How Race Survived US History: From the American Revolution to the Present

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In this absorbing chronicle of the role of race in US history, David R. Roediger explores how the idea of race was created and recreated from the 1600’s to the present day. From the late seventeenth century—the era in which DuBois located the emergence of “whiteness”—through the American revolution and the emancipatory Civil War, to the civil rights movement and the emergence of the American empire, How Race Survived US History reveals how race did far more than persist as an exception in a progressive national history. Roediger examines how race intersected all that was dynamic and progressive in US history, from democracy and economic development to migration and globalization.

Exploring the evidence that the USA will become a majority “nonwhite” nation in the next fifty years, this masterful account shows how race remains at the heart of American life in the twenty-first century.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“In a trenchant, broad-ranging analysis, the leading US historian of racism, David Roediger, demonstrates white supremacy’s incredible staying power against major societal forces that should long ago have dismantled it. Not capitalism, not emancipation, not labor movements, not mass immigration, not the civil rights movement, not colorblind liberalism, and not the Barack Obama presidential campaign—not one of these forces separately, and not all of them together—have been able to destroy the deep structures of white racism in the United States.”—Joe R. Feagin

“David Roediger’s bold and brilliant book presents an extraordinary new framework for understanding the persistence of racism in the history of the United States. This book is a wake-up call and a warning, an appeal for understanding and action. It offers a clear and convincing demonstration that white supremacy is not merely a relic of the past but rather a perpetually renewed and infinitely renewable resource for inequality and injustice in the present.”—George Lipsitz

“A staggering re-interpretation of the whole course of American history in which the skeletons in the closet walk again. From genocide and massacre to lynching to the coded tongue of liberalism, the bankruptcy of white supremacy is found in the racialized structures maintained by the enclosures of incarceration and the foreclosures of impignoration. Read it, Obama, and weep!”—Peter Linebaugh

“Sometime in the US of the past quarter-century, calling policies and the people who dream them up racist became a worse offense than for them to be racist. This inversion, always dressed in self-righteous indignation, is actually part of the social evolution of white supremacy. David Roediger’s new book details in sharp and readable prose how race survived US history. It is a must-read for all who strive to understand—and abolish—what underlies the strangely strident rhetoric enveloping everything from presidential contests to prison expansion.”—Ruth Wilson Gilmore

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

Author and history professor Roediger (The Wages of Whiteness) takes a provocative look at how white elites in the U.S. have managed race for their own political and economic gain, in the process making it one of the defining features of American life. Only a few decades after Europeans' arrival in America, emerging class tensions were leading indentured servants-white and black-to disaffection and, sometimes, rebellion. By enslaving blacks, and giving poor whites dominating roles as overseers or slave catchers, elite whites quashed the emerging fraternity and gave birth to white supremacy. Since, successive generations-from slave holders to factory managers-have manipulated laborers to keep African Americans at the bottom of the heap, while new waves of immigrants secured the benefits of white privilege by distancing themselves from people of color and assimilating. Taking his history through the Clinton era ("How Race Survived Modern Liberalism"), Roediger includes an afterword on "the Obama Phenomenon," finding yet more questions in the African-American senator's triumphant presidential campaign. This rousing, thought-provoking history illuminates the enveloping 400-year-old history of race in America, and the issues he raises are as relevant as ever.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Library Journal

Probing the puzzle of race in U.S. history, Roediger (history, Univ. of Illinois; The Wages of Whiteness) quickly examines patterns of race thinking and exploitation in America from settler colonialism to slavery, Jim Crow segregation, overseas empire, globalization, and "Obamamania." He explains race's persistence and power as a defining and distributive social category in American life as the conscious and intentional result of white supremacy. Race-based practices and principles of oppression in America have not been unthinking accidents. Nor have their results been marginal. Race has defined every significant opportunity for Americans from life to premature death, wealth to poverty, confinement to freedom, citizenship to alienation, Roediger argues. Continually repelling forces pushing against the logic of racism, white supremacy has diverted the freedom and openness that might have ensued in America from emancipation, industrialization, mass immigration, modern liberalism, industrial unionism, and civil rights. His incisive analysis and accessible explanation aim to promote an activist consciousness to abolish race-based oppression. Whether cast as splendid or seditious, this provocative little book, while lacking scholarly apparatus, will be much referenced in any serious discussion of U.S. history and political economy, past and present. Essential for all U.S. history collections.
—Thomas J. Davis

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781844672752
  • Publisher: Verso Books
  • Publication date: 10/6/2008
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

David Roediger is Kendrick Babcock Chair of History at the University of Illinois. Among his books are Our Own Time: A History of American Labor and the Working Day (with Philip S. Foner), How Race Survived US History: From Settlement and Slavery to the Obama Phenomenon, and The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class. He is the editor of Fellow Worker: The Life of Fred Thompson, The North and Slavery and Black on White: Black Writers on What It Means to Be White as well as a new edition of Covington Hall’s Labor Struggles in the Deep South. His articles have appeared in New Left Review, Against the Current, Radical History Review, History Workshop Journal, The Progressive and Tennis.
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Table of Contents

1 Suddenly White Supremacy: How Race Took Hold 1

2 Slavery's Shadow, Empire's Edge: How White Supremacy Survived Declarations of Independence 30

3 Managing to Continue: How Race Survived Capitalism and Free Labor 64

4 The Ends of Emancipation: How Race Survived Jubilee 99

5 A Nation Stays White: How Race Survived Mass Immigration 136

6 Colorblind Inequalities: How Race Survived Modern Liberalism 169

Afterword: Will Race Survive? 212

Index 231

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