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The United States of the United Races

A Utopian History of Racial Mixing

Greg Carter

Publication Year: 2013

“This provocative, ambitious, and important book rewrites U.S. history, placing foundational leaders, unheralded prophets, insurgent social movements, pivotal judicial decisions, and central cultural values within an unfolding story of ongoing appeals to interracial mixing as a positive good. Deeply researched, deftly argued, and impressively able to move beyond the two categories of black and white, The United States of the United Races makes the mixed race movements of the recent past resonate with their many antecedents, showing the complex ways in which an emphasis on mixture has both deployed and destabilized racial categories.”
 —David Roediger, co-author of The Production of Difference 
Barack Obama’s historic presidency has re-inserted mixed race into the national conversation. While the troubled and pejorative history of racial amalgamation throughout U.S. history is a familiar story, The United States of the United Races reconsiders an understudied optimist tradition, one which has praised mixture as a means to create a new people, bring equality to all, and fulfill an American destiny. In this genealogy, Greg Carter re-envisions racial mixture as a vehicle for pride and a way for citizens to examine mixed America as a better America.
Tracing the centuries-long conversation that began with Hector St. John de Crevecoeur’s Letters of an American Farmer in the 1780s through to the Mulitracial Movement of the 1990s and the debates surrounding racial categories on the U.S. Census in the twenty-first century, Greg Carter explores a broad range of documents and moments, unearthing a new narrative that locates hope in racial mixture. Carter traces the reception of the concept as it has evolved over the years, from and decade to decade and century to century, wherein even minor changes in individual attitudes have paved the way for major changes in public response. The United States of the United Races sweeps away an ugly element of U.S. history, replacing it with a new understanding of race in America.
Greg Carter is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. 

Published by: NYU Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-7

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pp. vii-ix

I would like to thank everyone everywhere who ever helped me with anything ever, but that would be an infeasible task. Instead, I will acknowledge sets of people, institutions, and associations who have aided me since this project’s beginning. As an adviser...

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pp. 1-18

In April 2010, the White House publicized Barack Obama’s self-identification on his U.S. census form. He marked one box “Black, African Am., or Negro,” settling one of the most prevalent issues during his 2008 presidential campaign: his racial identity. This choice resounded with the monoracial ways of thinking so prevalent throughout U.S. history. People who believed he was...

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1. Thomas Jefferson’s Challengers

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pp. 19-44

In the late eighteenth century, race possessed a much different meaning than it does now, denoting what we call variety. Ethnic was a term that stood for foreigners, with connotations similar to gentile in the Old Testament, and its usage remained rare until the nineteenth century. The French natural scientist George Louis Leclerc, Count de Buffon, suggested six races...

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2. Wendell Phillips, Unapologetic Abolitionist, Unreformed Amalgamationist

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pp. 45-76

Upon the passage of the Missouri Compromise, Thomas Jefferson wrote John Holmes, a Massachusetts politician who had supported the legislation, reflecting on his life in retirement. The seventy-seven-year-old founder claimed to ignore public affairs and current events, but in regard to the 1820 act, he wrote...

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3. Plessy v. Racism

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pp. 77-107

Throughout the nineteenth century, the United States’ acquisition of territory incorporated more types of people, complicating the master narrative of white supremacy that the Atlantic colonies established. Interracial encounters occurred in various paradigms, showing that mixture was relevant to more than just blacks and whites. Interracial intimacy with...

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4. The Color Line, the Melting Pot, and the Stomach

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pp. 108-143

Like all periods of U.S. history, the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century was a time of restriction as well as transformation. Through the publications of Herbert Spencer and others, social Darwinism influenced scholars, philanthropists, and politicians toward a view that individuals’ achievement or failure depended...

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5. Say It Loud, I’m One Drop and I’m Proud

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pp. 144-160

Following Zangwill’s removal of blacks and Asians from the melting pot, it became a symbol of white consolidation, rather than the mixture of all people in the United States. Similarly, sociologists’ uncertainty about the role of racial minorities in American life led to the persistence of assimilation as a whites-only affair. Hector St. John...

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6. The End of Race as We Know It

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pp. 161-191

After the civil rights legislation of the 1960s, census data became a tool to enforce fair voting, housing, and employment. However, the 1970 decennial missed 2.5% of the population, approximately 5.3 million people. The percentage undercount for African Americans was 7.7%, while the rate for whites was 1.9%. Only ten thousand...

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7. Praising Ambiguity, Preferring Certainty

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pp. 192-216

At the beginning of the 2000s, Gallup polls indicated a higher acceptance of interracial marriage than in past decades. Public conversations about the Multiracial category made front-page news. The success of mixed celebrities seemed to prove that racial prejudice had crumbled. However, three centuries of racial thinking that relied on firm categories...

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pp. 217-228

Even with a cursory knowledge of U.S. history, many people are familiar with prohibitions to interracial marriage and the characterization of racially mixed people as a threat to society. This project has focused on the lesser-known position, which casts these as benefits to the nation as a whole. Although those voices have been in the minority...


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pp. 229-257


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pp. 259-263

About the Author

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pp. 265-276

E-ISBN-13: 9780814790489
E-ISBN-10: 0814772498
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814772492
Print-ISBN-10: 0814772498

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2013