William E.B. Dubois

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William E.B. Dubois

William Edward Burghardt DuBois was born in 1868, two years after slavery was abolished, in Great Barrington, MA. Born a free man in the North, during the dawn of the twentieth century, W.E.B. DuBois was able to receive an extensive education. Throughout his life he grew more and more cognizant of the politics, education, religion, and economics that shaped the American system and separated the peoples that lived there. Although he was granted the fortune of education and freedom, he was forever torn between his dark coloring which distinguished him from others. Furthermore, he was disillusioned by his unfulfillment of American ideals.

Establishing an identity for DuBois was extremely complex, and in his classic piece,The Souls of Black Folk, published in 1903, he developed the idea of double consciousness, a concept which has haunted the African American since the sixteenth century.

...the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with a second-sight in this American world,- a world which yields him no true self consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.*(215)

DuBois had to draw a line betweeen how others perceived him and his own self perception. He also had to experience and grow inside and outside of the veil, the racialized boundary created by the dominant culture of the Europeans. Yet there were times when he managed to amuse himself within the veil and make the most of the life he was born into.

Then it dawned...

... middle of paper ...

...irresistably toward the Goal, out of the Valley of the Shadow of Death, where all that makes life worth living--Liberty, Justice, and Right--is marked 'For White People Only'"*(349)

Eventually DuBois moved to Ghana and left America behind him. He'd become a bit exasperated with his race and as he grew older, his ideas were considered more and more radical. His feelings of alienation were inevitable, for a great number of people were reluctant to accept Pan-Africanism and the Communist-inspired socialism that he had begun to advocate.


*DuBois, William E.B. Three Negro Classics: The Souls of Black Folk. New York: Avon Books,1965.

**Franklin, Robert Michael. Liberating Visions: Human Fulfillment and Social Justice in African-American Thought. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990.

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