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Quotations

It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others. . . . One ever feels his twoness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warrings ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being… torn asunder. W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) The Souls of Black Folk (1903)

There will always be men struggling to change, and there will always be those who are controlled by the past. – Ernest J. Gaines (1933-) interview with John O’Brien in African American Writers (1991)

You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man.
Frederick Douglass (1818?-1895) Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845)

I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. . . . Even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more or less. No, I do not weep at the world—I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife. – Zora Neale Hurston (1901?-1960) “How It Feels to Be Colored Me” (1928)

We have come over a way that with tears has
been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the
blood of the slaughtered.

James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) Lift Every Voice and Sing, stanza 2 (1900)

We, the people.” It is a very eloquent beginning. But when that document [the Preamble to the US Constitution] was completed on the seventeenth of September in 1787 I was not included in that “We, the people.” I felt somehow for many years that George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, just left me out by mistake. But through the process of amendment, interpretation and court decision I have finally been included in “We, the people.”

Barbara C. Jordan (1936-1996)
statement made before the House Committee on the Judiciary, July 25, 1974

American means white, and Africanist people struggle to make the term applicable to themselves with ethnicity and hyphen after hyphen after hyphen.
-Toni Morrison (1931-) Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (1992)

My father was a slave and my people died to build this country, and I’m going to stay right here and have a part of it, just like you. And no fascist-minded people like you will drive me from it. Is that clear? – Paul Robeson (1898-1976) testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee, June 12, 1956

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