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The Double Consciousness

The Double Consciousness

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Published by kissintherainxo
The following is an essay revolving around the idea of the "double consciousness," a phrase coined by W.E.B.Du Bois.
The following is an essay revolving around the idea of the "double consciousness," a phrase coined by W.E.B.Du Bois.

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Published by: kissintherainxo on Sep 04, 2010
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11/13/2010

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Gonzales 1Gonzales, Analysa MProfessor Ernest TsacalisEnglish 13017 July 2010The Double Consciousness³There are forces which, by segregating the American Negro socially, economically, andculturally, make him long for some avenue of escape from the stifling atmosphere he iscompelled to breathe.´-
 
Charles I. GlicksbergThe truth in this statement is difficult to deny, if not impossible. The evidence of itsvalidity lies throughout our vast country¶s history of involuntary servitude, violence, and abuse.Perhaps the only phrase or statement to be made that has contained in it more fervor than evenGlicksberg¶s, is that of W. E. B. DuBois when he coined the phrase
double consciousness
. Thesheer power evoked by such a seemingly simple term is both wondrous and extremely thought provoking. Understanding exactly what DuBois was referring to, however, proves a challenge allits own as it requires the understanding of the history that derived it. Identifying with the truehorrors of which so many African Americans experienced ±even in the century after their emancipation in 1863- can prove to be a difficult task for those who have never experienced thekind of adversity that plagued society throughout the duration of the early twentieth century (aswell as those preceding it). Running its course like a pestilent disease, society¶s unwillingness tochange lead to the tragic and rather long segment of history that America is least proud of. Evensadder is that today, many of the symptoms of those turbulent times are often overlooked, and
 
Gonzales 2consequently deter many from obtaining a true comprehension and appreciation of thoseingenious minds such as W.E. DuBois and Ralph Ellison. Today, it is no wonder why Ellison¶s
 I 
nvisible Man
received the honors it did after its 1952 publication. The first chapter alone retainsa remarkable and unyielding strength about it in the way it captivates the
 
true meaning of thedouble consciousness concept while addressing the
real 
social problem that plagued society.In order to fully grasp the concept presented within Ellison¶s work, one must trace thesteps back in history from which the African American male derived this sense of 
two-ness
thatmade him neither African nor American; but rather, a being caught in between two conflictingworlds -or as Stonequist phrased it, a man ³placed simultaneously between two looking-glasses,each presenting a different image,´ (7). One should begin in the early 1900¶s, when data published by Morris Viteles suggested that children of the Negro populace were largely a year or more behind others their own age in terms of education. Consequently, the stereotyping of black  people as unintelligent might as well have been an established fact during the time period,considering that the idea of an ³intelligent negro´ was virtually nonexistent. In addition, debateon the issuances of civil rights, was heated as ever after the war in which so many had foughtvaliantly for freedom (which arguably, was never truly achieved). While the EmancipationProclamation declared their release from involuntary servitude, it expressed nothing of thoseGod-given rights that the white community so thoroughly enjoyed. With this realization, themajority of African Americans -regardless of their levels of education- agreed that the directionin which the country was
 
headed was one of continuous strife for the black community. Knowingthis, it is easy to understand why the rise of Booker T. Washington created such a stir amongAmerican society. As DuBois pointed out in his criticism of Washington¶s Atlanta ExpositionAddress, ³it startled the nation to hear a Negro advocating such a programe,´ (par 4) ±a program
 
Gonzales 3that had been the source of the deep and chaotic debate. The white populace, of course, loved theman and his idea that so fittingly matched their own. So long as he complied with the white population, he was seen as
the
intellectual of the black community.
 
The response, however,wasn¶t one that would be shared unanimously among both blacks and whites. Contrary to whatnumerous text books claim, Booker T. Washington¶s Atlanta Exposition of 1895 did not generatethe wonderful and completely positive response many have been taught to believe. Yes, thewhite community adored him, but in no way did the black community champion him. As DuBoissaid in his criticism, Washington¶s speech did little to advance the black community in the rigidcaste that was American society; it instead stunted their growth and arguably took them ten steps back. The problem, then, ultimately resided in the three things Washington was willing to giveup, the three things that the black community had suffered so much for in order to gain: political power, insistence on civil rights, and higher education for their youth. His suggestions evidently backfired on the black community as it disenfranchised them and legally made them inferior tothe white race. Those who refused to support or accept him as their spokesman argued that hewas a leader through
lack of selection
by the white supremacists. Having advocated equal rights preceding the Exposition, it angered his fellow African Americans that he was taking such a passive stance and accepting that they were a lower race. It¶s no mere coincidence, then, thatEllison framed the narrator¶s grandfather as a meek and ³traitorous´ character to his own people;and it is from this realization that one of Ellison¶s intentions in writing his novel becomesextremely clear: to express why a passive philosophy would not work. Due to the ambiguity of his grandfather¶s story, it isn¶t immediately obvious whether the allusion to Booker T.Washington is intentional since the reader does not yet understand what exactly makes one a³traitor to their race.´ However, by the time the narrator is giving his speech right after the Battle

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