Into Slavery: Racial Decisions in the Virginia Colony

By Joseph Boskin | Go to book overview

Foreword

"When you judge decisions, you have to judge them in the light of what there was available to do it," noted Secretary of State George C. Marshall to the Senate Committees on the Armed Services and Foreign Relations in May 1951.1 In this spirit, each volume in the "America's Alternatives" series examines the past for insights which History -- perhaps only History -- is peculiarly fitted to offer. In each volume the author seeks to learn why decision makers in crucial public policy or, more rarely, private choice situations adopted a course and rejected others. Within this context of choices, the author may ask what influence then-existing expert opinion, administrative structures, and budgetary factors exerted in shaping decisions? What weights did constitutions or traditions have? What did men hope for or fear? On what information did they base their decisions? Once a decision was made, how was the decision-maker able to enforce it? What attitudes prevailed toward nationality, race, region, religion, or sex, and how did these attitudes modify results?

We freely ask such questions of the events of our time. This "America's Alternatives" volume transfers appropriate versions of such queries to the past.

In examining those elements that were a part of a crucial historical decision, the author has refrained from making judgments based upon attitudes, information, or values that were not current at the time the decision was made. Instead, as much as possible he or she has explored the past in terms of data and prejudices known to persons contemporary to the event.

____________________
1
U.S., Senate, Hearings Before the Committees on the Armed Services and the Foreign Relations of the United States, The Military Situation in the Far East, 82d Cong., 2d sess., part I, p. 382. Professor Ernest R. May's Alternatives volume directed me to this source and quotation.

-ix-

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