Professor Brian Bailie
Strivings of the Negro People
Famed African-American Author W.E.B. Dubois wrote “Strivings of the Negro People”. DuBois was one of the few people who had a voice for African-American citizens. He believed that the only way for African-Americans to strive in America was through the means of education. Being a well-rounded, educated American himself, DuBois earned degrees from Fisk University, Harvard University and the University of Berlin. DuBois was also one of the founding members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Aside from being a scholar and an activist, DuBois was also a renowned author. One of the most influential pieces that he wrote was “Strivings of the Negro People”. His purpose for writing this text was to influence fellow African-Americans to strive and carry no matter how bad their circumstances are. This piece of literature is also a good example of how DuBois uses the three rhetorical devices: the ethos, pathos, and the logos.
The way that DuBois appeals to the ethos is by grabbing the attention to the target audience. Many would think that the target audience would be the white citizens of America. However, I believe that the target audience is black and white people, but for different rhetorical devices. When he speaks to white people he wants them to know that it isn’t ethical of their treatment of African-Americans in terms of segregation. Back in this time period, parts of America were governed under Jim Crow Laws, which meant that both races had bathrooms, water fountains, public transportation and schools that were “separate but equal”. He uses the ethos by saying that the resources that African-Americans had were subpar to what white people had. He believes that his people got “had” by the government during the Plessy V. Ferguson case because the government found a loophole that said that everything had to be separate (e.g. one book could be more damaged than the other, but it was considered “equal” since it was still a book).
The second rhetorical device that DuBois uses in the text it the pathos. His target audience with this device was towards African-Americans. He specifically wrote this piece to uplift African-Americans that they could be somebody through the means of education. He even uses himself of what you could be if you persevere. In the text, he brings up a term called “Double Consciousness”. What he means by this is that you don’t have any sense of self. Per say, if an African-American could see himself or herself as someone who had a European upbringing. He feels that many African-Americans have experienced this feeling because whites had all of the benefits (what we call nowadays “white privilege”). What he believes that they should do is create their own institutions, establishments, and in a sense their own fun .
The third rhetorical device that DuBois uses is the logos. The purpose of him writing the text was to try to reason with White America. In the text, he is trying to reason with the audience and is quoted as saying, “One ever feels his two-ness, an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it asunder”. (Dubois 143). What DuBois means by this is that it is difficult for blacks to be an American because of their upbringing and the clash of cultures. He mentions that they are trying to become more “self conscious” while living the double-life called being an African-American.
DuBois, W.E.B. Strivings of the Negro People. 1887. Print.