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Two Works

W. E. B. Du Bois / Christina Quarles, Of Our Spiritual Strivings

ISBN (paperback)



In 1903 W. E. B. Du Bois’s text The Souls of Black Folk made history as a work of sociological thought, and would go on to become a cornerstone of African American literature. In it, Du Bois combined music, history and memoir to advance a vital message of resistance in the uniquely dehumanising context of the so-called ‘Jim Crow’ era. It was in this collection that Du Bois, in ‘Of Our Spiritual Strivings’, wrote of the ‘double consciousness’ experienced by the Black subject – a ‘sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity’. Refusing this fate, Du Bois passionately and creatively makes the case for the rights of Black people of the South to be treated with equality and justice.

Over a century later, artist Christina Quarles brings new energy to Du Bois’s unfinished project, speaking to his melodious text with her own distinctive visual poetics, testing and inverting the ‘double consciousness’ idea. Quarles, whose work is informed by her own daily experience with ambiguity, engages with the world from a position that is multiply situated.