Double- Consciousness & Internationalism: An Excerpt From My Thesis

possibly my favorite book on this topic... :)
possibly my favorite book on this topic... :)

In my discussion of the United States federal government campaign against Black militancy- which was essentially a war against ideas, an attempt to suppress the civil rights discourse- I have touched on the topic of dual- consciousness.  Especially during the Cold War, the federal campaign against Black militancy employed a loose definition of ‘militancy,’ considering moves for reform and political dissent militant ideas.  The Black community was deemed disaffected and unpatriotic despite the 40.000 who served in World War 1, and the 2.5 million Blacks who registered in the draft, and the 909.000 who served in the armed forces in World War II.  In a sense, they were disaffected- as a marginalized, disenfranchised, and persecuted minority relegated to second- class citizenship, African- Americans possessed a level of consciousness that threatened challenges to the status quo. But they were not disaffected in the way that government officials such as Atty. Gen. Palmer assumed.  The Negro was not “seeing Red,” nor were they susceptible to the influences of Communism and Socialism.  Rather, the African- American was engaging in a global struggle for equality and self- determination.

…This dual- citizenship is the politicized equivalent to the double-consciousness discussed by W.E.B. DuBois, Ralph Ellison, and Richard Wright in the early twentieth century.  This double- consciousness moved beyond mere African-American exceptionalism, allowing for a Pan-African, trans Atlantic conceptions of history and struggle.   In his 1903 work, The Souls of Black Folk, DuBois described the Negro as one who was born with a veil.  This veil afforded the Negro “no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world.”34  DuBois’ conception of the Negro was characterized by a ‘twoness;’ he was both African and American, and both identities were distinct.  Ralph Ellison, author of Invisible Man, explored the limits of this ‘double- consciousness’ stretching DuBois’ spiritual and psychological ‘double- consciousness’ to social and economic paradigms.35   Paul Gilroy’s discussion of of the Black Atlantic downplays the tensions of this ‘twoness,’ casting the hybridity of the African diasporic community in wholly positive terms.  Breaking down double-consciousness into three modes: thinking (racial), being (nationalistic) and seeing (diasporic), Gilroy ties DuBois’ construction of ‘double-consciousness’ with Pan-Africanist impulses.36  Robeson fits into this discussion because his trans-Atlantic internationalism coupled with his dual consciousness emancipated him from the limitations of nationalism, resisting the essentialism implicit in assumptions of national homogeneity.37  Double-consciousness afforded Robeson American-ness and African-ness in a manner that allowed for criticism of American domestic policies, while permitting him to speak on the behalf of the world’s disenfranchised people of color.”

Sources Below:

34 DuBois, W.E.B. The Souls of Black Folk. Signet Classic. New York. 1995. pp. 45

35 Lyne, William. “The Signifying Modernist: Ralph Ellison and the Limits of the Double Consciousness”. Modern Language Association, Vol. 107, No. 2 (Mar., 1992), pp. 319-318. accessed 09/03/2009

36 Gilroy, Paul. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. 1993). pp. 126

37 Dayal, Samir. “Diaspora and Double Consciousness”. The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association, Vol. 29, No. 1 (Spring, 1996), pp. 48. accessed: 09/03/2009

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