Claude McKay: Poems

Double Consciousness and the Harlem Renaissance College

In W.E.B. DuBois’ The Souls of Black Folk, he introduces two concepts which are key to understanding what life is like for the modern Black American. These concepts are: Double Consciousness, and the Veil. These two concepts are intrinsically linked; to understand Double Consciousness requires understanding the Veil, and vice-versa. Double Consciousness refers to the idea that Black Americans live in two separate Americas: white America— where they are forced to behave according to the social protocol of white America and where they must live up to the expectations non-Black Americans have for Black Americans— and Black America, where there is an entirely distinct protocol. “It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness,” writes DuBois. “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. 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.” (Souls of Black Folk 885) The Veil represents the cause and effect of Double Consciousness. In his essay, “The Veil of...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 739 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 4400 literature essays, 1440 sample college application essays, 178 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in