Summary of Double Consciousness by Du Bois

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The term “double consciousness” was first introduced in an 1897 article by Du Bois in the Atlantic Monthly called “Strivings of the Negro People.” It was later included in his collection of essays, The Souls of Black Folk, under the title “Of Our Spiritual Strivings.” W. E. B. Dubois, an American sociologist and intellectual, developed this concept to explain the conflicting experiences faced by black individuals in the United States. According to Dubois, being black meant lacking a true sense of self-awareness, as blacks often saw themselves through the lens of white America’s general disdain.

Being both black and American, I experienced conflicts between the social ideals of America, which were also embraced by black people. However, DuBois perceived that black individuals were disconnected from mainstream American society. Du Bois termed this phenomenon “double consciousness” as a state in which one is unable to obtain true self-awareness, only being able to perceive oneself through the perspectives of others. This sensation of double consciousness entails continuously viewing oneself through the eyes of others and evaluating one’s worth based on the standards of a world that regards them with disdain and pity.

One always experiences their duality – being both American and Negro; having two conflicting souls, two opposing thoughts, two unresolved aspirations; having two competing ideals within one oppressed body that only its unwavering strength prevents from being torn apart” [1]. This duality of being both African and American creates psychological and social tensions, compelling individuals or groups to recognize their existence in two different social realms and perceive themselves as both insiders and outsiders. This split consciousness and disadvantaged social position contribute to their sense of identity.

Du Bois argues that black individuals’ mental well-being is negatively impacted when they are aware of their dual existence, as it undermines their morality. He calls this phenomenon “double consciousness,” which refers to constantly perceiving oneself from the viewpoint of others. Du Bois believes that African Americans have historically struggled to attain self-awareness and integrate their two selves into a more genuine and enhanced version.

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Summary of Double Consciousness by Du Bois. (2017, Mar 09). Retrieved from

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