Morning Activity: Meet at the Eiffel Tower. We will collectively analyze and discuss images from “Du Bois Albums of Photographs of African Americans in Georgia Exhibited at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1900” and “Double Consciousness” excerpt from Souls of Black Folk  (below) as they relate to World Fair architecture. Be prepared to share the photographs that you selected in your blog post the night before and to discuss them in-depth. Also be prepared to possibly revise your previous blog post based off of our conversation.

Small Group Afternoon Activity Option #1: Meet at the Bois de Vincennes for discussion of World’s Fairs in Paris. At this site, you will study the architectural remnants and gardens of the Paris Colonial Exhibition (1931), a monument for black soldiers that died for France, a colonial troops monument, the ruins of the Congo pavilion, and the new Indochina Pavilion.

  1. With your small group, take photos of the architectural remnants/ruins of the Congo Pavilion. Discuss as a group and then write a small post about what role ruins have in the Parisian landscape as it relates to the often forgotten past of racial exploitation, negative racial representations in Worlds Fairs, and black life in France.

Small Group Afternoon Activity Option #2: Meet at the Great Mosque of Paris (open 2PM to 6PM only). For this activity, please dress modestly.

  1. Monument Study: This Mosque was built as a gift in 1926 as a token of gratitude for the Muslim soldiers throughout the French colonial empire who fought and died on behalf of France in World War I. As a small group, reflect on black soldiers that died for France and consider what it means to be a citizen or belong to/fight for a place that does not give you federal recognition. How does this still happen today? Compare this war monument to the Arc. How is this similar or different from other monuments built for black Frenchmen (like the replica Djenne mosque in Frejus, southern France): https://en.frejus.fr/monuments/sudanese-mosque-or-missiri/)
  2. Compare and contrast this mosque with monuments to African American soldiers in France – monuments to American soldiers overseas from WWI and WWII are weirdly common–what similarities or differences do you see? https://www.abmc.gov/learning-resources/lesson-plans/commemorating-african-american-soldiers-france

Readings:

  • James W. Cook, “Finding Otira: On the Geopolitics of Black Celebrity,” Raritan(Fall 2014), 84-111. 2013
  • *Excerpt, David L. Lewis, A Small Nation of People: WEB Du Bois & African American Portraits of Progress (Library of Congress, 2003).
  • Patricia A. Morton, “National and Colonial: The Musee des Colonies at the Colonial Exposition, Paris, 1931,” The Art Bulletin 80 (2), June 1998, 357-377.
  • Shawn Michelle Smith, “Looking at One’s Self Through the Eyes of Others”: WEB Du Bois’s Photographs for the 1900 Paris Exposition” African American Review Vol. 34, No, 4 (Winter, 2000), p. 581-599.

“Double Consciousness” excerpt from WEB Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk

Chapter I

‘Of Our Spiritual Strivings’

O water, voice of my heart, crying in the sand,
  All night long crying with a mournful cry,
As I lie and listen, and cannot understand
    The voice of my heart in my side or the voice of the sea,
  O water, crying for rest, is it I, is it I?
    All night long the water is crying to me.

Unresting water, there shall never be rest
  Till the last moon droop and the last tide fail,
And the fire of the end begin to burn in the west;
    And the heart shall be weary and wonder and cry like the sea,
  All life long crying without avail,
    As the water all night long is crying to me.
ARTHUR SYMONS.

“Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it. All, nevertheless, flutter round it. They approach me in a half- hesitant sort of way, eye me curiously or compassionately, and then, instead of saying directly, How does it feel to be a problem? they say, I know an excellent colored man in my town; or, I fought at Mechanicsville; or, Do not these Southern outrages make your blood boil? At these I smile, or am interested, or reduce the boiling to a simmer, as the occasion may require. To the real question, How does it feel to be a problem? I answer seldom a word.And yet, being a problem is a strange experience,–peculiar even for one who has never been anything else, save perhaps in babyhood and in Europe. It is in the early days of rollicking boyhood that the revelation first bursts upon one, all in a day, as it were. I remember well when the shadow swept across me. I was a little thing, away up in the hills of New England, where the dark Housatonic winds between Hoosac and Taghkanic to the sea. In a wee wooden schoolhouse, something put it into the boys’ and girls’ heads to buy gorgeous visiting- cards–ten cents a package–and exchange. The exchange was merry, till one girl, a tall newcomer, refused my card, –refused it peremptorily, with a glance. Then it dawned upon me with a certain suddenness that I was different from the others; or like, mayhap, in heart and life and longing, but shut out from their world by a vast veil. I had thereafter no desire to tear down that veil, to creep through; I held all beyond it in common contempt, and lived above it in a region of blue sky and great wandering shadows. That sky was bluest when I could beat my mates at examination-time, or beat them at a foot-race, or even beat their stringy heads. Alas, with the years all this fine contempt began to fade; for the words I longed for, and all their dazzling opportunities, were theirs, not mine. But they should not keep these prizes, I said; some, all, I would wrest from them. Just how I would do it I could never decide: by reading law, by healing the sick, by telling the wonderful tales that swam in my head, –some way. With other black boys the strife was not so fiercely sunny: their youth shrunk into tasteless sycophancy, or into silent hatred of the pale world about them and mocking distrust of everything white; or wasted itself in a bitter cry, Why did God make me an outcast and a stranger in mine own house? The shades of the prison-house closed round about us all: walls strait and stubborn to the whitest, but relentlessly narrow, tall, and unscalable to sons of night who must plod darkly on in resignation, or beat unavailing palms against the stone, or steadily, half hopelessly, watch the streak of blue above.After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world, –a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, 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.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 would not Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face.This, then, is the end of his striving: to be a co-worker in the kingdom of culture, to escape both death and isolation, to husband and use his best powers and his latent genius. These powers of body and mind have in the past been strangely wasted, dispersed, or forgotten. The shadow of a mighty Negro past flits through the tale of Ethiopia the Shadowy and of Egypt the Sphinx. Through history, the powers of single black men flash here and there like falling stars, and die sometimes before the world has rightly gauged their brightness. Here in America, in the few days since Emancipation, the black man’s turning hither and thither in hesitant and doubtful striving has often made his very strength to lose effectiveness, to seem like absence of power, like weakness. And yet it is not weakness,–it is the contradiction of double aims. The double-aimed struggle of the black artisan–on the one hand to escape white contempt for a nation of mere hewers of wood and drawers of water, and on the other hand to plough and nail and dig for a poverty-stricken horde– could only result in making him a poor craftsman, for he had but half a heart in either cause. By the poverty and ignorance of his people, the Negro minister or doctor was tempted toward quackery and demagogy; and by the criticism of the other world, toward ideals that made him ashamed of his lowly tasks. The would-be black savant was confronted by the paradox that the knowledge his people needed was a twice-told tale to his white neighbors, while the knowledge which would teach the white world was Greek to his own flesh and blood. The innate love of harmony and beauty that set the ruder souls of his people a-dancing and a-singing raised but confusion and doubt in the soul of the black artist; for the beauty revealed to him was the soul-beauty of a race which his larger audience despised, and he could not articulate the message of another people. This waste of double aims, this seeking to satisfy two unreconciled ideals, has wrought sad havoc with the courage and faith and deeds of ten thousand people,–has sent them often wooing false gods and invoking false means of salvation, and at times has even seemed about to make them ashamed of themselves.”

 

Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt), 1868-1963. Letter from W. E. B. Du Bois to John R. Shillady, October 9, 1919 Concerning Pan African Congress in 1919 & WWI Black Soldiers. W. E. B. Du Bois Papers (MS 312). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.

Readings

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rhae Lynn Barnes is an Assistant Professor of American Cultural History at Princeton University (2018-) and President-Elect of the Andrew W. Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography. She is the co-founder and C.E.O. of U.S. History Scene and Executive Advisor to the documentary series "Reconstruction: America After the Civil War" (PBS, 2019).

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