Unveiling Consciousness

In his collection of essays The Souls of Black Folk, W. E. B. Du Bois draws upon a collective experience of oppression, striving, and affliction amongst African Americans, throughout their history, to highlight a double-bind of aspirations and limitations that he thematically recapitulates throughout his essays in the image of a ‘Veil.’ The cloak of Du Bois’ omnipresent ‘Veil’ can be understood as a social anathema which simultaneously prevents whites from recognizing blacks as equally deserving human counterparts, and blacks from seeing themselves from any other perspective than that of their socially authoritative, constraining white observers. This same veiling is apparent in the introduction of When Bullets Begin to Flower, wherein Margaret Dickinson describes how the native Angolan population oftentimes placed the hope for their freedom, or, at least, the hope for their equality, in a Portuguese education system which, despite any amount of accomplishment, would never acknowledge blacks as equals. Both the colonial Portuguese and white Americans maintained an inherently exclusive social sector which unrelentingly held the currencies of full citizenship and equality over the heads of their black subjects, regardless of how vainly said subjects strove within that exclusive social structure to earn them. Coming to recognize this unwavering limitation, the native populations of the Portuguese colonies came to reconstruct and reevaluate an independent, precolonial culture, modeled in the incorporation of African symbolic elements into the protest poetry that is the focus of When Bullets Being to Flower. By reinstating this symbolic precolonial past, the native African poets were able to reimagine a post-colonial future. Thus, the precolonial history becomes a source of inspiration for the post-colonial future. The power of pre-colonial symbolism awakened an unveiled self-consciousness in the African colonial subjects that sparked their earnest, violent quest for sovereignty.

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