Racial Oppression and Striving for Freedom in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. Du Bois’ “The Souls of Black Folk”
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. Du Bois’ “The Souls of Black Folk” are concerned with the exploration of similar social issues. Douglass and Du Bois draw their readers’ attention to the problem of racial intolerance and discrimination in America and demonstrate the pernicious consequences entailed by these phenomena. Thus, in their literary pieces, both writers explore the damaging effects of racial oppression and celebrate African Americans’ striving towards emancipation and self-implementation in a white-dominated world.
In his Narrative, Douglass emphasizes the disparities between whites and blacks and expresses his resentments over the atrocities committed by white slave owners. Thus, from the beginning of his narrative, the author accentuates the oppression and unfair treatment black slaves endure in their masters’ house. The author makes it clear that he managed to realize the corrupting effects of racism in his childhood, when he witnessed the privileges denied to “blacks” being bestowed upon white children (Douglass, ch. 1). The writer also condemns white men for being unable to restrain their “lust” and “wicked desires” (Douglass, ch. 1). Douglass severely criticizes slaveholders for impregnating their female slaves, severing mother-child bonds, and immoral disposing of their own offspring equated to the commodity.
Du Bois argues also that racism makes people commit wrongdoings against their fellow creatures. Thus, similarly to Douglass, Du Bois condemns “systematic legal defilement of Negro women”, which means “not only the loss of ancient African chastity, but also…corruption from white adulterers, threatening almost the obliteration of the Negro home” (“Of Our Spiritual Striving”). The writer openly unmasks the atrocities committed by whites and exposes their effects on the oppressed. Furthermore, the author emphasizes that the perpetrators of racism attempts to instill false ideas of “a Negro race” as an inherently inferior and “wronged” entity (Du Bois, “Of Our Spiritual Striving”, “Of the Dawn of Freedom”). According to Du Bois, such racist philosophy does not only belittle the representatives of a noble and worthwhile race, but also threatens social and political wellbeing of the United States plagued by the reverberations of slavery.
The celebration of a black’s man ability to stand up against oppression resonates throughout Douglass’s autobiography. Douglass emphasizes his desire to implement himself, show the segregated community that he is in no way inferior to his white counterparts. With the help Mr. Auld, his callous master, the man realizes that an educated slave undermines the principles of slavery, becoming “unmanageable and of no value to his master” (Douglass, ch. 6). Therefore, he resolves to learn how to read and write to overcome the ignorance making his people come to terms with the injustices inflicted upon them. In such a way, he encourages other slaves to embark on the path of self-education, which will “forever unfit [them] to be slaves” (Douglass, ch. 6).
Du Bois also aims to encourage him black compatriots to rebuff the myth of their alleged …