Black Folk Essay, Research Paper

The Different Conceptions of the Veil in The Souls of Black Folk

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& # 8220 ; For now we see through a glass, in darkness & # 8221 ;

-Isiah 25:7

W.E.B. Du Bois & # 8217 ; s Souls of Black Folk, a aggregation of autobiographical

and historical essays contains many subjects. There is the subject of psyches and

their attainment of consciousness, the subject of dual consciousness and the

dichotomy and bifurcation of black life and civilization ; but one of the most dramatic

subjects is that of & # 8220 ; the veil. & # 8221 ; The head covering provides a nexus between the 14 apparently

unconnected essays that make up The Souls of Black Folk. Mentioned at least one time

in most of the 14 essays it means that, & # 8220 ; the Negro is a kind of 7th boy,

born with a head covering, and gifted with 2nd sight in this American universe, -a universe

with outputs him no true uneasiness, but merely lets him see himself

through the disclosure of the other universe. It is a curious esthesis, this

dual consciousness, this sense of ever looking at one & # 8217 ; s self through the

eyes of others. & # 8221 ; Footnote1 The head covering is a metaphor for the separation and

invisibleness of black life and being in America and is a reoccurring subject

in books abo ut black life in America.

Du Bois & # 8217 ; s veil metaphor, & # 8220 ; In those drab woods of his endeavoring his

ain psyche rose before him, and he saw himself, -darkly as though through a

head covering & # 8221 ; Footnote2, is a allusion to Saint Paul & # 8217 ; s line in Isiah 25:7, & # 8220 ; For now we

see through a glass, darkly. & # 8221 ; Footnote3 Saint Paul & # 8217 ; s usage of the head covering in Isiah and

subsequently in Second Corinthians is similar to Du Bois & # 8217 ; s usage of the metaphor of the

head covering. Both authors claim that every bit long as one is wrapped in the head coverings their

efforts to derive uneasiness will neglect because they will ever see the

image of themselves reflect back to them by others. Du Bois applies this by

claiming that every bit long as on is behind the head covering the, & # 8220 ; universe which yields him no

self-consciousness but who merely lets him see himself through the disclosure of

the other world. & # 8221 ; Footnote4 Saint Paul in Second Corinthians says the manner to self

consciousness and an understanding prevarications in, & # 8220 ; the head covering being taken off, Now the

Godhead is the spirit and where the spirit of the Godhead is there is liberty. & # 8221 ; Du

Bois does non claim that exceeding the head covering will take to a better

apprehension of the Godhead but like Saint Paul he finds that merely through

exceeding & # 8220 ; the head covering & # 8221 ; can people accomplish autonomy and derive uneasiness.

The head covering metaphor in Souls of Black Folk is symbolic of the

invisibleness of inkinesss in America. Du Bois says that Blacks in America are a

disregarded people, & # 8220 ; after the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the

Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a kind of 7th boy, born with a

veil. & # 8221 ; Footnote5 The invisibleness of Black being in America is one of the

grounds why Du Bois writes Souls of Black Folk in order to clarify the

& # 8220 ; unseeable & # 8221 ; history and nisuss of Black Americans, & # 8220 ; I have sought here to

study, in vague, unsure lineation, the religious universe in which ten 1000

Americans live and strive. & # 8221 ; Footnote6 Du Bois in each of the undermentioned chapters

attempts to attest the nisuss of Black being from that of the

Reconstruction period to the black spirituals and the narratives of rural black

kids that he tried to educate. Du Bois in Souls of Black Folk is coping

with seeking to set up some sense of history and memory for Black Americans,

Du Bois struggles in the pages of the book to forestall Black Americans from

going a Seventh Son invisible to the remainder of the universe, hidden behind a head covering

of bias, & # 8220 ; Hear my Cry, O God the reader vouch safe that this my book autumn

non still born into the world-wilderness. Let there spring, Gentle one, from its

foliages energy of idea and thoughtful title to harvest the crop

wonderful. & # 8221 ; Footnote7 The invisibleness of Black being is a repeating subject

in other books about Black history. In Raboteau & # 8217 ; s book slave faith is called,

& # 8220 ; the unseeable establishment of the antebellum South. & # 8221 ; Footnote8 Raboteau tries to

uncover and convey to illume the spiritual patterns of Black slaves, he tried to

conveying their history out of the head covering. Rabatoeu writes how faith for slaves was

a manner in which, & # 8220 ; slaves maintained their individuality as individuals despite a system

set on cut downing them to a subhuman degree & # 8230 ; In the thick of bondage faith

was for the enslaved a infinite of significance, freedom, and transcendence. & # 8221 ; Footnote9

Because slave faith was an unseeable establishment hidden by a head covering from white

slave Masterss it provided a manner in which slaves could defy societal decease. The

history of Black adult females is besides the history of a people made unseeable ; conceal

behind the head covering. Bell Hooks in her survey of Black adult females and feminism attempts to

bring to illume the disregarded yesteryear of black adult females who have besides been hidden

behind a head covering, & # 8221 ; Traditionally, bookmans have emphasized the impact of bondage

on the black male consciousness, reasoning that black work forces more so than black adult females

were the existent victims of slavery. & # 8221 ; Footnote10 To Bell Hooks the head covering which makes

black adult females unseeable to white society is made from an inseparable fabric woven

from the togss of racism and sexism. The Black Reconstruction period is

another country in which bookmans have grappled with the effects of the head covering

which has hidden the history of black nisus and battle from position. Eric

Foner & # 8217 ; s book on the Reconstruction was the first major survey of the period since

Du Bois & # 8217 ; s book on the period 50 old ages earlier.Footnote11 The Reconstruction

which Foner footings America & # 8217 ; s unfinished revolution could besides be called American

unseeable revolution due to the deficiency of scholarship on the country. The most

striking illustrations of the subject of the head covering and invisibleness is in literature

about Blacks fighting with their individuality and with subjugation. In Beloved

Setha & # 8217 ; s rational for killing her kid can non be understood by the white constabulary

system which sentence her to prison. In Ralph Ellison & # 8217 ; s Invisible Man the chief

character says, & # 8220 ; I am an unseeable adult male, No I am non a creep like those that

haunted Edgar Allan Poe ; nor am I one of your Hollywood film ectoplasm & # 8217 ; s. I am

a adult male of flesh and bone, fibre and liquids- and I might even be said to possess

a head. I am unseeable understand because people refuse to see me. & # 8221 ; Footnote12

Ralph Ellison & # 8217 ; s unseeable adult male like the history of black adult females, bondage,

Reconstruction, and many other elements of black life are hidden behind & # 8220 ; the

head covering & # 8221 ; doing them unseeable to much of society.

The head covering is besides a metaphor for the separation both physically and

psychologically of inkinesss and Whites America. Physically the head covering offprints

inkinesss and Whites through Slavery, Jim Crow Torahs, economic inequality, and the

voluntary segregation that followed the terminal of the civil war. The veil Acts of the Apostless as a

physical barrier that for good brands black Americans as an & # 8220 ; other & # 8221 ; ; the head covering

is the metaphorical manifestation of the train paths that divide the black and

white parts of town. Du Bois in Chapter two lays out the creative activity of the head covering

from the terminal of the civil war to the failure of Reconstruction. The following

chapters so tell of those who have acted to beef up the head covering such as Booker

T. Washington or who suffered behind the head coverings such as the school kids Du

Bois taught.

The head covering besides acts as a psychological barrier dividing inkinesss from

Whites. The subject of the psychological separation of inkinesss and Whites is a

cardinal metaphor of the book get downing with the first lines where Du Bois callbacks

his brushs with Whites who view him non as a individual but as a job, & # 8220 ; They

half attack me in a half-hesitant kind of manner, oculus me oddly or

pityingly, and so alternatively of stating straight how does it experience to be a

job? They say, I know an Excellent coloured adult male in my town. & # 8221 ; Footnote13 The

head covering in this instance hides the humanity of inkinesss which has of import deductions

to the types of dealingss that developed between inkinesss and Whites. With their

humanity hidden behind & # 8220 ; the head covering & # 8221 ; black and white dealingss at the clip of the

authorship of the Souls of Black Folk were marked by force: bill of exchange public violences in New

York during the Civil War, riots following the Reconstruction period, the

lynching of Blacks, and the formation of the Klu Klux Klan.Footnote14

The subject of separation caused by the head covering is repeated in many other

black texts. In Raboteau & # 8217 ; s book slave spiritual patterns were separate from

white spiritual practices.Footnote15 Although many clip slaves and their Masterss

worshipped together faith during the slavery period provided to really divide

things for maestro and slaves. For the maestro faith was a manner to warrant

slaveryFootnote16 and for slaves faith became a signifier of opposition and hope ;

a manner to defy societal decease. In Eric Foner & # 8217 ; s book on Reconstruction a head covering

separated black and white readings of reconstruction.Footnote17 For

inkinesss Reconstruction was a clip of hope and freedom ; for wh

ites Reconstruction

was a clip in which the North repressed a defeated part, with nescient former

slaves, who unable to move constructively for themselves were pawns of the

northern interlopers. The head covering, a metaphor for separation both physically and

psychologically hides the humanity of inkinesss, and created deep divisions between

the rac e. Du Bois in Souls of Black Folk unlike other inkinesss is able to

move around the head covering, operate behind it, lift it, and even exceed it. In the

premeditation Du Bois tells the reader that in the undermentioned chapters he has,

& # 8220 ; Stepped with in the head covering, raising it that you may see faintly its deeper

deferrals, -the significance of its faith, the passion of its human sorrow, and the

battle of its greater souls. & # 8221 ; Footnote18 Du Bois in the first Chapter stairss

outside the head covering to uncover the beginning and his consciousness of the head covering. And it is

Du Bois & # 8217 ; s consciousness of the head covering that allows him to step outside of it and uncover

the history of the Negro, & # 8220 ; his two-ness, -an American, a Negro, two psyches, two

ideas, two unreconciled nisuss, two warring ideals in one dark

body. & # 8221 ; Footnote19 Now that he has lifted the head covering in the undermentioned chapters Du

Bois shows his white audience the history of the Black adult male following

Reconstruction, the beginnings of the black church. Du Bois so talks about the

conditions of persons populating behind the head covering from his first born boy who,

& # 8220 ; With in the head covering was he born, said I ; and there with in shall he populate, -a Negro

and a Negro & # 8217 ; s boy & # 8230 ; . I saw the shadow of the head covering as it passed over my babe, I

saw the cold metropolis looming above the blood read land. & # 8221 ; Footnote20 In this transition

Du Bois is both with in and above the head covering. He is a Negro life like his babe

within the head covering but he is besides above the head covering, able to see it go through over his

kid. After Du Bois & # 8217 ; s child dies he prays that it will, & # 8220 ; sleep till I sleep,

and rouse to a babe voice and the ceaseless spiel of small feet-above the

veil. & # 8221 ; Footnote21 Here Du Bois is populating above the head covering but in the followers

Chapter he one time once more travels behind the head covering to state the narrative of Alexander

Crummell a black adult male who for, & # 8220 ; fourscore old ages had he wondered in this same

universe of mine, within the Veil. & # 8221 ; Footnote22 Du Bois so in the last Chapter

& # 8220 ; Sorrow Songs & # 8221 ; go back into the head covering from which he came, to return to the

religious. Du Bois & # 8217 ; s ability to movearound the head covering could make some confusion

as to whether the author is black. For this ground Du Bois says in his

debut says that, & # 8220 ; I who speak here am bone of the bone and flesh of the

flesh of them that live within the veil. & # 8221 ; Footnote23 Du Bois & # 8217 ; s ability to travel in

and out of the veil gives him the ability to expose to Whites that which is

obscured from their position. It besides lends Du Bois authorization when talking about

his capable affair for he entirely in the book is able to run on both sides of

the head covering.

In the Chapter on & # 8220 ; Sorrow Songs & # 8221 ; Du Bois implores the reader to lift

above the head covering, & # 8220 ; In his good clip America shall rip the head covering and the captive

shall travel free. & # 8221 ; Footnote24 Du Bois likens the head covering to a prison that traps Blacks

from accomplishing advancement and freedom. Harmonizing to Du Bois the head covering causes Blacks

to accept the false images that whites see of Blacks. Du Bois although non

explicitly in Souls of Black Folk review & # 8217 ; s Booker T. Washington for accepting

the head covering and accepting white & # 8217 ; s thoughts of Blacks. Booker T. Washington an

accomidationist accepts the white thought that inkinesss are job people ; non a

people with a job caused by white racism.Footnote25 Booker T. Washington

seeks to work behind the head covering by prosecuting constabularies of adjustment. Du Bois in

contrast wants inkinesss to exceed the head covering by politically fomenting and

educating themselves.

Du Bois & # 8217 ; s construct of the head covering contradicts some of the other subject & # 8217 ; s

in Souls of Black Folk. First, how can the job of the 20th century be

that of the color-line when inkinesss are unseeable behind a head covering of bias?

Second, how can Du Bois speak from behind the head covering as he does in parts of

certain chapters and yet show a resemble review of society? Third, how can

the head covering both make inkinesss unseeable and separate them at the same clip and do

the separations so evident to society. Fourth, how can Du Bois say inkinesss are

gifted with & # 8220 ; 2nd sight & # 8221 ; when Du Bois says inkinesss are looking at their yesteryear

and present through a head covering? And Fifth, Du Bois & # 8217 ; s prescription for raising the

head covering, instruction and political activism, are merely little stairss to raising the

smothering Fe head covering that keeps inkinesss unseeable and separated from white America.

Du Bois & # 8217 ; s metaphor has restrictions and internal contradictions ; but these

internal contradictions are minor compared to the power that & # 8220 ; the head covering & # 8221 ; has as a

symbol of black being in America.

The head covering in Souls of Black Folk is a metaphor that connotes the

invisibleness of black America, the separation between Whites and inkinesss, and the

obstructions that inkinesss face in deriving uneasiness in a racialist society.

The head covering is besides a metaphor that reoccurs in other novels about black nisuss.

The head covering is non a two dimensional fabric to Du Bois but alternatively it is a three

dimensional prison that prevent inkinesss from seeing themselves as they are but

alternatively makes them see the negative stereotypes that Whites have of

them.Footnote26 The head covering is besides to Du Bois both a blind crease and a snare on the

being of & # 8220 ; ten thousand thousand & # 8221 ; Americans who live and strive invisible and

separated from their white brothers and sisters. Du Bois wrote Souls of Black

Folkss to raise the head covering and demo the hurting and sorrow of a striving people. Like

Saint Paul & # 8217 ; s missive to the Corinthians Du Bois & # 8217 ; s & # 8220 ; missive & # 8221 ; to the American people

impulses people non to populate behind the head coverings but to populate above it.

So, wed with truth,

I dwell above the Veil.

Is this the life you grudge us, O knightly America?

-W.E.B. Du Bois


W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk ( New York: Bantam Company, 1989 ) 3.


Ibid. , 6.


Arnold Rampersad, Slavery and the literary imaginativeness: Du Bois & # 8217 ; s The Souls of

Black Folk ( Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1989 ) 104-125.

Rampersad in his book says that Du Bois & # 8217 ; s metaphor of the head covering is an allusion to

Saint Paul & # 8217 ; s missive to the Corinthians.


W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk ( New York: Bantam Company, 1989 ) 3.


Ibid. , 3.


Ibid. , xxxi.


Ibid. , 189.


Albert Rabatoteau, Slave Religion: The unseeable establishment & # 8220 ; in the Antebellum

South & # 8221 ; ( Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980 ) 212-318.


Ibid. , 318.


Bell Hooks, Ain & # 8217 ; T I a Womans: black adult females and feminism ( Boston: South End Press,

1981 ) 20.


Eric Foner, Reconstruction America & # 8217 ; s Unfinished Revolution ( New York: Harper & A ;

Row Company, 1989 ) xix-xxvii.


Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man ( New York: Random House Publishing, 1990 ) 3.


W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk ( New York: Bantam Company, 1989 ) 1.


Eric Foner, Reconstruction America & # 8217 ; s Unfinished Revolution ( New York: Harper & A ;

Row Company, 1989 ) 119.


Albert Rabatoteau, Slave Religion: The unseeable establishment & # 8220 ; in the Antebellum

South & # 8221 ; ( Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980 ) 294-300. Harmonizing to Rabatoteau

slaves stressed the shops of Exodus and the Sermon on Mount therefore supplying them

with hope in the darkness of bondage.


Slave proprietors out particular accent on subdivisions of the Bible which justified

bondage, such as the Hamitic Hypothesis, the Apostle Paul & # 8217 ; s missive to Phileon a

slave proprietor, and the Hebrew Slaves.


Eric Foner, Reconstruction America & # 8217 ; s Unfinished Revolution ( New York: Harper & A ;

Row Company, 1989 ) xxi-xxiv..


W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk ( New York: Bantam Company, 1989 ) xxxi.


Ibid. , 3.


Ibid. , 147.


Ibid. , 151.


Ibid. , 153.


Ibid. , xxxii.


Ibid. , 187.


August Meier, Negro thought in America 1880-1915 ( Ann Arbor: University of

Michigan Press, 1966 ) 230-232.


Paula Giddings, When and Where I Enter ( New York: Quill William Morrow, 1984 )

184. Paula Giddings points out how black adult females were stereotyped into three

classs, the sexless enduring Aunt Jamima, the seductive enchantress Jezebel,

and the evil manipulative Sapphire. These are merely some of the negative

stereotypes of Blacks that formed on the white side of the head covering.


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