by Reiland Rabaka
With roots in nineteenth-century psychological and philosophical discourse, the concept of double-consciousness was primarily popularized by W. E. B. Du Bois in his classic work The Souls of Black Folk (1903). He brought the term into twentieth-century social, political, racial and cultural thought and innovatively used it to capture and convey African Americans’ feelings of dissonance and dividedness between their distant African ancestral homeland and their present American environment. Du Bois first used the term in an 1897 Atlantic Monthly article titled “Strivings of the Negro People.” It was subsequently revised and republished under the title “Of Our Spiritual Strivings” in 1903 in The Souls of Black Folk. Several of Du Bois’s key contributions to African American studies, if not American studies more generally speaking, arising out of The Souls of Black Folk, revolve around the dilemmas and dualities or, rather, the conundrums and complexities of what it means to be black in a white-dominated world.