By Bruce Dain
The highbrow heritage of race, essentially the most pernicious and enduring rules in American heritage, has remained segregated into reviews of black or white traditions. Bruce Dain breaks this separatist development with an built-in account of the emergence of contemporary racial realization within the usa from the Revolution to the Civil warfare. A Hideous Monster of the brain finds that rules on race crossed racial barriers in a procedure that produced not just recognized 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 particularly, 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 a number of thinkers reworked late-eighteenth-century eu environmentalist "natural heritage" 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 through black authors who've been mostly 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 identical attempt to give an explanation for human modifications. In retrieving overlooked African-American thinkers, reestablishing the ecu highbrow historical past to American racial thought, and demonstrating the deep confusion "race" triggered for thinkers black and white, A Hideous Monster of the brain bargains an interesting and enlightening new viewpoint on smooth American racial idea. (20041001)
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Additional resources for A Hideous Monster of the Mind: American Race Theory in the Early Republic
Jefferson had to dismiss a Wheatley. One instance of substantial black reason or imagination would upset his whole scheme. “Misery is often the parent of the most affecting touches in poetry—Among the blacks is misery enough, God knows, but no poetry. Love is the peculiar oestrum of the poet. Their love is ardent, but it kindles the senses only, not the imagination. Religion indeed has produced a Phillis Whatley [sic]; but it could not produce a poet. The compositions published under her name are below the dignity of criticism.
For that purpose, Jefferson believed, Linnaean binomial classification, having come into general use and having the virtue of being fairly simple, easy to remember, and, significantly, based on visible characteristics, would do. He rejected the classificatory schemes of the new generation of major naturalists, like the founder of comparative anatomy, Johann Gottfried von Blumenbach, or the great French biologist, Baron Georges Cuvier, as being cumbersome and virtually unusable because they were based too much on internal anatomy and hence dissection.
Jefferson was fatalistic. Environmental effects might permanently mar or embitter humans, in priest and caste-ridden Europe or in the slave quarters at Monticello (provided blacks were human to begin with). The question of monogenism versus polygenism proved secondary, a distraction. It became one, anyway, to Jefferson’s white critics, who reviled his quasi-polygenism, but mostly ignored or shared his powerful and perhaps calculated confession that white sins guaranteed that blacks could never become citizens of the American republic.
A Hideous Monster of the Mind: American Race Theory in the Early Republic by Bruce Dain