February is Black History Month

To kick off Black History Month, here’s a quote from W.E.B Du Bois, a scholar, activist and the first African-American to earn a doctorate from Harvard, on what it means to be a soul divided in America. He speaks here to the “American Negro” in the early 1900s, but his words reverberate even into today, for all of us of any color, race, sex, and religion. He talks about merging his Negro soul with his American soul, and explains that the coexistence of the two is what he wants, not the denial of one or the other. When we are allowed to let all of what makes us “us”—our race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.—we do indeed gain access to our better and truer selves.

According to his biography, “in 1903 W.E.B Du Bois published his seminal work, The Souls of Black Folk, a collection of 14 essays. In the years following, he adamantly opposed the idea of biological white superiority and vocally supported women’s rights. In 1909, he co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and served as the editor of the association’s monthly magazine, The Crisis.”

Here’s the quote!

From The Souls of Black Folk (1903)

“The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife–this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He would not Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face.”

When he speaks of Opportunity with a capital O, he isn’t speaking about chance or luck, but about unfettering the circumstances of one’s existence. Words of wisdom!

Jane at Nomad

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