "souls of black folk." Implicit in this appeal is the assumption that the author is capable of representing an entire "people." This presumption comes out of Du Bois' own dual nature as a black man who has lived in the South for a time, yet who is Harvard-educated and cultured in Europe. Du Bois illustrates the duality or "two-ness," which is the function of his central metaphor, the "veil" that hangs between white America and black; as an African American, he is by definition a participant in two worlds. The form of the text makes evident the author's duality: Du Bois shuttles between voices and media to express this quality of being divided, both for himself as an individual, and for his "people" as a whole. In relaying the story of African-American people, he relies on his own experience and voice and in so doing creates the narrative. Hence the work is as much the story of his soul as it is about the souls of all black folk. Du Bois epitomizes the inseparability of the personal and the political; through the text of The Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois straddles two worlds and narrates his own experience. Du Bois expands on his reference to duality and the "veil" in "Of Our Spiritual Strivings" with the explanation, "It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of ot... ... middle of paper ... ...Songs" Du Bois wonders, "Would America have been America without her Negro people?" Apparently he concludes it would not. In his aim to represent the African-American people to mainstream America, Du Bois offers his own narrative, in a variety of voices, to represent the whole. His various means of expression represent his particular experience, which is in many ways exceptional and outside of the norm for his time. This sets him apart from the mainstream of black America, yet also highlights his experience of dualism as an African American. Despite the fact that as a cultured Northerner he has access to the resources of white America, his testimony shows that he is "bone of the bone and flesh of the flesh of them that live within the Veil." Source: Jennifer Lynch, Critical Essay on The Souls of Black Folk, in Nonfiction Classics for Students, The Gale Group, 2001.

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