Musical/Textual Double Consciousness in W.E.B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk
Besides introducing groundbreaking critical concepts such as double consciousness, colour line and the veil, W.E.B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk (1903) was among the first books to attribute universal dignity to black music. It did so by devoting a whole chapter to the ‘sorrow songs’, seen as “the articulate message of the slave to the world”, as well as by opening each chapter with epigraphs composed of bars of ‘black’ spirituals juxtaposed with lines of poetry by notable ‘white’ authors – Symons, Lowell, Byron, among others – in a musical/textual version of double consciousness. Reconsidering the composite formal structure of The Souls of Black Folk and the role of the spirituals as ceaseless reminders of freedom, the paper explores the ways in which Du Bois’s speculations on black music foreshadow contemporary sonic/textual strategies.