Racism Still Exists Today Essays

Racism Still Exists Today Essays-89
Hulton Archive/Getty Images (Stowe); Associated Press (Walker); Getty Images North America (Alexander); Atlanta History Center (Mitchell); Bettmann/Corbis/Associated Press Images (Burroughs); Hulton Archive/Getty Images (Jefferson)Many Americans might not know the more polemical side of race writing in our history.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images (Stowe); Associated Press (Walker); Getty Images North America (Alexander); Atlanta History Center (Mitchell); Bettmann/Corbis/Associated Press Images (Burroughs); Hulton Archive/Getty Images (Jefferson)Many Americans might not know the more polemical side of race writing in our history.The canon of African-American literature is well established.At the time of emancipation, blacks were “healthy in body and cheerful in mind,” Hoffman wrote.

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Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, James Baldwin are familiar figures.

Far less so is Samuel Morton (champion of the obsolete theory of polygenesis) or Thomas Dixon (author of novels romanticizing Klan violence).

On the occasion of Black History Month, I’ve selected the most influential books on race and the black experience published in the United States for each decade of the nation’s existence — a history of race through ideas, arranged chronologically on the shelf.

(In many cases, I’ve added a complementary work, noted with an asterisk.) Each of these books was either published first in the United States or widely read by Americans.

”“Crania Americana,” by Samuel Morton (1839)This book revived the theory of polygenesis that dominated intellectual racial discourse until the Civil War.

What reviewers hailed as an “immense body of facts” were Morton’s measurements of the “mean internal capacity” of the human skulls in his renowned collection in Philadelphia, from which he concluded that whites had the “highest intellectual endowments.”“The Narrative of the Life,” of Frederick Douglass (1845)The gripping best seller earned Douglass international prestige and forced readers around the world to come to terms with slavery’s brutality and blacks’ freedom dreams.

The net effect of Spencer’s Social Darwinism: the eugenics movement of the early 20th century.“The Prostrate State: South Carolina Under Negro Government,” by James Pike (1874)This prominent New York journalist blanketed the nation with fairy tales of corrupt, incompetent, lazy Black Republican politicians.

Reconstruction’s enfranchising policies were a “tragedy,” Pike wrote, nothing but “the slave rioting in the halls of his master.” His “objective” reporting caused many once sympathetic Northerners to demand a national reunion based on white rule.

Jefferson indicted the “tyranny” of slavery while also supplying fellow slaveholders with a batch of prejudices to justify slavery’s rapid expansion.

Blacks “are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind,” he wrote.


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