“Goin’ to Nature to Reach Double Consciousness: A Du Boisian Methodological Journey to Graves of the Formerly Enslaved”

Angela Leonard


Too few W. E. B. Du Boisian scholars happen upon the fact that “double consciousness” is self-awareness or an assessment of self-identity that flows from two very different sources of memory—diachronic or accretive, and syndetic or invoked. I have borrowed Du Bois’s notion of “double consciousness” as an angle of perception to begin to theorize about what I believe occurs―knowingly or unknowingly—when some members of the African and white descendant communities visit burials of formerly enslaved people of African descent. This paper explores the significance of gravesites of formerly enslaved people of African descent as powerful sacred spaces in nature that embody and percolate ancestral memories. In so doing, it also considers one’s feelings of attachment to local landscapes of memory, one’s preoccupation with cultural identity at natural sites of entombment, and one’s relation to the visitable past. These thoughts, while they may strike some as out of place in traditional academic circles, are an acknowledgment of what we can learn from the language of rituals as structures and practices performed in nature. As such, these rituals identify cultural ethnicities and individual identities, as well as provoke reflection and understanding of social memories and embodied histories.


W. E. Du Bois; "double consciousness"; Old South; slavery; performative spaces; burial sites; gardens; psychological geographies; memory rituals; embodied poetics

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@Journal of Ecocriticism. ISSN 1916-1549