#FlashbackFriday #FBF: DuBois’ “Double Consciousness” – Black History Month and Beyond

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.

– W.E.B. DuBois in “Of Our Spiritual Strivings” from The Souls of Black Folk

When I was a student in college, I remember taking a class on the Harlem Renaissance where I read from an anthology of works from Zora Neale Hurston, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, and many others. One of the writers that I remember the most was W.E.B. DuBois. My professor classified him as the first black academician in the United States at that time, gaining the first Ph.D. from Harvard University. Something struck in me about his history and ideology.

As a natural intellectual, DuBois challenged young people to raise above their circumstance to achieve greatness. While the debate between Booker T. Washington and himself was challenging (because both sides are very valuable points), I remember feeling empowered to answer that call. I knew I wanted to be MORE than my skin color, age, and gender. Whatever my career would be, I wanted to be the best – not the best BLACK FEMALE professional, but the BEST professional!

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

Sometimes in class, I have to catch myself when selecting supplementary materials for my class. I tend to be unconsciously drawn to traditional black film (you probably can tell from my new pictures on my blog’s homepage) and literature. But to be the BEST, I need to diversify (and ultimately challenge) my selections, reflecting the multicultural fabric that is the American experience. In other words, there are many other people besides white and black, right?


However, the concept of assimilation into a dominant culture is not new; it is an experience that is shared by people of many different genders, sexual orientations, cultures, ethnicities, and nationalities. So how can I as an instructor tap into this issue without being superficial in my exploration through literature? Embrace the diversity!

Literature by nature is based on personal experience and who would say that this experience is uniform?! No way! Just as we all have different connotations what love is, we have equally varied interpretations of literature and storytelling.

Michelle Obama And Tom Vilsack Discuss New USDA Nutrition Standards For School Lunches

So I will embrace “double consciousness” and expand it to reach every student in each of my classes. Let’s see how this works!

4 thoughts on “#FlashbackFriday #FBF: DuBois’ “Double Consciousness” – Black History Month and Beyond

  1. angelique92 says:

    I disagree with DuBois, that people have a sense to look at themselves through another’s eyes. You want to be more than your skin color, age, and gender, but I think a lot of people want to be the best at something because of those same reasons; to prove that in despite of these things, I can still do whatever I wish. And there are a lot of writers that do not receive the recognition they deserve, and if you can present these people to your students (like me) then maybe we will learn more.

    • aavin22193 says:

      I disagree with DuBois, people should not limit themselves with the thought of race, gender or age. It obvious that the system uses seperation to keep people from thinking outside the box. We all have an innate ability to accomplish anything we set our minds on, but by thinking inside the box, we limit these abilities by an abundance amount.

      -Mustapha Sankoh

  2. I believe that we choose literature (or any type of media in general) based on personal experience. Who can relate better to us then some of our own kind? It makes sense to be drawn to examples of literary works written by people of your race because there are bound to be similarities, whether they be social or otherwise. However, it is also a good idea to access literature with people you don’t identify with. That way, you are exposed to differing points of view. Being exposed to the points of view could help you better understand the world around you.
    –Sabrina Nemerow

  3. What Angelique and Mustapha are addressing an interesting point about public perspection of individuals. But what I think is missing is some historical and cultural context. In the Obama Era where having an African American president in the White House is “normal” and gender/cultural/ethnic/economic/social/sexual orietation differences are commonly embraced, it is easy to for many of us to assume that this environment had been going on for many generations. That is not true. At the time of the Harlem Renaissance (1930s), Harlem was the only mecca for cultural expression of the African American experience. Before then, there was W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington. Look them up and read about the history at that time period (after the Civil War up until the 1930s). All people saw was color. At that time, being the first African American academician (getting a Ph.D. at a Caucasian Ivy League of Harvard) was EXTRAORDINARY!

Very Interesting.

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