WAVES OF DECOLONIZATION AND DISCOURSES
OF HEMISPHERIC CITIZENSHIP
Wave on wave, each with increasing virulence, is dashing this new religion of
whiteness on the shore of our time.
—W. E. B. DU BOIS, ‘‘The Souls of White Folk,’’ Darkwater (1920)
The colony has continued to survive within the republic.
—JOSÉ MARTÍ, ‘‘Nuestra América’’ (‘‘Our America,’’ 1891)
THE ‘‘WORLD ASPECT’’ OF THE ‘‘COLOR LINE’’ IN ‘‘TIME AND
SPACE’’: DU BOIS’S CHALLENGE TO AMERICAN STUDIES
In The Souls of Black Folk (1903), W. E. B. Du Bois writes, ‘‘The problem of
the twentieth century is the problem of the color line,—the relation of the
darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the
islands of the sea.’’∞
The lesser-known second clause of Du Bois’s most
famous pronouncement pushes the color line beyond the United States,
sketching out a global approach. What would the disciplines of American
studies and American literature look like if scholars were to use the global
color line in order to transform their fields into comparative, transnational
Du Bois o√ers one possible answer in ‘‘Of the Dawn of Freedom’’ in
Souls, which begins with this formulation of the problem of the color line.
Du Bois’s assessment of the Freedmen’s Bureau’s e√orts to enfranchise
African Americans following the Civil War concludes, ‘‘Despite compro-
mise, war, and struggle, the Negro is not free’’ (S 239). Nominal freedom,
we learn, is not a solution but rather a chronic problem: ‘‘Thus Negro
su√rage ended a civil war by beginning a race feud,’’ Du Bois writes (S 238).
By beginning this chapter with his theory of the color line, Du Bois trans-