Home > Catalogue > Annali di Ca’ Foscari. Serie occidentale > 51 | 2017 > Reappropriation of ‘blackness’ in “The Song of the Smoke” by W.E.B. Du Bois

Reappropriation of ‘blackness’ in “The Song of the Smoke” by W.E.B. Du Bois

Adriano Elia    Università degli Studi Roma Tre, Italia    



W.E.B. Du Bois’s poem “The Song of the Smoke” (1907) is a vehicle for a political statement of affirmation of racial pride. As Du Bois writes: “I will be black as blackness can– | The blacker the mantle, the mightier the man! | For blackness was ancient ere whiteness began”. In only three lines Du Bois manages to condense effectively his ideas on the problem of the “color line”: a new, positive connotation of the term ‘black’ encouraging a growing racial awareness and a historical (re)vision(ism) that, on the grounds of Herodotus’s speculations revealing that the ancient Egyptians were black, denied the routine commonplace of Africa as a synonym of primitivism and backwardness. Strangely enough for someone who had been accused of not being black enough, like a poet/prophet Du Bois insists on the idea of blackness as an element of distinction through a figurative language characterized by evocative metaphors and repetitions. “The Song of the Smoke” is therefore a groundbreaking poem if one considers the spreading of the ideas of ‘Black power’ and ‘Black is beautiful’ in the 1960s and the later cultural reevaluation and reappropriation of the slang term ‘nigga’.

Sept. 28, 2017
March 29, 2017
March 7, 2017

Keywords: Du BoisBThe Song of the SmokeEWThe Color LineBlackness

Copyright: © 2017 Adriano Elia. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.