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Portrait of a Scientific Racist

Alfred Holt Stone of Mississippi

James G. Hollandsworth, Jr.

Publication Year: 2008

In the years after Reconstruction, racial tension soared, as many white southerners worried about how to deal with the millions of free African Americans among them—an issue they termed the "negro problem." In an attempt to maintain the status quo, white supremacists resurrected old proslavery arguments and sought new justification in scientific theories purporting to "prove" people of African descent inherently inferior to whites. In Portrait of a Scientific Racist James G. Hollandsworth, Jr., reveals how the conjectures of one of the country's most prominent racial theorists, Alfred Holt Stone, helped justify a repressive racial order that relegated African Americans to the margins of southern society in the early 1900s. In this revealing biography, Hollandsworth examines the thoughts and motives of this renowned man, focusing primarily on Stone's most intensive period of theorizing, from 1900 to 1910. A committed and vocal white supremacist, Stone believed black southern workers were inherently lazy, a trait he attributed to their African genes and heritage. He asserted that slavery helped improve the black race but that opportunities still existed during Reconstruction to mold the freedmen into efficient workers. Stone's central—yet unspoken—goal was to devise a way to maintain an obedient, productive labor force willing to work for low wages. Writing from both Washington, D.C., and his cotton plantation in the Mississippi Delta, Stone published numerous essays and collected more than 3000 articles and pamphlets on the "American Race Problem"—including those written by bitter racists and enthusiastic "race boosters." Though Stone lacked the credentials typically associated with scholarly experts of the time, he became an authority on the subject of black Americans, in part because of his close friendship with fellow scientific racist and statistician Walter F. Willcox. An early member of the American Economic Association and other academic groups, Stone went on to serve as head scholar of a division for race studies within the Carnegie Foundation. Interestingly, Stone recruited W. E. B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington to collaborate with him on a major study for the Foundation, continuing his tendency to incorporate all perspectives into his study of race. Hollandsworth uses Stone's extensive correspondence with Willcox, Du Bois, and Washington, as well as his personal writings—both published and unpublished—to reveal the secrets of this misguided, yet fascinating, figure.

Published by: Louisiana State University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

I did not intend to write this book. It started out as a biographical sketch to accompany a finder’s aid for a large collection of material at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) that I was working on. The subject, Alfred Holt Stone, was well known in the state, but not much was known about his personal life. There were two articles about Stone in ...


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pp. xiii-xiv


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pp. xv-xviii

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INTRODUCTION: The American Race Problem

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pp. 1-19

The United States has been grappling with questions stemming from the economic, social, and political relationship of white people with black folk since a Dutch trader docked at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619 and exchanged his cargo of African slaves for food.1 Although issues concerning relations between the two races in America seem destined to persist indefi nitely, the importance ...

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pp. 20-25

Alfred Holt Stone was a man with many friends, as evidenced by an editorial that appeared in the Jackson Clarion- Ledger on July 15, 1949, under the heading “Many Citizens Will Welcome Mr. Stone’s Reappointment.”
Many thousands of Mississippians welcomed Governor Fielding Wright’s announcement this week that he intends to reappoint Alf H....

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pp. 26-36

Sometimes people end up in unexpected places by chance. Eli Evans, the biographer of Judah P. Benjamin and chronicler of Jewish people in the South, told an interesting story to this effect when he spoke at the Old Capitol in Jackson, Mississippi, on a book- signing tour.1 Evans’s fi rst book was entitled...

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pp. 37-45

The fi rst glimpse we have of Alfred Holt Stone’s early life comes from the pages of an autobiographical sketch he wrote on a train in 1938 while traveling home after a meeting with the National Association of Tax Administrators in New York.1 He was sixty- seven years old at the time, and recalling...

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pp. 46-61

Alfred Stone received most of his early education from his father, much of it on horseback. Stone recalled that he would ride behind his father on a heavy osnaburg saddle blanket when Captain Stone toured the plantation. “[James A.] Garfi eld’s often quoted description of a university, as a log with Mark Hopkins on one end and a boy on the other,” Stone wrote more than ...

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pp. 62-75

Alfred Holt Stone read law in Judge Harris’s offi ce for eighteen months before returning to the University of Mississippi, where he completed requirements for a law degree at the end of the 1890–91 session.1 Nevertheless, Stone did not practice law because he had something else on his mind— cotton.2...

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pp. 76-90

In January 1900, Alfred Holt Stone heard about a conference that caught his attention. A group of twenty- fi ve prominent white leaders in Montgomery, Alabama, had formed the Southern Society for the Promotion of the Study of Race Conditions and Problems in the South. Despite its long name, the society had a simple goal: to get people talking openly about the race problem...

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pp. 91-103

Alfred Holt Stone’s budding career as a racial theorist received a big boost on February 25, 1901, when Walter F. Willcox invited him to join a group of scholars who had been handpicked to study the economic condition of African Americans. “For some time I have known that plans for the twelfth [1900] census included the collection and tabulation of information regarding...

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pp. 104-130

Stone was preaching to the choir. Two of three audiences he had addressed concerning the race problem to this point, members of the Mississippi Historical Society and readers of the Greenville Times, were predictably sympathetic to his point of view. But the warm reception he received from the predominantly northern audience at the annual meeting of the American...

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pp. 131-160

In the late spring of 1903, Alfred Holt Stone traveled to Washington, D.C., to collect material for his work on the committee for the American Economic Association.1 He was also interested in pursuing a topic of personal interest, the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments— the “War Amendments,” as they were known. In addition, he was in the early stages of his...


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pp. PS1-PS4

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pp. 161-184

Alfred Holt Stone spent most of 1904 through 1906 in Washington, D.C. He usually stayed at the boardinghouse just across the street from the Library of Congress. When Mary accompanied him, as she did in the winter of 1904–5 and again in 1905–6, Stone took a room at the Hotel Driscoll, a modern, five-story building at First and B Streets N.W., facing the Capitol and close...

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pp. 185-210

Alfred Holt Stone’s appointment as division head for the Carnegie Institution brought him attention, funding, and requests for his work. Stone was becoming well known as a racial theorist, and he wanted to take advantage of his standing. “During the past few weeks I have received a number of inquiries for copies of various papers of mine,—none of which I can supply,”...

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pp. 211-232

Not everybody was impressed with Studies in the American Race Problem. William Jay Schieffelin, a wealthy New Yorker, the great- great grandson of Chief Justice John Jay, and a generous supporter of the Tuskegee Institute, 1 wrote a critical review of Stone’s book in the Political Science Quarterly. Schief felin acknowledged that Stone marshaled his facts and presented them ...

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pp. 233-249

Alf Stone pursued multiple, overlapping interests during the remainder of his life. One of those was cotton, which he grew at Dunleith. He also became the fi rst vice president of the Staple Cotton Cooperative Association and edited its newsletter from 1923 until his death. Another of Stone’s interests was public service, fi rst as a state legislator and later as the state’s tax ...

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pp. 250-272

As a public servant, Alf Stone was an innovator. As a racial theorist, he was a traditionalist. Stone stuck to ideas about the race problem that he had formed as a boy listening to his father and his father’s friends when they gathered under a giant sycamore in front of the family house on Deer Creek.1 Although Stone claimed repeatedly that he was receptive to other points of...

Appendix A: Verification of Stone's Authorship of Editorials in the Greenville Times

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pp. 273-275

Appendix B: Verification of Stone's Annotations

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pp. 276-278

Appendix C: Reconciling Stone's Books with His Collections

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pp. 279-280

Appendix D: Should the N in Negro Be Capitalized?

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pp. 281-284

Appendix E: Stone's Letter to LeRoy Percy

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pp. 285-286


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pp. 287-308


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pp. 309-318

E-ISBN-13: 9780807134832
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807133361

Page Count: 344
Publication Year: 2008