While initially this likely referred to the traditional moiety division among Creeks with red denoting war and white peace , in the succeeding decades the designation clearly came to refer to skin color. This message was most fully amplified at mid-century by Neolin Delaware , whose message inspired Pontiac Ottawa , and many others. In the first two decades of the 19th century, Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh Shawnee , as well as Hillis Hadjo Creek , offered similar messages to similar effect, inspiring numerous warriors to attempt to drive back whites.
These radical racial messages sought to create a unified pan-Indian identity, but they also divided Indians precisely because they cut against older, more familiar identifications with village, clan, language, and tribe. Racial ideas also flourished among those who very deliberately adapted Euro-American religion and political economy. Drawing, in part, on indigenous views of separate creations, many Catawbas, Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, and Chickasaws adapted traditional notions of captivity to plantation slavery.
Diverse southern New England and upper Hudson Valley Algonquians came together to form the communities of Stockbridge and Brothertown, but frustrated by white prejudice and pressure, they relocated to live among the Oneidas, ethnically distinct traditional rivals but fellow Christians. Racial ideas also provided a means of social criticism. Apess and others drew upon tribal and Indian identities in an era when whites not only forced Indian removal to the West but also denied the existence of Native people who remained in the East.
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These racial identities played a crucial role in the U. The question of whether races could change received sustained attention in the context of revolutionary natural rights ideology and gradual emancipation in the North. Figures whose race seemed to be in some way unstable, such as the black Virginian Henry Moss, sparked the curiosity of popular crowds and debates among the learned. Benjamin Rush thought Moss confirmed his theory that blackness was a form of leprosy, demanding strict prohibitions on interracial sex, while Samuel Stanhope Smith accepted Moss as proof that a free American environment was gradually eliminating blackness, a process that intermixture with whites would accelerate.
Moss himself believed his transformation to be the work of Providence, perhaps because exhibiting himself provided the means to purchase his freedom. Medical discourses remained crucial to racial notions. In slave markets, blackness was a sign of health and strength for field hands, though lighter skin was preferred for domestics, despite its association with intelligence and the risk of slaves running away and passing as free.
The Mobile physician Josiah Nott predicted the extermination of whites and blacks if intermixture proceeded, which the craniologist Samuel G. Morton refined into an elaborate polygenetic theory of hybridization that postulated the possibility, contra Buffon, of distinct species producing fertile offspring, but with fertility diminishing with biological distance. Such theories shaped the defense of slavery as a positive good as well as state laws, plantation management, and even international diplomacy.
Calhoun drew upon the results of the deeply flawed census, which recorded implausible levels of insanity and suicide among northern free blacks, in a proslavery defense of Texas annexation.
The malleability of physical differences was a hotly contested issue in these years, though theories of fixity steadily gained in prominence throughout the first half of the 19th century. Samuel Stanhope Smith argued that skin color resulted from the reciprocal effects of climate and social state.
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While some authorities, such as the eminent British ethnologist James Cowles Prichard, cited him in defense of their own environmentalist theories, American opponents such as Charles Caldwell and John Augustine Smith, ridiculed such explanations of difference. Work by John C. Warren and Samuel G. In subsequent publications he explicitly argued for polygenesis.
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His associate George Gliddon elaborated these views in public lectures and polemical, stridently anticlerical articles based upon physical ethnology and hieroglyphics. Indians also captured attention, frequently focused on Indian origins and broader debates about polygenesis. Language was a crucial field of investigation. In the retired missionary John Heckewelder and the lawyer Peter S.
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Such theories converged with similar work in Europe, such as that of Wilhelm von Humboldt, who formulated his views in conversation with American philologists. Schoolcraft, philology could seem to undermine philanthropy. Learned and popular interest in Indian antiquities and customs was also central to racial theories. Most of these peoples were interpreted in light of a racial binary that associated dark skin with servility and native status with savagery; possessors of the former were disqualified from republican citizenship, while possessors of the latter were incapable of civilization.
In addition, innumerable representations and misrepresentations of European and nonwhite peoples, societies, and histories appeared in the popular press. Despite the importance of racial theories to proslavery, removal, and conquest, some ethnologists argued against the most pernicious forms of racism.
Some nonwhites challenged race science even more deeply. William W. Racial ideas were fiercely debated in early America. Did the races share a common ancestry? Were the races fixed, or capable of alteration or improvement? For all this uncertainty, however, race acquired legal power and social significance—for whites circumscribing the boundaries of democracy; for Indians and blacks defending their lands and their freedom—in the U. The earliest histories of the emergence of modern, biological ideas about race in the midth century appeared in the civil rights era.
Winthrop D. George M. For an overview, see Alden T. Studies of Indians have focused on the emergence of ideas of savagery. Among the most important contributions have been made by those scholars who have centered questions of gender and sex to constructions of race, such as Kathleen M. The centrality of lineage to ideas of race has been increasingly appreciated.
Spear, Goetz, and Harvey build on this insight. Many titles have traced the emergence of racial ideas among diverse groups. On ideas of whiteness, see David R.
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McLoughlin and Walter H. Cosner Jr. Some find essentialist understandings of difference present in classical sources and clearly articulated in the early modern era. Jordan, Berkhofer, Chaplin, and Goetz each argued that racial ideas crystallized before the 18th century. Dowd, Shoemaker, Silverman, Snyder, and Silver point to the intensification of white settlement, the expansion of slavery, and increasing territorial and cultural pressure on Indians in crystallizing ideas of race in the mid-to-late 18th century.
To these, Sweet adds the effects of emancipation. For a general overview that stresses race as a body of folk beliefs and social stratification, rather than a set of philosophical or scientific theories, see Audrey Smedley, Race in North America: The Origin and Evolution of a Worldview Innumerable sources contain material pertinent to ideas about race or its component parts, including ancestry and physical and cultural traits. Early travel narratives are invaluable, though they vary by richness as well as in the quality of indexes and editorial notes.
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For eastern Indians in the 17th and early 18th centuries, the seventy-two volumes of the Jesuit Relations are unparalleled, well-indexed in an edition by Reuben Gold Thwaites, and now available as searchable digital sources courtesy of Creighton University. Numerous translations of journals kept by German-speaking Moravian missionaries among the Iroquoians and Algonquians of the mid-Atlantic in the mid- to late 18th century are also tremendously valuable.
Jane E. Mangan, trans. William N. Fenton and Elizabeth L. Moore, 2 vols. Kathryn E. Holland Braund , contain significant ethnographic information, but privilege the question of lineage over that of social condition. The latter provides an especially important window into the racial views of ordinary people. Researchers will find scattered material in the publications of state historical societies and learned societies.
Morton, and Ephraim G. A number of other titles provide a sense of expanding ethnographic knowledge. Missionary organizations extended their reach in this era, with the Papers of the America Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions est. Some material was published in monthly issues of Missionary Herald.