W.E.B. DuBois: Transcending the Color Line

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Historically, the African American culture has been reliant on religion for strength. Eighteenth and Nineteenth century slaves sang hymns in order to make their work more bearable, and also to have a deeper connection with God. Throughout the entirety of his novel Darkwater: Voices From Within the Veil, W.E.B. DuBois explores this notion of religion as well as its impact on the African American society and on American society in general. Although religion is commonly viewed as a personal strength that encompasses faith, hope and love, DuBois contrasts the colored mans religious ideals, with those of the white man. Litany, by definition, is “a prayer consisting of a series of invocations and supplications by the leader with alternate responses by the congregation” (Merriam Webster Online). In his piece “A Litany at Atlanta,” DuBois addresses the hardships that have faced his people for centuries. He asks God to, “Listen to us, Thy children: our faces dark with doubt are made a mockery in Thy Sanctuary” (DuBois 14). This reveals the way in which the African Americans are being oppressed even in their own religion. In this context the white man had little respect for the colored man’s ways of worshiping the Lord, and thus made the black man feel inferior in every aspect of life. This prayer also asks in triplicate, “Great God deliver us” (15)! DuBois wished to be delivered from lust of body, blood, power and gold. He desired for the African American race to transcend hate and become closer to the Lord in doing so. He believed that in transcending this great sin, their lives would contain greater meaning. Also in this litany, DuBois exposes the great injustices that have been committed against the black man. He tells of an honest man who had never done anything other than his own work. He never sinned against another, but was charged for doing so solely based on his

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