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The History of White People by Nell Irvin…

The History of White People (2010)

by Nell Irvin Painter

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5511128,975 (3.9)15
Historian Painter centers her momentous study of racial classification on the slave trade and the nation-building efforts which dominated the United States in the 18th century, when thinkers led by Ralph Waldo Emerson strove to explain the rapid progress of America within the context of white superiority. Her research is filled with frequent, startling realizations about how tenuous and temporary our racial classifications really are.… (more)
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    Race in North America: Origin and Evolution of a Worldview by Audrey Smedley (asaniJ)
  2. 10
    Passing Strange by Martha A. Sandweiss (electronicmemory)
    electronicmemory: Two works that critically examine the flexibility of race and our understandings and constructions of identity through historical figures and times. Both make for fascinating reading.
  3. 00
    1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann (electronicmemory)
    electronicmemory: While The History of White People is the more scholarly of the two works, both are engaging, thoughtful explorations of commonly held beliefs and misunderstandings of history in American culture.

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» See also 15 mentions

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It isn't what I expected (I thought it would be a deeper deconstruction of what we perceive to be white, but it's more of an academic historical survey), but I certainly did learn a lot. My favourite parts were reading about courageous progressives, telling the truth about racial oppression in much more racist and backward-thinking times. Also, I didn't know the racist history of the GI bill, and it makes so much sense (so much racial oppression is omitted from the history we learn growing up), and gave me a different perspective on the incessant self-congratulation of my parents' generation, the baby boomers, who act like they weren't born into the most privileged generation in history. ( )
  xiaomarlo | Apr 17, 2019 |
Interesting but incredibly dense. ( )
  Bodagirl | Dec 30, 2018 |
The history of the concept of “white People” is traced from Classical Times, when the “Top People” weren’t, strictly speaking, “White” down to relatively recent times. It is the story of the exponents of various racial theorists’ thoughts at least through their published works, though filmed and other media are also explored. Some of these theorists are shown to be deliberately pursuing political or economic programs, while others are drawn into the discussion of “Race” from other fields and interests. There is also a discussion of the extent to which the social concept of “Race” can be verified by any form of physical evidence save personal appearance. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Dec 4, 2018 |
“Whiteness” has been a European obsession for centuries, including claims about how ancient Egyptians—at least the ruling castes—were white and fair-haired (they just wore wigs in pictures, the story went) and how modern Greeks weren’t really the Greeks of ancient times, whose proper descendants were some version of French, German, or English depending on the commitments of the proponent. In the US, this turns into a persistent contrast with blackness, though Painter also recounts the arguments for why the Irish, the Italians, and the Jews who immigrated weren’t really white, until they became so (most often in response to a new wave of immigrants who seemed even more different). ( )
  rivkat | Sep 19, 2016 |
Interesting parts, like about how there used to be hard within-European white fronts that are now much less pronounced, and president Theodore Roosevelt's worries about racial decay and writings about positive eugenics (boosting fertility), but overall I found the book too long and slow. ( )
  ohernaes | Jan 18, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
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To Edwin Barber and the Princeton University Library, the absolute indispensables.
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W.W. Norton

2 editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0393049345, 0393339742

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