The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man

Shedding the Veil: DuBois' Double Consciousneess in Johnson and Locke

W. E. B. Du Bois, in The Souls of Black Folk, seems to be speaking for a raceless society where the quality of one's character was the sole basis for being judged. Yet this is not what Du Bois saw in his day and it is not what we see today. The idea of race is still much distorted in many peoples' minds, and it leads them to misjudge historical and current phenomena. So it seems that not only was the color line the problem of the twentieth century, as Du Bois claimed, but also of the twenty-first. This is why James Weldon Johnson's novel Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man is still such a relevant work. The novel demonstrates the true meaning of Du Bois' theory of double consciousness, and it also shows the responses blacks may have to their current state "within the Veil"; further Johnson seems to support both Locke and Du Bois in their reasoning that the ultimate aim should be a society where double consciousness could not exist because the discourse becomes one of absolute equality.

Before The Autobiography can be understood as a representation of double consciousness, the idea itself needs to be examined. As Adolph L. Reed Jr. argues in W. E. B. Du Bois and American Political Thought: Fabianism...

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