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A Dreadful Deceit: The Myth of Race from the Colonial Era to Obama's Americaby Jacqueline Jones
Synopses & Reviews
In 1656, a Maryland planter tortured and killed an enslaved man named Antonio, an Angolan who refused to work in the fields. Three hundred years later, Simon P. Owens battled soul-deadening technologies as well as the fiction of and#147;raceand#8221; that divided him from his co-workers in a Detroit auto-assembly plant. Separated by time and space, Antonio and Owens nevertheless shared a distinct kind of political vulnerability; they lacked rights and opportunities in societies that accorded marked privileges to people labeled and#147;white.and#8221;
An American creation myth posits that these two black men were the victims of and#147;racialand#8221; discrimination, a primal prejudice that the United States has haltingly but gradually repudiated over the course of many generations. In A Dreadful Deceit, award-winning historian Jacqueline Jones traces the lives of Antonio, Owens, and four other African Americans to illustrate the strange history of and#147;raceand#8221; in America. In truth, Jones shows, race does not exist, and the very factors that we think of as determining itand#151; a personand#8217;s heritage or skin colorand#151;are mere pretexts for the brutalization of powerless people by the powerful. Jones shows that for decades, southern planters did not even bother to justify slavery by invoking the concept of race; only in the late eighteenth century did whites begin to rationalize the exploitation and marginalization of blacks through notions of and#147;racialand#8221; difference. Indeed, race amounted to a political strategy calculated to defend overt forms of discrimination, as revealed in the stories of Boston King, a fugitive in Revolutionary South Carolina; Elleanor Eldridge, a savvy but ill-starred businesswoman in antebellum Providence, Rhode Island; Richard W. White, a Union veteran and Republican politician in post-Civil War Savannah; and William Holtzclaw, founder of an industrial school for blacks in Mississippi, where many whites opposed black schooling of any kind. These stories expose the fluid, contingent, and contradictory idea of race, and the disastrous effects it has had, both in the past and in our own supposedly post-racial society.
Expansive, visionary, and provocative, A Dreadful Deceit explodes the pernicious fiction that has shaped four centuries of American history.
"MacArthur Fellow and Bancroft Prize — winning historian Jones's aim in this heartfelt book is to redefine our ideas of what constitutes 'race' while arguing that the entire foundation of racial categorizing is unscientific and deeply injurious historically. While that argument is widely held by scientists and scholars, it still lacks widespread acceptance. So in what is the most persuasive and satisfying feature of this authoritative book, Jones relates the stories of six 'black' Americans across different eras spanning nearly half a millennium. These riveting tales emerge from Jones's deep knowledge of African-American history and her brilliant use of previously unexploited sources. If at times unsubtle — Jones finds it necessary to keep reminding us that 'race' is mythic, not real — she leaves no doubt that ever-changing racial mythologies 'have nothing to do with biological determinism and everything to do with power relations.' Racial ideologies, she shows, have long been a pretext for injustice, are always in flux, and while they deeply affect us all, have never extinguished the robust determination of the oppressed to gain safety, dignity, and a rightful place in the nation's civic life. Agent: Geri Thoma, Writers House." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
In 1656, a planter in colonial Maryland tortured and killed one of his slaves, an Angolan man named Antonio who refused to work the fields. Over three centuries later, a Detroit labor organizer named Simon Owens watched as strikebreakers wielding bats and lead pipes beat his fellow autoworkers for protesting their inhumane working conditions. Antonio and Owens had nothing in common but the color of their skin and the economic injustices they battled—yet the former is what defines them in Americas consciousness. In A Dreadful Deceit, award-winning historian Jacqueline Jones traces the lives of these two men and four other African Americans to reveal how the concept of race has obscured the factors that truly divide and unite us.
Expansive, visionary, and provocative, A Dreadful Deceit explodes the pernicious fiction that has shaped American history.
About the Author
Jacqueline Jones is Walter Prescott Webb Chair in History and Ideas and Mastin Gentry White Professor of Southern History at the University of Texas at Austin. Winner of a MacArthur Fellowship and the Bancroft Prize for American History, among many other awards and distinctions, she lives in Austin, TX.
Table of Contents
One. Antonio: A Killing in Early Colonial Maryland
Two. Boston King: Self-Interested Patriotism in Revolutionary-Era South Carolina
Three. Elleanor Eldridge: and#147;Complexional Hindranceand#8221; in Antebellum Rhode Island
Four. Richard W. White: and#147;Racialand#8221; Politics in Post-Civil-War Savannah
Five. William H. Holtzclaw: The and#147;Black Manand#8217;s Burdenand#8221; in the Heart of Mississippi
Six. Simon P. Owens: A Detroit Wildcatter at the Point of Production
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