The Color Line: Discussions of Colorism in 19th and 20th Century Black Literature




Bulgin, Tafia

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In his 1903 book The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. DuBois writes, “The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line.” This speaks toward the societal divide that segregated Black and White Americans and the ways in which Black people were excluded and discriminated against. It’s important to acknowledge not only the Black and White color line, but also the color line that exists within the Black community itself as a result of pressures stemming from White American society. Black writers of the 19th and 20th century address this social divide primarily through discussions of colorism and subsequently how it has had an impact on the way self-identity and journeys to self-actualization are shaped for Black Americans. It is through acknowledging the color line that we also begin to see the ways in which Black writers often challenged and embraced blackness through journeys-to-self in stories where black characters struggle through learning what it means to be Black in America and how to live within those constraints. An understanding of the Black experience can be gained through the inclusion of more literature like this in collegiate curriculum to continue acknowledging the issues that impact Black communities.



colorism, self-identity, journey, Black, color, community, literature, collegiate, actualization, Honors College


Bulgin, T. (2022). The color line: Discussions of colorism in 19th and 20th century Black literature (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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