Roots of American Racism: Essays on the Colonial Experience

Roots of American Racism: Essays on the Colonial Experience

Roots of American Racism: Essays on the Colonial Experience

Roots of American Racism: Essays on the Colonial Experience

Synopsis

This important new collection brings together ten of Alden Vaughan's essays about race relations in the British colonies. Focusing on the variable role of cultural and racial perceptions on colonial policies for Indians and African Americans, the essays include explorations of the origins of slavery and racism in Virginia, the causes of the Puritans' war against the Pequots, and the contest between natives and colonists to win the other's allegiance by persuasion or captivity. Less controversial but equally important to understanding the racial dynamics of early America are essays on early English paradigmatic views of Native Americans, the changing Anglo-American perceptions of Indian color and character, and frontier violence in pre-Revolutionary Pennsylvania. Published here for the first time are an extensive expose of slaveholder ideology in seventeenth-century Barbados, the second half of an essay on Puritan judicial policies for Indians, a general introduction, and headnotes to each essay. All previously published pieces have been revised to reflect recent scholarship or to address recent debates. Challenging standard interpretations while probing previously-ignored aspects of early American race relations, this convenient and provocative collection by one our most incisive commentators will be required reading for all scholars and students of early American history.

Excerpt

Americans are vitally, if sometimes painfully, aware of our cultural variety. We used to call our polyglot nation a "melting pot"; nowadays we use less assimilationist tropes--"simmering stew" or "tossed salad." But for better or for worse (we haven't agreed on the proper cultural recipe), we are incredibly varied in geographic backgrounds and their related patterns of belief and behavior. It all began, of course, in the colonial era.

In a broader sense, it began much earlier, with the first humans who ventured across the land bridge between northeastern Asia and northwestern America. Human variety accompanied extensive immigration before the final ice age as inevitably as it would several millennia later; by the sixteenth century, when people from the "Old World" first arrived on the eastern seaboard in appreciable numbers, America already boasted a wide range of cultures--those institutions, customs, and beliefs that reflect, and shape, who we are. European immigrants from many nations soon increased and vastly complicated the cultural map, as did the forced migration of Africans with widely varying heritages. American multiculturalism and multiracialism were here to stay. But the great challenge of how to live together peacefully, productively, and equitably proved even more difficult in the colonial period than it does today.

This collection of essays explores some of the major events and issues of interaction between Europeans, Indians, and Africans in English America (and, in the first essay, the early years of the United States) in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. Several of the essays in this collection address aspects of what, by hindsight, we call "race relations." Other essays treat interactions between Europeans and Native Americans that were not initially based on notions of race but rather on deep cultural differences--over religion, government, land, law, education, and war, to name only the most obvious arenas of early contact . . .

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