Sociologist of the twentieth century is the

Sociologist and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois wrote The Souls of Black Folk in 1903 during the Jim Crow era, where the prevailing ideology was that the white and black races were “separate, but equal”. In reality, however, the races were separate and markedly unequal. In the book, we see that Du Bois realized early on that regardless of talent, many opportunities were not available for him. The social conditions present led black people to doubt themselves and view themselves as worthless and inferior to the white people. This self-doubt was an inevitable component of what Du Bois coined “double consciousness”. He also introduced the concepts of the veil and the color line as a means of provoking Americans to think about race. Du Bois provides a reminder of the difficulties of merging identities for African-Americans and the problems and hardships they must go through, some of which still exist in 21st Century America. The color line, which separates the white race from colored people, exists symbolically and figuratively. Du Bois said that “the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line” (10). It separates two groups of people, based on the color of their skin. While these two groups live within the same country, they have vastly different experiences due to the color-line. Du Bois gives us an example of this when he tells us the story of two Johns, one white and one black. While listening to a song in a theater in New York, black John “closed his eyes and grasped the elbows of the chair, touching unwittingly the lady’s arm. And the lady drew away” (175). He was asked to leave because “some mistake had been made in selling him a seat already disposed of”, but on the way out he noticed his old childhood friend, white John, and realized that white John was the person that wanted him kicked out (176). As long as the color line existed, it would be difficult for African Americans to gain the same level of success as the more dominant white race. When black John tries to get permission to open up a school for the black community, he must speak to a white Judge, who is interestingly also the father of white John. The Judge tells him “Now I like the colored people, and sympathize with all their reasonable aspirations; but you and I both know, John, that in this country the Negro must remain subordinate, and can never expect to be the equal of white men” (180). As the Judge says, the color line prevented blacks from ever becoming equal to whites. He does allow John to open the school, but says to “accept the situation and teach the darkies to be faithful servants and laborers” instead of trying to “put fool ideas of rising and equality into these folks’ heads, and make them discontented and unhappy” (180). The color line is, the veil and double consciousness are the three most important concepts in Du Bois’s book and some of the main issues that black people were and still are faced with.Du Bois introduces the concepts of double consciousness and the veil. Double consciousness is the internal conflict between what it meant to a black person to be both African and American. As he says, “It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity” (3). Through this concept, Du Bois hoped to make everyone aware that black people had souls too, and that both races were equal to one another. But society made blacks feel inferior to whites, through education and wealth. White people generally were more educated than the average black person at the time. The white people were also generally more wealthy and still held some power from the civil war. While the Emancipation Proclamation physically freed African Americans, they were still figuratively enslaved. Even when given the rights to vote, they were given tests that many whites could not even pass. In twenty-first century America, we like to say that we have created true equality for all, but in reality, there are still remnants of the twentieth century that have carried on. Du Bois felt that blacks had to view themselves through the eyes of the more superior white people. He says that the black people were “born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world, –a world which yields him no self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world” (3). He also says that “One ever feels his twoness,–an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder” (3). Black people had to look at the opinions of the white people and how they would look at the blacks. A black person getting an education, like black John from before? Absurd. Unusual. Du Bois proved that an education, while providing opportunity for black people, also alienated them from their communities. Black John was alienated from his community, especially when he tried to explain to everyone at church social and racial injustices. It was difficult for him to merge his identity of an educated black man with the ideals of the traditional black community. But Du Bois also says that what Blacks really wanted, was to not, “Africanize America, for America had too much to teach the world and Africa. Neither would blacks bleach their Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for they knew that Negro blood had a message for the world. They simply wished 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 their face” (3). Blacks wanted equality and the ability to be both African, and American. To maintain their roots and heritage, yet be a part of an American society that looked down on blacks.Du Bois argued that black community was essentially shut off from the world by a “vast veil.” In chapter 4 of his book, we learn that in Du Bois’ search for a school to teach at, he must go to a white commissioner to receive a certificate that would ultimately allow him to do so. When he goes to ask for this certificate, he rides along with a white man who is attempting to do the same. Upon arriving, he is treated as an equal and ultimately granted the certificate he needed. However, despite everything he had achieved and his being granted his certificate to teach, Du Bois realized that he lived within this “veil”. No amount of education could erase the prejudice that he and all blacks lived within. Even if he would worked his whole life to overcome this veil, it may never be possible. Du Bois, however, uses this as an opportunity to provide the opportunity and hope to people who did not have access to education or the same limited opportunities that he did.In The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois presents his concepts of double consciousness, the veil that shrouded blacks, and the color line that separated blacks from whites. Du Bois also provides a reminder to us of the difficulties of merging identities for African-Americans and the problems and hardships they must go through, some of which carried over from the twentieth century to present day America.