American Segregation Started Long Before the Civil War

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2016-09-14 14:08Z by Steven

American Segregation Started Long Before the Civil War

What It Means to Be American: A National Conversation Hosted by The Smithsonian’s and Zócalo Public Square

Nicholas Guyatt, University Lecturer in American History
Cambridge University

How the Founders’ Revolutionary Ideology Laid the Groundwork

Segregation remains an intractable force in American life, more than 60 years after the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling outlawed racial separation in America’s schools. The Government Accountability Office recently estimated that more than 20 million students of color attend public schools that are racially or socioeconomically isolated. This figure has increased in recent decades, despite a raft of federal and state initiatives.

Major cities like New York and Chicago struggle with high levels of residential segregation, especially at the neighborhood level. The entrenched correlation between race and poverty is partly to blame, but segregation catches even affluent people of color. A recent study found that, while only 9 percent of white Americans earning $100,000 or more lived in poor areas, 37 percent of African-Americans on the same income level lived in poorer neighborhoods.

If we want to understand why racial segregation still exists in America, we should start by understanding its origins…

…And then there was the prospect of racial amalgamation, which scrambled the moral compasses of even the most progressive whites. Of all the European empires in the New World, British North America was the most squeamish on the question of amalgamation. But while the science and religion of the European Enlightenment suggested no barrier to intermarriage, even white Americans who embraced “all men are created equal” struggled with the practical application of that phrase. The preacher David Rice, who tried valiantly to outlaw slavery in the Kentucky constitutional convention of 1792, admitted that his own prejudices against intermarriage were hard to shake; but he was determined, he told his fellow delegates, not to allow irrational feelings to “influence my judgment, nor affect my conscience.”

Alas, many others who spoke in the abstract against slavery failed to follow Rice’s example; or, like Thomas Jefferson, they compartmentalized their private and public lives. It’s now widely accepted that in the 1790s and 1800s, Jefferson secretly fathered six children with Sally Hemings, a multi-racial slave in his household, while insisting in public on his “great aversion” to “the mixture of color.”

It soon became apparent that the realization of “all men are created equal” required more than an abstract recognition of black or Native humanity; it required the surrender of what we now call white privilege. When even the most liberal whites struggled to meet this challenge, they developed an alternative plan that might deliver the United States from the guilt of slavery and oppression without obliging white people to live alongside people of color: perhaps blacks and Indians could be persuaded to move elsewhere…

Read the entire article here.

Nicholas Guyatt teaches American history at the University of Cambridge in England. He is the author of Bind Us Apart: How Enlightened Americans Invented Racial Segregation (Basic Books).

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Episode 096: Nicholas Guyatt, The Origins of Racial Segregation in the United States

Posted in Audio, History, Interviews, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2016-08-23 21:25Z by Steven

Episode 096: Nicholas Guyatt, The Origins of Racial Segregation in the United States

Ben Franklin’s World: A Podcast About Early American History

Liz Covart, Host and Historian
Boston, Massachusetts

Ever wonder how the United States’ problem with race developed and why early American reformers didn’t find a way to fix it during the earliest days of the republic?

Today, Nicholas Guyatt, author of Bind Us Apart: How Enlightened Americans Invented Racial Segregation, leads us on an exploration of how and why the idea of separate but equal developed in the early United States.

During our investigation, Nick reveals the demographics of the United States after the War for Independence; The early American problem of racial integration; And how and why early American reformers invented the idea of racial segregation.

Listen to the episode here. Download the episode here.

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Nicholas Guyatt’s ‘Bind Us Apart’

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2016-08-23 19:28Z by Steven

Nicholas Guyatt’s ‘Bind Us Apart’

Book Reviews
The New York Times

Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History
Columbia University, New York, New York

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.

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Bind Us Apart: How Enlightened Americans Invented Racial Segregation

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2016-08-23 17:47Z by Steven

Bind Us Apart: How Enlightened Americans Invented Racial Segregation

Basic Books
416 pages
Hardcover ISBN 13: 978-0-465-01841-3

Nicholas Guyatt, University Lecturer in American History
Cambridge University

The surprising and counterintuitive origins of America’s racial crisis

Why did the Founding Fathers fail to include blacks and Indians in their cherished proposition that “all men are created equal”? The usual answer is racism, but the reality is more complex and unsettling. In Bind Us Apart, historian Nicholas Guyatt argues that, from the Revolution through the Civil War, most white liberals believed in the unity of all human beings. But their philosophy faltered when it came to the practical work of forging a color-blind society. Unable to convince others—and themselves—that racial mixing was viable, white reformers began instead to claim that people of color could only thrive in separate republics: in Native states in the American West or in the West African colony of Liberia.

Herein lie the origins of “separate but equal.” Decades before Reconstruction, America’s liberal elite was unable to imagine how people of color could become citizens of the United States. Throughout the nineteenth century, Native Americans were pushed farther and farther westward, while four million slaves freed after the Civil War found themselves among a white population that had spent decades imagining that they would live somewhere else.

Essential reading for anyone disturbed by America’s ongoing failure to achieve true racial integration, Bind Us Apart shows conclusively that “separate but equal” represented far more than a southern backlash against emancipation—it was a founding principle of our nation.

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