Strivings of the Negro People: A Critical Response of W.E.B. DuBois

Two different souls in one body. An African soul and an American soul, both trying to figure out how to coexist within the same person. In W.E.B. DuBois’ article, entitled Strivings of the Negro People, he opens of the world to the idea of double consciousness. As I read the article it became clear to me that DuBois believed as an African American he had trouble finding a way to identify himself. He didn’t like being called African American but he also didn’t want to be called Negro. DuBois goes to say, “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.” This makes me wonder, what makes an American an American?

As a white female growing up in today’s society I very rarely had a question about my identity. I am an American. I decent from a lineage of European family. A little Irish here and English there. But I don’t know anything about my lineage other than that I was born in American. The color of my skin does not immediately give away my lineage. So when people ask me what I am I say I’m an American. I’ve never said Caucasian American. So why do we refer to black people as African American. Are they not just American’s?

It was interesting to hear DuBois’ thoughts on the matter. To feel caught between 2 cultures, the “whiteness” of America and the “darkness” of Africa, is a new concept to me. It makes me question if this is how every black person feels in this country.

DuBois confuses me a little bit with his sentence structure. A lot of them are run on sentences and while they sound nice I have trouble creating a clear image in my head. When I read things I try to paint a picture or a scene. I read the article as if he is giving a very powerful lecture. But it is going over my head. While I read I wanted to get on board with whatever it was he was preaching.

While explaining his concept of double consciousness Dubois also shares his optimism about the future. he acknowledges that black people have made a lot of historical headway in the sense of gaining their freedom, but also states that things need to be more equal in the future. “Freedom, too, the long-sought, we still seek,—the freedom of life and limb, the freedom to work and think.” He knew things weren’t equal and things still had to change. He knew change would come and freedom would come. And hoped that America, in time, would stop seeing the world as black and white. But just looking at people as people. An American as an American. No need for race to be an issue. No need to question one’s identity. I think by freedom he means the freedom to be an American and not have to feel separated or outcast by society due to the color of your skin. I hope one day the world will get to this point.

DuBois, W. E. B. “Strivings of the Negro People.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, n.d. Web. 14 Sept. 2016.
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