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A Hideous Monster of the Mind: American Race Theory in the by Bruce Dain

By Bruce Dain

The highbrow heritage of race, some of the most pernicious and enduring rules in American background, has remained segregated into reviews of black or white traditions. Bruce Dain breaks this separatist trend with an built-in account of the emergence of contemporary racial attention within the usa from the Revolution to the Civil struggle. A Hideous Monster of the brain unearths that principles on race crossed racial obstacles in a technique that produced not just famous theories of organic racism but in addition countertheories that have been early expressions of cultural relativism, cultural pluralism, and latter-day Afrocentrism. From 1800 to 1830 specifically, race took on a brand new fact as americans, black and white, reacted to postrevolutionary disillusionment, the occasions of the Haitian Revolution, the increase of cotton tradition, and the entrenchment of slavery. Dain examines not just significant white figures like Thomas Jefferson and Samuel Stanhope Smith, but additionally the 1st self-consciously "black" African-American writers. those numerous thinkers remodeled late-eighteenth-century eu environmentalist "natural historical past" into race theories that mixed tradition and biology and set the phrases for later controversies over slavery and abolition. In these debates, the ethnology of Samuel George Morton and Josiah Nott intertwined conceptually with vital writing by means of black authors who've been principally forgotten, like Hosea Easton and James McCune Smith. clinical racism and the assumption of races as cultural buildings have been therefore interrelated features of an analogous attempt to provide an explanation for human adjustments. In retrieving overlooked African-American thinkers, reestablishing the ecu highbrow heritage to American racial idea, and demonstrating the deep confusion "race" prompted for thinkers black and white, A Hideous Monster of the brain deals a fascinating and enlightening new point of view on smooth American racial concept. (20041001)

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On the one hand were degraded, stupid, repugnant, possibly malevolent Negroes (by which he meant West Africans), seen in a newly rationalized version of the idea of blackness as sin. On the other hand were the nobly formed Haitian rebel soldiers and the full-featured, Culture and the Persistence of Race ¨ 41 dark-skinned, highly civilized inhabitants of ancient Egypt and Ethiopia. Blacks could constitute a distinct people, persistently black but still human, capable of improvement and degradation, depending on circumstances.

If they did not, it would be like killing the blackbirds: the system would be upset. 53 He did not cast a black presence as wrecking the natural economy of society. By the end of his career, partly through contact with radical antislavery French physiocrats, the increasingly cosmopolitan Franklin, who met Wheatley in London in 1773, no longer saw blacks even as ugly. He affirmed the intellectual ability and rights of African Americans. Other enlightened, antislavery white Americans, applying a medical model, anticipated an easy cure for the Old World plague.

73 Buffon could be refuted, his over-imaginativeness reproved, but nothing could be done about blacks and slavery. This paralytic state of affairs Jefferson cast as more tragic for whites than for blacks, since the latter, without sense and true sensibility, did not suffer very badly. “Their griefs are transient. ”74 Hence they did not express their grief in writing, sculpture, or painting, although often exposed to the highest examples of the arts, and occasionally (as with Wheatley) “liberally educated” by abolitionists or benevolent masters.

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