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dubois

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W.E.B Du Bois
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Founds the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.
Flees to Ghana in 1961 after being expelled from US government due to his demand for civil
rights for African Americans
Double-consciousness
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born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight* in this American world,––a world which yields
him no true self-consciousness
Structural segregation has profound effects on the soul of the black slave-descendant
racial segregation, in which whiteness becomes normative, shapes a dual experience of Black life in America
hyphenated identity
to merge his double self into a better and truer self
“to analyze the burden he bore upon his back
“Living in two worlds at once” furnishes the minority subjectivity with powers to see what
the majority are blind to.
complex entanglement between opposites across the colour line that create the doubleconsciousness.
Hegel’s Master-Slave dialectic: reciprocity within the two entities
The Negro problem
o The impossibility “for a man to be both a Negro and an American (…) without having
the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face.”
o Burden of the ‘negro problem’ “belongs to the nation” – it must not be shifted
towards African-American themselves
the color line
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‘The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line—the relation of the
darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and in the islands of the sea’.
o Global scale of the color line
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race and the color line are very much part of the foundation the US and US history
o Black people as military and labour forces
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Democracy
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“A true democratic government needs to recognize not only the worth of the individual to
himself, but the worth of his feelings and experiences to all" [in order to realize] "the
broadest justice for all citizens."
Alienation
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Subject group more disenfranchised than alienated so that it is not so much cultural
difference but cultural disfranchisement that most characterises their misrecognition.
Changes in work over time
Class and race
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The abolition of slavery was not a decision to fully emancipate black people in America; it
was the creation of a new working class (from the old condition of forced labour to a new
‘voluntary industry’)
o E.g. Booker T. Washington’s promotion of industrial education for Black folk
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The disfranchisement of the Negro.
The legal creation of a distinct status of civil inferiority for the Negro.
The steady withdrawal of aid from institutions for the higher training of the
Negro. (39)
“To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of
hardships.”
African-Americans remain “a segregated servile caste” – continuity of slavery
Struggle for liberation
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Abolitionist
Emergence of Abolition movements: “a new period of self-assertion and self-development
dawned”
o “ultimate assimilation through self-assertion”
o spiritual, political emancipation is necessary to progress
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Historical-materialist
Slavery is the “the sum of all villainies” (10)
o African-Americans must emancipate themselves to disembody this systemic
suffering, point a way “to a promised land of sweeter beauty than ever stretched
before the eyes of wearied Israelites.”
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Psychological
The ‘color line’ immobilises Black folk
o One needs to “escape white contempt” to emancipate oneself while
= the “double-aimed struggle”
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Reformist (socialist-inspired)
a permanent Freedmen’s Bureau as opposed to one that regards “its work as merely
temporary” (31)
o National system of black schools
o a system of impartial protection before the regular courts
o institutions for social betterment as savings-banks, land and building associations,
and social settlements
Material, structural changes = necessity for emancipation
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Responsibility
Thomas C. Holt looks at DuBois’ ideas over the course of his life, noting his shift from conservatism to
Marxism and socialism, from writing on Black people as “an alien people” to writing on the
systematic alienation of Black people in the U.S. To DuBois, alienation is material, cultural, and
spiritual. DuBois emphasizes the economic base of this alienation, the way in which Black people in
the U.S. are the builders of the economic infrastructure, yet dispossessed of its fruits. The worth of
Black labour and craft is undermined. He writes on the ways Black people are creators of one of a
truly original native culture, yet culturally demeaned. He also speaks to the ways Black Americans are
adherents to the nation’s basic ideals and values, yet shunned, abused, and stigmatized. In this shift
of ideologies, DuBois writes of the responsibility of the Black intellectual, the choice between
assimilation or affirmation of racial solidarity, similar in essence to Fanon. He was also influenced by
Freud, writing of the unconscious and irrational nature of oppression. Similar to Gandhi, diverging
from Fanon and Marx, DuBois spoke frequently of his commitment to non-violence. He also
emphasizes self-recognition as the basis for action and struggle, aligned with Marx’s class
consciousness and Fanon’s national consciousness. He writes that alienation, raised to the conscious
level, cultivated, and directed, has revolutionary potential. This is also aligned with his concept of
second-sight as a result of systematic oppression and alienation, yet a key tool for the revolution. As
DuBois developed an analysis of capitalism through Marx recentered around systematic racism and
disenfranchisement of Black Americans, he began to push for a Black separatist economy. He wrote
that there is no automatic power in socialism to override and suppress race prejudice, that American
capitalism produced a kind of labour aristocracy built on a mud-sill of Black labour. He advocated for
Black power through the consolidation and solidarity of capital. He shifted the talented tenth from a
method to access privilege to a revolutionary vanguard. Holt argues that DuBois did not, however,
foresee the rise of a Black labour aristocracy whose interests and values diverged from the Black
working class. This can be compared to Fanon.
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