Documents of American Prejudice: An Anthology of Writings on Race from Thomas Jefferson to David Duke

Documents of American Prejudice: An Anthology of Writings on Race from Thomas Jefferson to David Duke

Documents of American Prejudice: An Anthology of Writings on Race from Thomas Jefferson to David Duke

Documents of American Prejudice: An Anthology of Writings on Race from Thomas Jefferson to David Duke

Synopsis

Many Americans forget that, until recently, racially prejudiced thought and writing was an accepted part of public discourse, in many cases supported by specious but widely accepted scientific or philosophical theories, and practiced by some of the country's most influential and respected public figures. Documents of American Prejudice provides an anthology of writings on how racial prejudice ha evolved since early colonial times, and helps readers understand racism through the prism of American history.

Over 70 selections spanning more than 300 years of injustice encompass specific groups victimized by racial prejudice as well as different kinds of racial prejudice. Opinions of both reviled an well-loved figures are included in the writings of everyone from Thomas Jefferson to David Duke. Organization of material into thematic sections (such as Social Darwinism and eugenics, immigration, and other categories) and by groups who were the focus of racist attacks makes this volume especially user-friendly.

Excerpt

The documents included in this volume testify to the pervasiveness of racial prejudice existing in this country from its beginnings as a British colony in the seventeenth century to the present day. The central point this book seeks to make is not merely that individuals and entire groups have been prejudiced throughout this country's history, but that blatant prejudice--bolstered by "scientific" and "historical" theories--has been a dominant feature of public discourse in America. Historians, sociologists, philosophers, political scientists, literary figures, and businessmen have exhibited racial prejudice in a variety of ways, ranging from assertions of the superiority or inferiority of given races to the utterance of broad generalizations and stereotypes regarding a wide range of ethnic groups, including immigrants. Their views were supported and implemented by policymakers--including presidents, congressmen, governors, and judges--who codified their prejudices in laws and court decisions such as those restricting immigration and enforcing segregation.

To say that racial prejudice is as old as human civilization is neither to excuse its existence nor to assert that it is somehow endemic to society. Prejudice can be found in the writings of the Egyptians, Indians, Chinese, Jews, Greeks, Romans, and other ancient peoples; but its scope and direction appear to have been widely different from the prejudice exhibited in the European and American civilizations of the eighteenth through twentieth centuries. When Herodotus deemed all non-Greek- speaking people "barbarians," he was reflecting a belief common to the Greeks that the barbarians were linguistically incomprehensible (they uttered sounds that the Greeks could only interpret as "bar-bar-bar . . .") and, secondarily, culturally incompatible. The notion of a biological difference between the barbarians and themselves seemed alien to their thinking. During the Renaissance, racial prejudice flowered sporadically during the "Age of Exploration," as explorers came upon people of widely differing types and brought back fantastic accounts of their appearance and behavior; but prejudice was largely submerged in simple . . .

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