Marcus Garvey And Du Bois On Blackness Essay


Becoming Black


The concept of "Becoming Black" is based on experiences of racial identity, a sense of cultural consciousness, and the wider notion of Pan-African unity. It is also simultaneously a process of racialization imposed by external forces in the face of the deliberate efforts of Black intellectuals and the wider African diaspora to redefine their narratives and assert their historical and contemporary significance. As a result, many people and their communities have contested racialized theories and have participated in the creation of a global Pan-African identity politics. This paper looks at the meaning of "Becoming Black" to show how these narratives are told and the part that the African identity plays in creating a sense of unity and connection among people of African descent.

The Meaning of Being Black

Howard Winant and W.E.B. Du Bois shed light on how the construction of racial identity was used in society to limit and restrict the movements of blacks. Winant examined race as a central tenet of social relations. Du Bois looked at the idea of double consciousness and what it meant for black people. Their works take different routes to the idea of blackness but both have a sense of what Africa means for the blacks of America and thus both have a sense of the importance of historical awareness. It is this sense that also plays a part in the movement of active resistance in the face of racialized oppression. For both Winant and Du Bois, Africa was a place with a real historical significance that that cast a long shadow and affected the lives of black Americans in the present.

Winant for example argued that race was not an aspect of society that existed on the margins but rather something that constituted a fundamental organizing principle. In America, people were grouped according to racial identity. In saying so, Winant looked past the experience of the individual to the structural and institutional dimensions of racism. He saw a society that was set up to exclude people of African descent from positions of power. In seeing and examining race as a central part of social relations, Winant showed how racial categories are constructed and maintained through social, economic, and political processes. For him, the idea of Africa was something that restricted black peoples movements because European Americans used it as a label to exclude.

Du Bois's concept of "double consciousness" also helps in understanding the African American experience of racial identity. This concept describes the internal conflict experienced by Black individuals who must hold the dual identities of being African and American in a society that devalues their Africanness. Du Bois posits that this "twoness" an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings forces Black individuals to see themselves through the eyes of a society that denies their full humanity.

Both Winant and Du Bois show the importance of historical awareness and active resistance in the face of racialized oppression. Understanding the historical roots and contemporary manifestations of racism is essential for challenging its structures and narratives. Winant's focus on race as a central social axis and Du Bois's concept of double consciousness provide tools for deconstructing racial ideologies and practices.

Gilroy...…foundation for global Black solidarity. Through their stories, we see the enduring impact of displacement and the quest for identity, as well as the resilience and creativity with which individuals and communities navigate their connections to Africa. These perspectives contribute to a richer understanding of the African diaspora's complex history and its ongoing dialogue with the continent of its origins.

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Africa emerges in these narratives as both a literal and symbolic homeland, serving as a focal point for discussions of identity, heritage, and belonging. For writers like W.E.B. Du Bois and Wheatley, Africa represents the roots of civilization and a wellspring of cultural and intellectual richness. The call for unity among people of African descent is rooted in a shared history of exploitation and resistance, as well as a collective aspiration for liberation and self-determination. For Wheatley, however, Christianity was the more important concept and the true equalizer.


The process of "Becoming Black" is thus something different for everyone. It tells a story of a curse, of resistance, self-definition, and community building. Through their writings and activism, Black intellectuals and members of the African diaspora have challenged racialized theories and narratives, to create a Pan-African identity that transcends national boundaries. For some it meant returning to Africa. For others it meant a struggle of conformity. For still others it meant looking past race to identify the spiritual truth that unites and frees all people.


CH Winant Race

CH Du Bois Negroes

Phillis Wheatley, On Being Brought from Africa to America, 1773

Olaudah Equiano, Going Back to Africa as a Missionary or Settler, 1779

Marcus Garvey, Speech in Philadelphia, 1919 and the…

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