Racially Writing the Republic

Racists, Race Rebels, and Transformations of American Identity

Racially Writing the Republic

Book Pages: 344 Illustrations: 6 illustrations Published: July 2009

American Studies, History > U.S. History, Politics > Political Science

Racially Writing the Republic investigates the central role of race in the construction and transformation of American national identity from the Revolutionary War era to the height of the civil rights movement. Drawing on political theory, American studies, critical race theory, and gender studies, the contributors to this collection highlight the assumptions of white (and often male) supremacy underlying the thought and actions of major U.S. political and social leaders. At the same time, they examine how nonwhite writers and activists have struggled against racism and for the full realization of America’s political ideals. The essays are arranged chronologically by subject, and, with one exception, each essay is focused on a single figure, from George Washington to James Baldwin.

The contributors analyze Thomas Jefferson’s legacy in light of his sexual relationship with his slave, Sally Hemings; the way that Samuel Gompers, the first president of the American Federation of Labor, rallied his organization against Chinese immigrant workers; and the eugenicist origins of the early-twentieth-century birth-control movement led by Margaret Sanger. They draw attention to the writing of Sarah Winnemucca, a Northern Piute and one of the first published Native American authors; the anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett; the Filipino American writer Carlos Bulosan; and the playwright Lorraine Hansberry, who linked civil rights struggles in the United States to anticolonial efforts abroad. Other figures considered include Alexis de Tocqueville and his traveling companion Gustave de Beaumont, Juan Nepomuceno Cortina (who fought against Anglo American expansion in what is now Texas), Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and W. E. B. Du Bois. In the afterword, George Lipsitz reflects on U.S. racial politics since 1965.

Contributors. Bruce Baum, Cari M. Carpenter, Gary Gerstle, Duchess Harris, Catherine A. Holland, Allan Punzalan Isaac, Laura Janara, Ben Keppel, George Lipsitz, Gwendolyn Mink, Joel Olson, Dorothy Roberts, Patricia A. Schechter, John Kuo Wei Tchen, Jerry Thompson


“[A]ll fourteen essays in Racially Writing the Republic are boldly written, insightful, and thought provoking. . . . The history of the American republic, as racially written, ignores much of the multiracial contributions of non-Europeans. It also reconstructs an American identity through white hierarchical lens where meritocracy and equality of opportunity are uncontested. Racially Writing the Republic reminds us of America’s shortcomings, if not the failure, of such an identity.” — James D. Ward, Journal of American Ethnic History

“I have no hesitation in wholeheartedly recommending this wide-ranging analysis of the ‘racial writing’ of America to scholars and students within American Studies, Political Science, History, Race and Ethnicity and Sociology. I believe it is a welcome and significant addition to a growing body of literature on the critical analysis of racial formations.” — Rachel L. Finn, Ethnic and Racial Studies

“In bringing together in one volume new readings of classical political theory and explorations of protest thought historically excluded from the canon, this book will serve multiple readerships. . . . The book is a bold attempt to move the academic center to the left and disrupt the traditional ways we have come to conceive of both American studies and political thought.” — Shani Mott, Journal of American History

“In asking how U.S. commitments to liberty and white supremacy have cohabited, this collection brings to bear state-of-the-art scholarship and a long historical view. Moreover, rather than only focusing on the white/African American color line, it shows that critically important variations have mattered where American Indians, Asian Americans, Latina/os, and ‘white ethnics’ are concerned.” — David Roediger, author of How Race Survived U.S. History: From Settlement and Slavery to the Obama Phenomenon


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Bruce Baum is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of The Rise and Fall of the Caucasian Race: A Political History of Racial Identity. Duchess Harris is Associate Professor of American Studies at Macalester College. She is the author of Black Feminist Politics from Kennedy to Clinton (forthcoming).

Duchess Harris is Associate Professor of American Studies at Macalester College. She is the author of Black Feminist Politics from Kennedy to Clinton (forthcoming).

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

George Washington: Porcelain, Tea, and Revolution / John Kou Wei Tchen 26

Jefferson's Legacies: Racial Intimacies and American Identity / Duchess Harris and Bruce Baum 44

Tocqueville and Beaumont, Brothers, and Others / Laura Janara 64

"The Sacred Right of Self-Preservation": Juan Nepomuceno Cortina and the Struggle for Justice in Texas / Jerry Thompson 81

"Shoot Mr. Lincoln"? / Catherine A. Holland 96

Sarah Winnemucca and the Rewriting of Nation / Cari M. Carpenter 112

The Politics of the Possible: Ida B. Wells-Barnett's Crusade for Justice / Patricia A. Schechter 128

Meat vs. Rice (and Pasta): Samuel Gompers and the Republic of White Labor / Gwendolyn Mink, Abridged by Bruce Baum 145

Theodore Roosevelt and the Divided Character of American Nationalism / Gary Gerstle 163

Margaret Sanger and the Racial Origins of the Birth Control Movement / Dorothy Roberts 196

W. E. B. Du Bois and the Race Concept / Joel Olson 214

Displacing Filipinos, Dislocating America: Carlos Bolusan's America Is in the Heart 231

Looking Through Sideny Brustein's Window: Lorraine Hansberry's New Frontier, 1959–1965 / Ben Keppel 247

James Baldwin's "Discovery of What It Means to Be an American" / Bruce Baum 263

Afterword: Racially Writing the Republic and racially Righting the Republic / George Lipsitz 281

Bibliography 301

Contributors 321

Index 323
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4447-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4435-3
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