By Bruce Dain
The highbrow background of race, probably the most pernicious and enduring rules in American historical past, has remained segregated into reports of black or white traditions. Bruce Dain breaks this separatist trend with an built-in account of the emergence of contemporary racial recognition within the usa from the Revolution to the Civil conflict. A Hideous Monster of the brain unearths that principles on race crossed racial obstacles in a strategy that produced not just famous theories of organic racism but additionally 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 american citizens, 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 in addition the 1st self-consciously "black" African-American writers. those numerous 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 by means of black authors who've been mostly forgotten, like Hosea Easton and James McCune Smith. medical racism and the belief of races as cultural buildings have been therefore interrelated points of an identical attempt to provide an explanation for human adjustments. In retrieving overlooked African-American thinkers, reestablishing the ecu highbrow heritage to American racial thought, and demonstrating the deep confusion "race" prompted for thinkers black and white, A Hideous Monster of the brain deals an enticing and enlightening new point of view on smooth American racial suggestion. (20041001)
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Additional resources for A Hideous Monster of the Mind: American Race Theory in the Early Republic
Rush went so far as to argue that the notion of Negro ugliness was mere chauvinistic partiality. His foray into aesthetic relativism was brief, however. By the late 1780s he was developing his well-known theory that West African miasmas caused an endemic leprosy that blackened the skin, a condition perpetuated in America by the awful conditions of slavery. Rush believed that American physicians would find a remedy. 56 The natural republic was a glorious, God-given har- The Face of Nature ¨ 25 mony that the presence of black-skinned people disturbed, but to Rush the sickness did not seem fatal.
Yet again, though, the word “race” stood in for “species”—in this striking blend of confidence (the chain) and equivocal disingenuousness (race, not species or variety) in this key sentence, Jefferson was playing games with his readers, and perhaps with himself. The rest of the passage left no doubt about his view of the one practical question involved: could Negroes be incorporated into Virginia after emancipation? The answer was no. Even if human, blacks were too inferior and resentful to be citizens of Virginia.
At the same time, Kames granted that the Bible was the literal Word of God, something Jefferson would not have avowed. Since Holy Writ said that all humans were one, God, Kames said, must have miraculously differentiated among them, creating several distinct species of humans, as part of the “confusion of tongues” after the fall of the Tower of Babel. Kames took faith in the natural human ability to classify so far as to denounce not only Buffon for needless complexity but Linnaeus for needless arbitrariness.