Bind Us Apart : How Enlightened Americans Invented Racial Segregation
Overview - Why did the Founding Fathers fail to include blacks and Indians in their cherished proposition that "all men are created equal"? The usual answer is racism, but the reality is more complex and unsettling. In Bind Us Apart , historian Nicholas Guyatt argues that, from the Revolution through the Civil War, most white liberals believed in the unity of all human beings. Read more...
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Why did the Founding Fathers fail to include blacks and Indians in their cherished proposition that "all men are created equal"? The usual answer is racism, but the reality is more complex and unsettling. In Bind Us Apart
, historian Nicholas Guyatt argues that, from the Revolution through the Civil War, most white liberals believed in the unity of all human beings. But their philosophy faltered when it came to the practical work of forging a color-blind society. Unable to convince others--and themselves--that racial mixing was viable, white reformers began instead to claim that people of color could only thrive in separate republics: in Native states in the American West or in the West African colony of Liberia.
Herein lie the origins of "separate but equal." Decades before Reconstruction, America's liberal elite was unable to imagine how people of color could become citizens of the United States. Throughout the nineteenth century, Native Americans were pushed farther and farther westward, while four million slaves freed after the Civil War found themselves among a white population that had spent decades imagining that they would live somewhere else.
Essential reading for anyone disturbed by America's ongoing failure to achieve true racial integration, Bind Us Apart
shows conclusively that "separate but equal" represented far more than a southern backlash against emancipation--it was a founding principle of our nation.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
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Guyatt, a University of Cambridge history lecturer with expertise in U.S. race and religious history, examines how liberal voices in the formative years of the U.S. sought to end slavery and integrate Native Americans into white society. Working from primary sources, he clearly lays out how reformers intended to accomplish these obstacle-strewn goals. For African-Americans, the most radical approach was a path to full political emancipation and integration, but a competing approach hoped to facilitate colonization by a freed slave population in the western U.S. or Africa. Emancipation presented a conundrum because there was general agreement that slaves could not enter society until the “degradation” caused by slavery was reversed, but the most accepted mechanism for reversal was the wholly unrealistic “amalgamation”—a mixing of the races via intermarriage and interbreeding. It is Guyatt’s well-supported thesis that segregation was the default result of the failure of these strategies. Guyatt’s parallel treatment of efforts to integrate Native Americans details the challenges reformers faced, including the failure of the fledging government to honor negotiated treaties and Native Americans’ desires to maintain their lands and traditions. Guyatt’s documentation of the historic failure to integrate African-Americans and Native Americans into white society is a timely and instructive look at how deeply racism is embedded in America’s past. (May)