“The Seventh Son” (Willie Dixon)

According to W.E.B. Du Bois, in The Souls of Black Folk (1903), “the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world,—a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world.” By invoking the tradition of the “seventh son,” a figure of creative power aligned with werewolves, witches, and sorcerers, Du Bois makes clear that double-consciousness is more than alienation and deficit; and, in Willie Dixon’s case, he can heal the sick (i.e., grasp doubleness as a double-edged sword), raise the dead (produce a history of and for Africans and African Americans, for example), and even predict the future. And all of these powers have something to do with the experience of being racialized and the special knowledge of language that it provides: “Now I can talk these words that sound so sweet/I can make your little heart even skip a beat.”


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