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P R E F A C E THIS STUDY ATTEMPTS TO ANSWER A SIMPLE QUESTION: What were the attitudes of white men toward Negroes during the first two centuries of European and African settlement in what became the United States of America? It has taken a rather long time to find out, chiefly because I have had to educate myself about many matters concerning which at the outset I was very ignorant. This book does something to answer the question, but I am aware that it affords only partial illumination. Like most practicing historians today, I have assumed the task of explaining how things actually were while at the same time thinking that no one will ever really know. Which is to say that this book is one man's answer and that other men have and will advance others. I hope that mine is a reasonably satisfactory one, but I shall be enormously surprised —and greatly disappointed—if I am not shown to be wrong on some matters. Some, but not too many. I have tried to read a good deal in the extant remains of a literate culture which, however greatly it influenced its current heirs, is no longer in existence. Some of the inherent biases in these remains are discussed in the Essay on Sources. I have tried to read these sources with mind and eyes open and to listen with as much receptivity as possible to what men now dead were saying. Some readers will think that this book reads too much into what men wrote in the past. To this objection I can only say that an historian's relationship with the raw materials of history is a profoundly reciprocal one and that I read in these materials for several years before I became partially aware, I think, of what meaning they contained, of what thoughts and feelings in their authors they reflected. This is in part to say that I became aware of the power of irrationality in men because and not before I read the source materials for this study. Some, but by no means all readers schooled in the behavioral [xxvii] [xXViii] P R E F A C E sciences will discover a disgraceful lack of system in the approach taken here toward the way societies are held together and toward the way men think, act, and feel. There is, however, a certain sloppiness in the available evidence. If it were possible to poll the inhabitants of Jamestown, Virginia, concerning their reaction to those famous first "twenty Negars" who arrived in 1619 I would be among the first at the foot of the gangplank, questionnaire in hand. Lacking this opportunity, I have operated with certain working assumptions which some readers will detect as drawing upon some "psychologies"—the assumptions about how people operate—of the twentieth century and upon some of the psychological imagery of the eighteenth. I have taken "attitudes" to be discrete entities susceptible of historical analysis.This term seems to me to possess a desirable combination of precision and embraciveness. It suggests thoughts and feelings (as opposed to actions) directed toward some specific object (as opposed to generalized faiths and beliefs). At the same time it suggests a wide range in consciousness, intensity, and saliency in the response to the object. We are all aware that our "attitude toward" sex is not of precisely the same order as our "attitude toward" Medicare, and the same may be said of our attitudes toward the neighbor's cat or Red China or rock-and-roll or the Ku Klux Klan—not, of course, that it is right to suppose that our various attitudes toward these objects are altogether unconnected with one another. This book treats attitudes as existing not only at various levels of intensity but at various levels of consciousness and unconsciousness; it is written on the assumption that there is no clear dividing line between "thought" and "feeling," between conscious and unconscious mental processes. The book therefore deals with "attitudes" toward Negroes which range from highly articulated ideas about the church or natural rights or the structure of the cutis vera, through off-hand notions and traditional beliefs about climate or savages or the duties of Christian ministers, through myths about Africa or Noah or the properties of chimpanzees , down to expressions of the most profound human urges—to the coded languages of our strivings for death and life and selfidentification . Which is the way things are and—this...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781469600765
Related ISBN
9780807834022
MARC Record
OCLC
861793501
Pages
696
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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