All entries for Friday 31 January 2014

January 31, 2014

Christ–like imagery and its implications on black salvation

This notion of "black salvation" began in Chapter 11 of Du Bois' The Soul of Black Folk and culminated (in my opinion) in Chapter 13 - and it begins with Du Bois explicitly referencing his first born son to the coming of Christ. "Unto you a child is born", begins Chapter 11, which is a reformulation of the prophecy of the Messiah's arrival in Isaiah 9:6. The rest of the chapter thus continues with the Christ-like descriptions - "the world loved him; the women kissed his curls, the men looked gravely into his wonderful eyes, and the children hovered and fluttered about him" - but the potential of any salvation this child might bring is destroyed when Du Bois notices a tint of gold in his son's hair and a bit of blue in his eyes. It is destroyed because the moment Du Bois notices these physical features, he is made conscious of the fact that they are in the "Land of the Color-line", and that "the shadow of the Veil" (later referenced as the "Shadow of Death") has fallen across his child - the reality of a race-conscious society.

In Chapter 12, Du Bois' tale of Alexander Crummell's life is framed in the opening paragraph as an extension (of sorts) of Chapter 11 when he describes Crummell as having crossed "the Valley of Humiliation and the Valley of the Shadow of Death". Can Crummel therefore be seen as the man Du Bois' child could have become? Is Crummel the man from whom salvation comes ("Instinctively I bowed before this man, as one bows before the prophets of the world") precisely because he has managed to survive? What does this therefore imply about how the black race might be saved - is it only religion? In some ways I can't help but feel that Du Bois' earlier arguments about the value of education and other avenues of self-improvement become diminished in retrospect.

Chapter 13 is significant in the way it seems to be the most fictional chapter in the book. It clearly has the sense of being a parable, with a lesson to teach - but the lesson is a despairing one when we see the black John realising that the South is an unredeemable place.

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