Loss and the Transformation of Servitude
This chapter argues that the condition of possibility of being black in the new world could not be realized until slavery, a sorrowful state of shame and negation, was transformed into a narrative of identity. It is probably this transformation that W. E. B. Du Bois had in mind when, in the concluding chapter of the Souls of Black Folk, he described Negro spirituals—the sorrow songs—as the medium of what was tantamount to a black logos. Through these songs, Du Bois asserted, “the soul of the black slave spoke to men”; they were “the most beautiful expression of human experience born of this side of the seas.” For Du Bois, the sorrow songs functioned as allegorical expressions of the repressed self and its yearning for a language of freedom out of the ruins of enslavement.
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