Song of Solomon

A Separate Identity: Song of Solomon as Black Literature College

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. 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 simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American.

--W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk

This quote from Du Bois describes what he termed “double consciousness,” which is the idea that blacks must understand their own unique American identity by simultaneously seeing themselves in two separate ways: first, as black, with their own unique cultural traditions and history, and second, in the manner that whites would view them. Having to experience life through a split identity produces unique tensions and challenges that must be overcome in order for a black member functioning within the larger, more dominant white society to construct his or her own self-concept. In Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, the main male character, Milkman, must come to an understanding of...

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