Color Of Race In America, 1900-1940 / Edition 1

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With the social change brought on by the Great Migration of African Americans into the urban northeast after the Great War came the surge of a biracial sensibility that made America different from other Western nations. How white and black people thought about race and how both groups understood and attempted to define and control the demographic transformation are the subjects of this new book by a rising star in American history.

An elegant account of the roiling environment that witnessed the shift from the multiplicity of white races to the arrival of biracialism, this book focuses on four representative spokesmen for the transforming age: Daniel Cohalan, the Irish-American nationalist, Tammany Hall man, and ruthless politician; Madison Grant, the patrician eugenicist and noisy white supremacist; W. E. B. Du Bois, the African-American social scientist and advocate of social justice; and Jean Toomer, the American pluralist and novelist of the interior life. Race, politics, and classification were their intense and troubling preoccupations in a world they did not create, would not accept, and tried to change.

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Editorial Reviews


Guterl highlights the lives and work of a number of personalities during the early part of the twentieth century, who reflect the transformation of racial identity in the U.S. Among those profiled are Daniel Cohalan, an Irish-American nationalist and substantial political figure in New York; Madison Grant, a eugenist and white supremacist; W. E. B. Du Bois, an African American social scientist; and Jean Toomer, a novelist and racial pluralist.
— Vernon Ford

David Levering Lewis
A truly brilliant book. Conceptually arresting and beautifully written...may well become a benchmark for informed discussion of race in the construction of American identities in the early twentieth century.
Matthew Frye Jacobson
Guterl's keen analysis goes right to the very heart of American cultural and political life in the twentieth century. This is the only study of race I know of which so thoroughly addresses the political along with the cultural; sweeping epochal trends along with the specificities of the historical moment; lone figures along with surrounding economic and political structures; the local along with the global; conscious intellectual agendas along with reflexive ideologies; 'blackness' along with 'whiteness.' At once a bold thinker and a cautious researcher, Guterl is as expansive and far-reaching with his chapters as he is painstaking and precise with his words. The Color of Race is crisp, accessible, energetic, and always interesting.
Nell Irvin Painter
The Color of Race in America, 1900-1940 examines how Americans, black and white, thought about race in the 1920s and 1930s. Guterl shows the ways in which several thinkers on both sides of the color line changed their thinking about races. Early in the twentieth century, they envisioned some fifty human races; by the 1930s, they had come to see people as categorized into two large groups, black and white or white and colored. This ambitious and very smart work makes an original contribution to the study of race in the United States.
Walter Johnson
I enjoyed reading this book, which is smart, interesting, informative, argumentative, and beautifully written.
Booklist - Vernon Ford
Guterl highlights the lives and work of a number of personalities during the early part of the twentieth century, who reflect the transformation of racial identity in the U.S. Among those profiled are Daniel Cohalan, an Irish-American nationalist and substantial political figure in New York; Madison Grant, a eugenist and white supremacist; W. E. B. Du Bois, an African American social scientist; and Jean Toomer, a novelist and racial pluralist.
Library Journal
In four notably nuanced essays, Guterl (comparative American cultures, Washington State Univ.) suggests a parallel between U.S. problems of racial classification at the turn of the 20th and the 21st centuries. He argues that, then as now, the black-white binary of racial identity faced the demographic realities of myriad ethnic and racial groups and engendered fears of disuniting the U.S. community. Focusing on what he fixes as the nation's cultural market centered on New York City's borough of Manhattan, Guterl juxtaposes the lives of four turn-of-the-20th-century New Yorkers: Irish American nationalist Daniel Cohalan, eugenicist and white supremacist Madison Grant, African American advocate W.E.B. Du Bois, and mixed-race novelist Jean Toomer. Showing their individual fascination with race and its politics, Guterl unpacks each individual's race consciousness. The work is absorbing reading bound to take a place alongside recent works on race, and particularly whiteness, by such authors as Mia Bay, Neil Foley, Grace Elizabeth Hale, and Matthew Frye Jacobson. Recommended for collections on U.S. culture, race, or society. Thomas J. Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674010123
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 10/30/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.54 (d)

Meet the Author

Matthew Pratt Guterl is Professor of Africana Studies and American Studies at Brown University.
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Table of Contents



1. Salvaging a Shipwrecked World

2. Bleeding the Irish White

3. Against the White Leviathan

4. The Hypnotic Division of America





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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2004

    Insightful and readable

    Although it deals with some very complex issues and detailed historiographical arguments, this book does a wonderful job of being both readable and enlightening. Unlike the sloppy thinking in books like 'How the Irish Became White', 'The Color of Race' presents the complex process of racial definition in a way which is accessible and interesting without being superficial. This is a real triumph and should be a great asset to anyone interested in race and American society.

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