Presentation on theme: "The Souls of Black Folk (1903) By W.E.B. Du Bois I have seen a land right merry with the sun, where children sing, and rolling hills lie like passioned."— Presentation transcript:
The Souls of Black Folk (1903) By W.E.B. Du Bois I have seen a land right merry with the sun, where children sing, and rolling hills lie like passioned women wanton with harvest. And there in the King's Highways sat and sits a figure veiled and bowed, by which the traveler's footsteps hasten as they go. On the tainted air broods fear. Three centuries' thought has been the raising and unveiling of that bowed human heart, and now behold a century new for the duty and the deed. The problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line.
Historical Context: Writing in the Wake of a failed Reconstruction 1868 and 1870: The fourteenth and fifteenth amendments pass to recognize black Americans as U.S. citizens, to grant the right to vote, and to provide equal protection under the law. 1865: Freedman's Bureau Bill, which created the Freedman's Bureau, was initiated by President Abraham Lincoln and was intended to last for one year after the end of the Civil War. It was passed on March 3, 1865, by Congress to aid former slaves through legal food and housing, oversight, education, health care, and employment contracts with private landowners. It became a key agency during Reconstruction, assisting freedmen in the South. The Bureau was part of the Unit. Headed by Union Army General Oliver Howard, the Bureau was operational from 1865 to 1872. It was disbanded under President Ulysses S. Grant. At the end of the war, the Bureau's main role was providing emergency food, housing, and medical aid to refugees, though it also helped reunite families. Later, it focused its work on helping the freedmen adjust to their conditions of freedom. Its main job was setting up work opportunities and supervising labor contracts. It soon became, in effect, a military court that handled legal issues. 1872: The modest gains of Reconstruction begin to be violently curtailed, racial terrorism and local politics conspired to keep blacks from the polls, limitations are placed on black employment opportunities and property ownership, and interracial marriages are made illegal. 1884-1900- Over 2000 Blacks are lynched in systematic attempts to deny the voting franchise. 1895- Booker T. Washington delivers his “Atlanta Compromise” 1896- Plessy vs Ferguson- The Supreme Court’s decision marks the abysmal failures of the promises of Reconstruction
The Failure of Reconstruction Part I “The Dawn of Freedom” and the Promise of the Freedmen’s Bureau The passing of a great human institution before its work is done, like the untimely passing of a single soul, but leaves a legacy of striving for other men. The legacy of the Freedmen's Bureau is the heavy heritage of this generation. To-day, when new and vaster problems are destined to strain every fibre of the national mind and soul, would it not be well to count this legacy honestly and carefully? For this much all men know: despite compromise, war, and struggle, the Negro is not free. In the backwoods of the Gulf States, for miles and miles, he may not leave the plantation of his birth; in well-nigh the whole rural South the black farmers are peons, bound by law and custom to an economic slavery, from which the only escape is death or the penitentiary. In the most cultured sections and cities of the South the Negroes are a segregated servile caste, with restricted rights and privileges. Before the courts, both in law and custom, they stand on a different and peculiar basis. Taxation without representation is the rule of their political life. And the result of all this is, and in nature must have been, lawlessness and crime. That is the large legacy of the Freedmen's Bureau, the work it did not do because it could not. Talking Points 1)The Success and Failures of the Freedmen’s Bureau as the “heavy heritage” of the New Negro. 2)From slavery to peonage and second-class citizenship
“The Atlanta Compromise” (1895) Gentlemen of the Exposition, as we present to you our humble effort at an exhibition of our progress, you must not expect overmuch. Starting thirty years ago with ownership here and there in a few quilts and pumpkins and chickens (gathered from miscellaneous sources), remember the path that has led from these to the inventions and production of agricultural implements, buggies, steam-engines, newspapers, books, statuary, carving, paintings, the management of drug stores and banks, has not been trodden without contact with thorns and thistles. While we take pride in what we exhibit as a result of our independent efforts, we do not for a moment forget that our part in this exhibition would fall far short of your expectations but for the constant help that has come to our educational life, not only from the Southern states, but especially from Northern philanthropists, who have made their gifts a constant stream of blessing and encouragement. The wisest among my race understand that the agitation of questions of social equality is the extremist folly, and that progress in the enjoyment of all the privileges that will come to us must be the result of severe and constant struggle rather than of artificial forcing. No race that has anything to contribute to the markets of the world is long in any degree ostracized. It is important and right that all privileges of the law be ours, but it is vastly more important that we be prepared for the exercise of these privileges. The opportunity to earn a dollar in a factory just now is worth infinitely more than the opportunity to spend a dollar in an opera-house.
“Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others” and “The Atlanta Compromise” (1895) Mr. Washington distinctly asks that black people give up, at least for the present, three things,-- First, political power, Second, insistence on civil rights,Third, higher education of Negro youth,--and concentrate all their energies on industrial education, and accumulation of wealth, and the conciliation of the South. This policy has been courageously and insistently advocated for over fifteen years, and has been triumphant for perhaps ten years. As a result of this tender of the palm-branch, what has been the return? In these years there have occurred: 1. The disfranchisement of the Negro. 2. The legal creation of a distinct status of civil inferiority forthe Negro. 3. The steady withdrawal of aid from institutions for the higher training of the Negro. The question then comes: Is it possible, and probable, that nine millions of men can make effective progress in economic lines if they are deprived of political rights,made a servile caste, and allowed only the most meagre chance for developing their exceptional men? If history and reason give any distinct answer to these questions, it is an emphatic NO. And Mr.Washington thus faces the triple paradox of his career. Talking Points (Du Bois’ retorts) 1)Enfranchisement 2)Civic Equality 3)Education according to ability
The Failure of Reconstruction Part II : “The Nation has not yet found peace from its sins; the freedman has not yet found in freedom his promised land.” The bright ideals of the past,--physical freedom, political power, the training of brains and the training of hands,--all these in turn have waxed and waned, until even the last grows dim and overcast. Are they all wrong,--all false? No, not that, but each alone was over-simple and incomplete,--the dreams of a credulous race-childhood, or the fond imaginings of the other world which does not know and does not want to know our power. To be really true, all these ideals must be melted and welded into one. The training of the schools we need to-day more than ever,--the training of deft hands, quick eyes and ears, and above all the broader, deeper, higher culture of gifted minds and pure hearts. The power of the ballot we need in sheer self-defence,-- else what shall save us from a second slavery? Freedom, too, the long-sought, we still seek,--the freedom of life and limb, the freedom to work and think, the freedom to love and aspire. Work, culture, liberty,--all these we need, not singly but together, not successively but together, each growing and aiding each, and all striving toward that vaster ideal that swims before the Negro people, the ideal of human brotherhood, gained through the unifying ideal of Race; the ideal of fostering and developing the traits and talents of the Negro, not in opposition to or contempt for other races, but rather in large conformity to the greater ideals of the American Republic, in order that some day on American soil two world-races may give each to each those characteristics both so sadly lack. Talking Points: 1)The Ballot 2)The Negro Problem as a test of the Republic 3)The partnership of Work, Culture, and Liberty 4)Compare Du Bois’s concerns with Hegel’s nationalist progression towards “Absolute Spirit.” 5)Du Bois’s second and third ideal states? From Athens to Germany. 6)The American Republic as unrealized synthesis
“Forethought”: Neo-Hegelianism Double Consciousness, The Republic, and Africa Part I 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 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. One ever feels his twoness,--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 would not Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has 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 having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face. 207. This unhappy consciousness as estranged within itself and because in its own eyes this contradiction of its essence is one consciousness must always have in one consciousness also that of an other consciousness. But just when it thinks itself to have achieved victory and to have achieved restful unity with the other consciousness, each must once again be immediately expelled from the unity. However, its true return into itself, that is, its reconciliation with itself, will exhibit the concept of the spirit that has been brought to life and has entered into existence, because in it, as one undivided consciousness, it is already a doubled consciousness. It itself is the beholding of a self-consciousness in an other; it itself is both of them; and, in its own eyes, the unity of both is also the essence. However, for itself it is in its own eyes not yet this essence itself, nor is it yet the unity of both "At this point we leave Africa, not to mention it again. For it is no historical part of the World; it has no movement or development to exhibit. Historical movements in it-that is in its northern part- belong to the Asiatic or European World. Carthage displayed there an important transitionary phase of civilization; but, as a Nahoenician colony, it belongs to Asia. Egypt will be considered in reference to the passage of the human mind from its Eastern to its Western phase, but it does not belong to the African Spirit. What we properly understand by Africa, is the Unhistorical, Undeveloped Spirit, still involved in the conditions of mere nature, and which had to be presented here only as on the threshold of the World's History." [Hegel, The Philosophy of History, 99.] DOUBLE CONSCIOUNESS: Talking Points 1)Du Bois’ “Double Consciousness” 2)The overlaps and counterpoint of Du Bois’ theory of double- consciousness and Hegel’s “unhappy conscious” 3)The repositioning of Africa in THE SOULS OF BLACK FOLK vis-a-vis subject-hood, nation, history, and spirit/Spirit/soul
“Forethought” The Metaphor of the Veil and Dual Epigraphs I have sought here to sketch, in vague, uncertain outline, the spiritual world in which ten thousand thousand Americans live and strive. First, in two chapters I have tried to show what Emancipation meant to them, and what was its aftermath. In a third chapter I have pointed out the slow rise of personal leadership, and criticized candidly the leader who bears the chief burden of his race to-day. Then, in two other chapters I have sketched in swift outline the two worlds within and without the Veil, and thus have come to the central problem of training men for life [….] Before each chapter, as now printed, stands a bar of the Sorrow Songs,--some echo of haunting melody from the only American music which welled up from black souls in the dark past. And, finally, need I add that I who speak here am bone of the bone and flesh of the flesh of them that live within the Veil? Talking Points 1)What is the central goal of the work? 2)How does one look behind the veil? 3)Who is “shut-out” by the veil? Is Du Bois claiming dual ground? What gives him his privileged vantage point and status as interlocutor? 4)What relation does Du Bois’ use of dual epigraphs (his use of form) bear to Du Bois’ vision of his race? 5)What two traditions (or consciousnesses) are being brought together by these uses of epigraphs? Hw does this make us think about consciousness with particular respect to the authorship of this book?
“Of Our Spiritual Strivings”: Form and Content How does it feel to be a problem? I remember well when the shadow swept across me. I was a little thing, away up in the hills of New England, where the dark Housatonic winds between Hoosac and Taghkanic to the sea. In a wee wooden schoolhouse, something put it into the boys' and girls' heads to buy gorgeous visiting-cards--ten cents a package--and exchange. The exchange was merry, till one girl, a tall newcomer, refused my card,--refused it peremptorily, with a glance. Then it dawned upon me with a certain suddenness that I was different from the others; or like, mayhap, in heart and life and longing, but shut out from their world by a vast veil. I had thereafter no desire to tear down that veil, to creep through; I held all beyond it in common contempt, and lived above it in a region of blue sky and great wandering shadows. That sky was bluest when I could beat my mates at examination-time, or beat them at a foot-race, or even beat their stringy heads. Alas, with the years all this fine contempt began to fade; for the words I longed for, and all their dazzling opportunities, were theirs, not mine. 179. For self-consciousness, there is another self-consciousness; self- consciousness is outside of itself.2This has a twofold meaning. First, it has lost itself, for it is to be found as an other essence. Second, it has thereby sublated that other, for it also does not see the other as the essence but rather sees itself in the other. Reaction 180. It must sublate its otherness. This is the sublation of that first two-sided ambiguity and is for that reason itself a second two-sided ambiguity. First, it must set out to sublate the other self-sufficient essence in order to become certain of itself as the essence by way of having sublated the other. Second, it thereby sets out to sublate itself, for this other is itself. Talking Points 1)Du Bois’ Bildungsroman 2)Blending the Literary, Biblical, Classical, and Political 3)Double Consciousness as a Fall from Grace 4)Contempt and Longing 5)Realization of Other- hood in Du Bois and in Hegel 6)Refashioning Hegel’s “sublation of self and the Other in the self.”
“Of Our Spiritual Strivings” The Call to Self-Consciousness Up the new path the advance guard toiled, slowly, heavily, doggedly; only those who have watched and guided the faltering feet, the misty minds, the dull understandings, of the dark pupils of these schools know how faithfully, how piteously, this people strove to learn. It was weary work. The cold statistician wrote down the inches of progress here and there, noted also where here and there a foot had slipped or some one had fallen. To the tired climbers, the horizon was ever dark, the mists were often cold, the Canaan was always dim and far away. If, however, the vistas disclosed as yet no goal, no resting-place, little but flattery and criticism, the journey at least gave leisure for reflection and self-examination; it changed the child of Emancipation to the youth with dawning self-consciousness, self-realization, self-respect. In those sombre forests of his striving his own soul rose before him, and he saw himself,--darkly as through a veil; and yet he saw in himself some faint revelation of his power, of his mission. 193. In these terms, the truth of the self- sufficient consciousness is the servile consciousness. At first, this consciousness admittedly appears external to itself7 and not as the truth of self-consciousness. However, in the way that mastery showed that its essence is the topsy-turvy inversion of what mastery wants to be, so too in its consummation will servitude become to an even greater degree the opposite of what it immediately is. As a consciousness forced back into itself, it will take the inward turn and convert itself into true self-sufficiency. Midway upon the journey of our life/ I found myself within a somber forest/For the straightforward pathway had been lost. Ah me! how hard a thing it is to say/ What was this forest savage, rough, and stern,/ Which in the very thought renews the fear. So bitter is it, death is little more;/But of the good to treat, which there I found,/Speak will I of the other things I saw there. I cannot well repeat how there I entered,/So full was I of slumber at the moment./ In which I had abandoned the true way. But after I had reached a mountain's foot,/At that point where the valley terminated,/ Which had with consternation pierced my heart, Upward I looked, and I beheld its shoulders/Vested already with that planet's rays Which leadeth others right by every road. Talking Points 1)What is the Talented Tenth, and how does it function as an advanced guard? Is there an ethical jeopardy 2)THE DIVINE COMEDY as inter-text, Dante the Pilgrim as symbol for the communal project of uplift?, and the dawning of “true” self- consciousness. Why does Du Bois put himself in conversation with Dante and Hegel to articulate the Souls of Black Folk? 3)What are the overlaps and counterpoints between Du Bois post Reconstruction Subject’s journey towards self- consciousness, that of Hegel’s account in the Dialectic of Lordship and Bondage, and Dante’s pilgrimage?
Neo-Hegelianism Double Consciousness, The Republic, and Africa (the Darker Ones) Part II THE “OFFERING” TO THE REPUBLIC: We the darker ones come even now not altogether empty-handed: there are to-day no truer exponents of the pure human spirit of the Declaration of Independence than the American Negroes; there is no true American music but the wild sweet melodies of the Negro slave; the American fairy tales and folklore are Indian and African; and, all in all, we black men seem the sole oasis of simple faith and reverence in a dusty desert of dollars and smartness. 197. On the one hand, to the self-sufficient self-consciousness, its essence is merely the pure abstraction of the I. However, on the other hand, since this abstract I develops itself and gives itself distinctions, this distinguishing does not become in its own eyes an objective essence existing-in- itself. This self-consciousness thus does not become an I that is genuinely self- distinguished in its simplicity, that is, an I remaining-in-parity with itself within this absolute distinction. In contrast, pressed back into itself and as the form of the culturally shaped thing, consciousness becomes in formative activity an object to itself, and, in the master, it intuits being- for-itself at the same time as consciousness. However, to the servile consciousness as such, both of these moments come undone from each other – the moments of itself as the self-sufficient object, and this object as a consciousness and thereby its own essence. – However, since for us, that is, in itself, the form and the being-for-itself are the same, and since in the concept of self- sufficient consciousness being-in-itself is consciousness, the aspect of being-in-itself, that is, thinghood, which received its form through labor, is no other substance but consciousness itself, and, for us, a new shape of self-consciousness has come to be, a consciousness that in its own eyes is essence as infinity, that is, the pure movement of consciousness which thinks, that is, free self-consciousness. This distinction between himself as an individual and the universality of his essential being, the African in the uniform, undeveloped oneness of his existence has not yet attained; so that the Knowledge of an absolute Being, an Other and a Higher than his individual self, is entirely wanting. The Negro, as already observed, exhibits the natural man in his completely wild and untamed state. We must lay aside all thought of reverence and morality-all that we call feeling-if we would rightly comprehend him; there is nothing harmonious with humanity to be found in this type of character. The copious and circumstantial accounts of Missionaries completely confirm this, and Mahommedanism appears to be the only thing which in any way brings the Negroes within the range of culture." [Hegel, The Philosophy of History (New York: Dover, 1956), 93.] Talking Points 1)How does Du Bois position the dialectical progression of the full realization of the American republic? 2)Is Du Bois Black Soul akin to Hegel’s servant? How and how not (if at all)? If wholly not, how would you characterze the differences? 3)Recall the difference between synthesis and sublation. What does Du Bois imply will be sublate (and what will be shed) in a realized Republic? Is there a higher ground (or grounds) implied with respect to one particular race? If so, who occupies that ground? Is a stable occupation? Why or why not? In short, who gives what to the new Republic and what do they also have to give-up? 4)How is Hegel recapitulated here? How does Du Bois refashion Hegel, especially with respect to thinghood, consciousness, history, and, in particular, African consciousness. Why is it of particular significance(s) that Du Bois does this in this forum? 5)Multiple claims to, on, and from The Declaration of independence 6)What do Du Bois and Washington both value (here), that Plato (and Dubois years later) categorize as pernicious? What do you make of this categorization?