By scrutinizing the examples of Frederick Douglas and Matthew in W.E.B Dubois’ The dark princess, the reader sees that on the verge of the 20th century, there existed a dire need for escape for a vast majority of the black population. Although at first it seems reader as if both Matthew and Douglas leave United States for very different personal reasons, it soon becomes clear that the central theme underpinning these reasons is constant: an odyssey to avoid the prejudiced white community inhabiting the United States.

Matthew—a student of Manhattan University—is solely discriminated against based on his skin color. The color black symbolizes a form of curse or anathema for the white American community, and this is especially evident when Matthew is barred from completing his required Obstetrics courses at his university. However, Matthew becomes a victim of similar racial discrimination even in Europe, but despite this, Matthew does not intend to return to the United States. The reason for this becomes glaringly obvious when, on page 7, he describes his relationship with America as one that is characterized by numerous alienating instances.

On the other hand, it is apparent that Douglas flees the United States to find his “home” in the United Kingdom. On page 296, Douglas exclaims, “I’ve spent some of the happiest moments of my life since landing in this country”. This notion is further substantiated by the fact that he ascribes utmost value to not only the physical presence of a “home”, but also to the characteristics of a “home” such as racial acceptance and tolerance that he highly values. In Europe, Douglas is not evaluated based on the erroneous perceptions of others; instead, his preeminence is valued based on his “…moral and intellectual worth” (289).

These examples show that their purpose of embarking on this odyssey is uniform: to escape the quarantine of racial and social discrimination. The idea of travel therefore symbolizes a flickering hope for a better tomorrow, and this idea in literature later turns out to be a forerunner for the anti-racist movements that sprout in other areas of the world, too.


Talal Almas
Rice University
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