|Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2016-08-23 19:28Z by Steven|
Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History
Columbia University, New York, New York
BIND US APART
How Enlightened Americans Invented Racial Segregation
By Nicholas Guyatt
Illustrated. 403 pp. Basic Books. $29.99.
Half a century ago, inspired by the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, historians embarked on an effort to identify the origins of racial segregation. C. Vann Woodward insisted that rather than existing from time immemorial, as the ruling’s opponents claimed, segregation emerged in the 1890s. Others located its genesis in Reconstruction or the pre-Civil War North.
Eventually, the debate faded. Now, Nicholas Guyatt offers a new interpretation. Segregation and its ideological justification “separate but equal,” he argues, originated in the early Republic in the efforts of “enlightened Americans” to uplift and protect Indians and African-Americans. After trying and abandoning other policies, these reformers and policy makers concluded that only separation from whites — removal of Indians to the trans-Mississippi West and blacks to Africa — would enable these groups to enjoy their natural rights and achieve economic and cultural advancement. Thus, almost from the outset, the idea of separating the races was built into the DNA of the United States.
Guyatt, who teaches at the University of Cambridge, is the author of a well-regarded book on the history of the idea (still very much alive today) that God has chosen this country for a special mission. In “Bind Us Apart” he addresses another theme central to our national identity: Who is an American? To find an answer he offers a detailed account of early national policies toward Indians and blacks…
…One of Guyatt’s surprising findings is how many liberals believed that the Indian population should be assimilated through intermarriage. “You will mix with us by marriage,” [Thomas] Jefferson told an Indian delegation in 1808. “We shall all be Americans.” Not all whites agreed, of course. In the 1820s “all hell broke loose” in Cornwall, Conn., when two young Indian men who arrived to study at a religious school ended up marrying local white women…
Read the entire review here.