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TheMaladyof AmericanRacism: A SouthAfricanPerspective* HERMANN B. GILIOMEE George M. Fredrickson. The Black Image in the White Mind: The Debate on Afro-American Character and Destiny, 1817-1914. New York: Harper and Row, 1971. 343 pp. H. Shelton Smith. In His Image, But .... : Racism in Southern Religion, 1780-1910. Durham: Duke University Press, 1972. 318 pp. Bruce Clayton. The Savage Ideal: Intolerance and Intellectual Leadership in the South, 1890-1914. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1972. 231 pp. The intellectual props of American racism have never received the same attention as the edificeitself. The role of the churches., schools and science in supporting the racist ideology has more often been assumed than exhaustively researched and analysed. While individual intellectual leaders in the fight for or against segregation have attracted their students, comprehensive surveys of racism in the church and in schools or of the American racial debate have strangely been few and far between. It is in this field that George Fredrickson's review of the nineteenth century debate on the nature of the Afro-American and his place in society, Shelton Smith's study of racism in Southern religion., and Bruce Clayton's survey of the intellectual leadership in the South, offer a contribution . For a South African reviewer the three studies make depressing reading. They give little hope that a society like the American South is capable of reforming itself out of its own accord and in a meaningful way once institutionalised racism has taken root. For it is clear that education, science and the Christian creed,.far from resisting the tide of racism or serving as a liberating influence, have often vied with each other to offer justifications and rationalisations for black bondage and degradation. Fredrickson's Black Image focuses on the development of racist thought as it was applied in the nineteenth century to the problem posed in the white mind by the presence of millions of blacks in the United States. It is a study of ideas in action: he traces the relationship of ideological racism to general social and intellectual developments and especially to the great *I wish to thank Mr. J. Gagiano for his contribution towards the discussion of the Savage Ideal. THE CANADIAN REVIEW OF AMERICAN STUDIES VOL. V, NO. 2 1 FALL 1974 historical conflicts involving the status of the black man in the United States. Fredrickson shows how the idea to colonize Negroes abroad evoked the abolitionist response., with its belief in the attainability of Christian brotherhood. The assault of the abolitionists in turn forced the spokesmen for slavery into an explicit defense of the institution. After the war the Northern commitment to equal rights for Southern blacks was soon eroded to a position where the North accepted white supremacy in the South on condition that blacks would retain their formal rights and be allowed to advance socially and economically. By the end of the century., the North had come to accept the Southern doctrine of Herrenvolk democracy which postulated a regime which was democratic for the master race but tyrannical for the subordinate groups. Fredrickson-'s study is an exceptionally fine synthesis of the nineteenthcentury debate on race as well as of existing scholarship in the field. It is so balanced that its views on most issues will be accepted readily by all but the ideologues: Marxist, nationalists and neo-racists. It may well be the final blow to the myth that American racism was a purely Southern phenomenon or that the North presented an effective challenge to the racist doctrines and practice of the South. The controversial aspect of Fredrickson 1 s work is his analysis of the rise of racism. According to Fredrickson racism as an ideology did not emerge until the 1830-'s or 1840's. Before that one could speak of racial prejudice in which black subordination was the practice of white Americans and the inferiority of the Negro a common assumption. However., for racism.,being defined as n a rationalized ideology grounded in what were thought to be the facts of nature 11 (p. 2)., to emerge the following was required: (a) a body of ,.,scientific11 and cultural thought postulating the racial inferiority of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 202-209
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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