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This, then, is the end of his striving: to be a co-worker in the kingdom of culture, to escape both death and isolation, to husband and use his best powers and his latent genius.
These powers of body and mind have in the past been strangely wasted, dispersed, or forgotten.
With other black boys the strife was not so fiercely sunny: their youth shrunk into tasteless sycophancy, or into silent hatred of the pale world about them and mocking distrust of everything white; or wasted itself in a bitter cry, Why did God make me an outcast and a stranger in mine own house?
The shades of the prison-house closed round about us all: walls strait and stubborn to the whitest, but relentlessly narrow, tall, and unscalable to sons of night who must plod darkly on in resignation, or beat unavailing palms against the stone, or steadily, half hopelessly, watch the streak of blue above.
And, finally, need I add that I who speak here am bone of the bone and flesh of the flesh of them that live within the Veil? It is in the early days of rollicking boyhood that the revelation first bursts upon one, all in a day, as it were. I was a little thing, away up in the hills of New England, where the dark Housatonic winds between Hoosac and Taghkanic to the sea.
I had thereafter no desire to tear down that veil, to creep through; I held all beyond it in common contempt, and lived above it in a region of blue sky and great wandering shadows.
Here in America, in the few days since Emanci- pation, the black man's turning hither and thither in hesitant and doubtful striving has often made his very strength to lose effectiveness, to seem like absence of power, like weakness.
And yet it is not weakness,--it is the contradiction of double aims.
He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world.
He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face.
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In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost.