WEB Dubois “the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world”

I just finished “The Souls of Black Folk”  written in 1903 by WEB Dubois and it was the hardest book I have ever read for leisure.

WEB wrote a national bestseller that describes the lifestyles and conditions of Black Folk after the Civil War, post Emancipation. There were several great insights but his writing style made it hard to read straight through and sift through. Scholars always refer to this book, so I felt a need to read it and share my thoughts of this book. Every time I wanted to put the book down, I kept replaying the saying that says, “If you put it in a book, then you can hide it from a black man”. This thought follows me constantly as I pick up new books and seek to learn. This thought probably originally came about during the time, where education of blacks was seen as a risk for White Americans during slavery and this thought has followed the souls of many black folk since.

Below is the first statement that stuck out to me in this book after I sifted through the additional words:

“After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world,—a world which yields him no 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. One 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.

The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife,—this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He does not wish to Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa; he does not wish to bleach his Negro blood in a flood of white Americanism, for he believes—foolishly, perhaps, but fervently—that Negro blood has yet a message for the world. He simply wishes 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 losing the opportunity of self-development.”




About Brian K Rice, www.briankrice.com

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One Response to WEB Dubois “the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world”

  1. briankrice says:

    Many still live with a similar double conscious today. We have adopted and been forced into so many traits over the years that we as a whole still live behind the veil that WEB stresses in his book. (The veil of the color line, the veil of opportunity, the veil of cultural traits, the veil of poverty, the veil of learned negative habits, the veil of ignorance)

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