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  当前位置:首页 >> 读书 >> From Savage to Negro:Anthropology and the Construction of Race, 1896–1954 >> 正文
Chapter 1: History and Theory of a Racialized Worldview

图书名称:From Savage to Negro:Anthropology and the Construction of Race, 1896–1954
图书作者:Lee D. Baker    ISBN:
出版社:Berkeley: University of California Press    出版日期:1998年

I begin my narrative proper with a discussion of turn-of-the-century anthropologists in the United States and how they contributed to the formation of racial categories. The history and politics of race, however, predate the formation of anthropology as an academic discipline. The first half of this chapter is intended to foreground the twentieth-century material with a brief history of the origins of race in the United States and review the contributions of the first "American school of anthropology" in the mid-nineteenth century. The second part of this chapter outlines the turbulent racial politics in which turn-of-the-century anthropologists found themselves embroiled.

A Brief History of the Formation of Race

The origins of contemporary racial categories lie in sixteenth-century England and emerge from the age of exploration, the rise of capitalism, and the rise of science.[1] From the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries the term race consisted of folk classifications that were interchangeable with concepts like nation, type, variety, or stock. These folk ideas about cultural differences were viewed as natural or biological differences and merged with the Anglican and Puritan belief in the sacredness of property rights and the individual. These ideological ingredients were transferred to the New World. They helped to shape colonial identities, the form of slavery, and the relationships between colonists and indigenous peoples.[2]

In the seventeenth century the English elite first imposed the idea of a less-than-human "savage" on the "wild" Irish, who were viewed as wicked, barbarous, and uncivil. Borrowed from the Spanish view of indigenous people in the New World, they reconfigured it in terms of their own ethnocentricity to label their subjected Gaelic neighbors. For example, members of the English gentry generally viewed the Irish as lazy, filthy, superstitious, and given to stealing, amorality, and crime. These traits constituted the antithesis of "civilized man" bound by laws. Imposing such traits dehumanized the Irish and allowed the English to forgo any ethical or moral considerations in their discrimination. According to Audrey Smedly, the same traits used to depict the Irish as savage in the seventeenth century were used to classify African Americans and Native Americans as savages during the following three centuries.[3] The critical difference between the seventeenth-century English ideas of savagery and the early-twentieth-century ideas in the United States was the authority: the former was religious; the latter, scientific.

The antecedents of contemporary notions of race are found not in the science of race but in the theology of heathenism, the saved, and the damned. Although many attempts were made by early North American colonialists to "save" the souls of indigenous people, the ensuing conflicts quickly changed the image of Native Americans from noble to ignoble savages. Religious doctrines inspired both colonization and malicious destruction of indigenous peoples' lives, land, and culture. It was God's will! John winthrop, who established the Massachusetts Bay Company in 1630, claimed that the smallpox epidemic of 1617 was God's way of "thinning out" the Indians "to make room for the Puritans."[4]

The first Africans to reach the New World accompanied Columbus on his initial foray to the Americas. Africans also accompanied conquistadores, pirates, and immigrants venturing to the so-called New World. The first Africans to join a North American English colony were sold as "cargo" from a Dutch ship to colonists at Jamestown in 1619. By 1633 New England colonists also held Africans in servitude. In all areas in North America the numbers of Africans were relatively small, and their status as free, enslaved, or indentured was ambiguous. The numbers of Africans in the Americas increased when sugar plantations were established in the Caribbean after 1500 in the Spanish colonies and after 1640 in the French, Dutch, and English colonies. The successful plantations grew dependent on the labor of enslaved Africans. In North America there was a steady stream of enslaved African labor as the tobacco industry took hold. Beginning with the Virginia Assembly in 1661, the ambiguous status of Africans in North American colonies was quickly defined. Smedly and others argue that by the 1690s Africans were reduced to chattel slavery as a result of numerous laws, customs, and labor needs. The institution of slavery was swiftly codified into the legal framework of colonial society and became integral to its economy. Slavery also evolved as a social institution. English colonists developed a unique ideology about human differences as institutional and behavioral aspects of slavery solidified. These changes continued into the early eighteenth century. Slavery developed throughout the Americas as a system of bondage that was unique in human history. Its primary distinctiveness rested on the fact that this form of slavery was reserved exclusively for Black people and their children. The institutionalization of slavery and scientific ideas of racial inferiority were critical steps in the evolution of the formation of a racialized worldview.[5]

By the end of the eighteenth century a whole new body of intellectual endeavors termed "science" had begun to emerge as a distinct domain of Western culture that challenged theology and moral philosophy. Enlightenment writers saw science emanating from the "rational mind of man" unfettered by emotion or superstition, and by the middle of the eighteenth century science was becoming a dominant discourse on both sides of the Atlantic. Between the middle of the eighteenth century and the dawn of the twentieth century, science played an important role in establishing the "fact" that savages were racially inferior to members of civilized society. During the second half of the eighteenth century continental scholars such as Louis LeClerc, Comte de Buffon, and Johann Blumenbach fused their aesthetic judgments and ethnocentrism to form an elaborate system to classify the races into a rigid, hierarchical scheme. In North America this scientific system, coupled with colonists' popular thinking about racial hierarchies, buoyed existing power relationships, political goals, and economic interests, which in turn institutionalized racial inferiority and socially structured the categories in new and enduring ways.[6]

European scientists' ideas about racial inferiority became more influential in North America as revolutionary fervor began to sweep the colonies. As English and colonial relations became more antagonistic, revolutionary philosophies about citizens' rights, freedom, and liberty rose to a crescendo. The duplicitous contradiction of fighting the tyranny of England while denying freedom to enslaved Africans fueled antislavery attempts to challenge the institution of slavery. The morality claim presented by Abolitionists was eviscerated by using scientific studies about racial inferiority to explain that Negroes and Indians were savages not worthy of citizenship or freedom.[7] The Abolition movement was not easily curbed. At the dawn of the Civil War, Abolitionists insisted on juxtaposing the institution of slavery with the ideology of democracy, but this only motivated proslavery forces to construct an even more elaborate edifice of race ideology.[8]

The "American School" of Anthropology

The so-called American school of anthropology was developed in the midst of the political, financial, and ideological unrest that led to the Civil War. Until the mid-nineteenth century most scientists explained racial inferiority in terms of the "savages'" fall from grace or of their position in the "Great Chain of Being." The idea of monogenesis — that Negroes were fully human — was integral to both paradigms. U.S. scientists, however, revived earlier ideas of polygenesis — multiple origins of the human species — in the wake of the growing antislavery forces and slave revolts. The proponents of these arguments eclipsed the single-origin thesis prior to and following the Civil War, even after Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859) should have abated them.[9] The first American anthropologists advanced the polygenesis thesis within the highly politicized antebellum period, and these efforts were aimed at setting Negroes apart from Whites and defining the Negro's place in nature. The most influential scholars of this school were Samuel Morton, Josiah Nott, and Louis Agassiz.

Samuel Morton was a Philadelphia physician who also taught anatomy to medical students. He curated, for his private use, one of the world's foremost collections of human skulls. He used his collection as a database to write two major publications, Crania Americana; or, a Comparative View of the Skulls of Various Aboriginal Nations of North and South America (1839) and Crania Ægyptiaca; or, Observations on Egyptian Ethnography, Derived from Anatomy, History and the Monuments (1844). Morton linked cranial capacity with moral and intellectual endowments and assembled a cultural ranking scheme that placed the large-brained Caucasoid at the pinnacle. The impact of his research is reflected in a memoir published in the Charleston Medical Journal after his death in 1851: "We can only say that we of the South should consider him [Morton] as our benefactor, for aiding most materially in giving to the negro his true position as an inferior race."[10]

Josiah Nott was trained by Morton and was another physician who contributed to the original American school of anthropology. Nott hailed from Alabama and desperately believed that Negroes and Whites were separate species. In numerous publications and lectures during the 1840s, Nott discussed the natural inferiority of the Negro in an explicit effort to help proslavery forces fend off the Abolitionist movement. Nott advanced theories that were used widely to continue the enslavement of African Americans. One of the most pervasive was the idea that Negroes were like children who needed direction, discipline, and the parentlike care of a master. Negroes, he argued, were better off enslaved because this imposed at least a modicum of civilized culture. This very theme was recycled time and time again over the next eighty years by various public intellectuals and politicians during and after Reconstruction.

In 1854 Congress repealed the Missouri Compromise, enabling the new territorial governments of Kansas and Nebraska to decide the slavery question under the theory of popular sovereignty. A mini-civil war erupted instead of elections; known as Bleeding Kansas, it was a prelude to the Civil War. Also in 1854, Nott and George Gliddon compiled the available anthropological data on species variations for Types of Mankind, a celebrated book with ten editions by the end of the century. Types of Mankind was perhaps the most important book on race during the contentious antebellum period. Its "quantitative" data were used to strengthen proslavery arguments by scholars and laypeople alike.[11]

On the heels of Nott and Gliddon's first edition, and in the middle of the escalating tensions between the North and the South, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857). Chief Justice Roger B. Taney authored the majority opinion, which was supposed to be only about the right of a manumitted slave to sue across state lines in federal court. By broadening the scope of the case Taney decreed that all African Americans (enslaved or free) had no rights as citizens under the U.S. Constitution. Taney framed his argument by detailing how "far below" Negroes were from Whites "in the scale of created beings," in effect constitutionalizing the racial ideology articulated by the scientific discourse and the opinion of proslavery interests.[12]

The third and most prominent contributor to this American school of anthropology was the Harvard naturalist Louis Agassiz. Agassiz hailed from Switzerland and was an expert in paleontological ichthyology. In 1846 he was invited to join the faculty of Harvard University, where he developed an interest in the origins of the human species. Initially he advanced the single-origin or monogenesis approach. After four years in the racially charged antebellum climate, however, he underwent a conversion that led him to believe Negroes were a separate species altogether. Two important events led to this conversion. The first was meeting Samuel Morton and viewing his collection of skulls in Philadelphia. The second event also occurred in Philadelphia. Apparently, Agassiz had his first encounter with African Americans in a hotel in Philadelphia, and he was disturbed by their features. When a Black waiter approached his table, he wanted to flee. "What unhappiness for the white race," he exclaimed, "to have tied their existence so closely with that of Negroes…. [T]his [is a] degraded and degenerate race."[13]

Agassiz's legacy is not only the statues, schools, streets, and museums in Cambridge emblazoned with his name but also the bevy of students who were under his tutelage at Harvard University. He trained virtually all of the prominent U.S. professors of natural history during the second half of the nineteenth century. Nathaniel Southgate Shaler and Joseph Le Conte were two of his students who became influential in the political debates concerning racial inferiority.

As my research will demonstrate, Shaler was a prolific writer for the mass media, influenced many Harvard undergraduates (including Theodore Roosevelt), and had an important impact on the fledgling academic discipline of anthropology. Another student of Agassiz was Frederic Ward Putnam. At Harvard, Putnam established both the Department of Anthropology and the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology. Thus, the original American school of anthropology not only helped to shape the first generation of academic anthropologists but also gave scientific authority to proslavery forces.

Science successfully eclipsed religious and folk beliefs about racial inferiority once the physicians and naturalists established the so-called scientific fact of Negro inferiority. From the mid-nineteenth century on, science provided the bases for the ideological elements of a comprehensive worldview summed up in the term race . Audrey Smedley contends that the cultural construction of race only reached "full development in the latter half of the nineteenth century," when "the legal apparatus of the United States and various state governments conspired with science to legitimize this structural inequality by sanctioning it in law."[14]

My research begins at precisely this historic juncture. I do not suggest a conspiracy, but I do demonstrate that members of Congress used early anthropological studies to justify legislation that structured racial inequality. I begin with this particular convergence of politics and science in the 1890s because this period was quite literally a defining moment in the history of both racial formation and university-based anthropology in the United States.[15]

Smedley rightly argues that during the 1890s the racial worldview was solid and comprehensive. Not until the second half of the nineteenth century did a "fully developed" construct of race emerge, and between the two World Wars efforts to "dismantle" the cultural construct of race were effective. Although my view of the processes of racial construction is congruent with Smedley's, I suggest that there has always been a social construct of race in the United States, at the least since the Constitution was ratified. For Smedley's "not fully developed" I substitute the idea of "fractured." The ways in which we conceptualize race differ only slightly, however.

I suggest that a social construct of race can exist without having, as Smedley suggests, a comprehensive worldview in which the ideological ingredients form a shared cosmological ordering system. By proposing that at every moment in the racial formation process there is a construct of race, I mean that people experience every day the ways in which categories of race are signified and reified socially, structurally, and culturally (symbolically), in terms that range from the intrapersonal to the supranational. The way people are forced to negotiate racial categories, and the terms by which racial categories form, however, change over time. Given the dialogical nature of racial formation, I recognize that using the noun construct presents a logical problem because various groups, individual people, or institutions have always engaged in challenging or protecting the meaning of racial categories, thereby helping to construct the meaning of racial categories. I use the term both ways. Although I argue that early ethnologists helped to solidify the construct of race during the 1890s, I also argue that the appropriation of the Boasian discourse on race by the NAACP during the litigation that culminated in Brown helped to construct a different meaning for racial categories.

Constructing Race for the Twentieth Century

The more recent origins of the racial category used to categorize African Americans arise after the Civil War, during the Reconstruction era and the ensuing backlash in the 1890s. The academic discipline of anthropology also developed during this time, in some respects because it was the science that helped explain the "race problem," which the nation was figuring out.

Shortly after the Civil War, Congress passed the Reconstruction Act of 1867. This act ushered in the beginning of political empowerment for African Americans—Radical Reconstruction. The act divided all Confederate states, except Tennessee, into five military districts. It also required each new state government to follow certain procedures to be recognized by Congress. These involved rewriting state constitutions to include Negro suffrage and the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment. During Radical Reconstruction, African Americans began to mobilize in political and labor organizations. On the labor front, workers from a variety of occupations organized and held strikes in cities throughout the South; on the political front, community leaders mobilized members of Black churches, clubs, societies, and leagues to form the Black arm of the Republican Party. By the end of 1867 it seemed that every Black voter in the South had joined the powerful, clandestine political organization called the Union League. For a short time, African Americans were becoming politically and economically empowered. With the help of paternalistic northern Republicans, African Americans in the South began to contest how southern Bourbons and the former planter class imposed racial inequality.[16]

Initially, African Americans voted straight Republican, never splitting a ticket. The fruits born from their party loyalty were African American delegations in each of the southern state's legislatures, congressional representation in Washington, and sundry political appointments. Although politically empowered, the Freedman's Bank debacle (when many lost their life's savings), the collapse of southern agriculture, and the lack of well-paying or union jobs left many African Americans economically desperate.[17] Notwithstanding, many White Republicans believed that just enfranchising African Americans would solve the so-called Negro problem. Senator Richard Yates even exclaimed that "The Ballot, will finish the negro question; it will settle everything connected With this question…. We need no vast expenditures, we need no standing army…. Sir, the ballot is the freedman's Moses."[18]

During Radical Reconstruction, southern Democrats and ex-Confederates were politically impotent at the federal level. At the state level, however, they obstructed the political empowerment of African Americans by any and all means. Although violence and terror were not new to the South, numerous White supremacist organizations began to flourish after the Reconstruction Act. To further White supremacy, these organizations employed intimidation and bribery at the polls, arson, and murder. Lynching became the tool of choice to keep African Americans out of the polls and off the streets.[19] Congress passed three bills designed to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment and stem the rising tide of lynchings. These bills (collectively referred to as the force bills) made it a federal crime to obstruct the election process. Additionally, they placed the election apparatus within the jurisdiction of U.S. Attorneys. U.S. Attorneys began to prosecute election administrators who allegedly disqualified voters based on race or "previous condition of servitude" in the federal courts. Other bills passed by Congress included the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, which made the violation of citizen's rights a high crime, and the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which prohibited racial discrimination in inns, public conveyances, and places of public amusement. Although Republicans at the federal level tried to deploy U.S. Attorneys, federal marshals, the U.S. Army, and election commissioners to enforce these acts, they did not squelch attempts by the states and secret organizations to abridge African American suffrage.[20]

The main reason why the Republicans defended Negro suffrage with federal force was to ensure the Black vote. Whereas the Supreme Court challenged the role of the federal government in state and local elections in United States v. Reese (1876) and United States v. Cruikshank (1876), Congress tried to strengthen it. The tug-of-war over Negro suffrage between state and federal government or Democrat and Republican power continued.

Although Republicans relinquished federal control of southern states in 1877, they lost partisan control of Congress in 1890.[21] Republicans lost control of both houses in the Fifty-second Congress, in part because the Populists launched an aggressive campaign in the South that split the Republican vote. In the House alone, members of the GOP dropped from 173 to 88, while Democrats surged from 156 to 231.[22] This dramatic loss for the Republican Party and subsequently for African Americans signaled the imminent Democratic backlash, but the backlash had begun even earlier.

The states began to rewrite their constitutions in an effort to explicitly limit the African American franchise, and the Supreme Court held many provisions of the Civil Rights Act unconstitutional because Congress attempted to create an impermissible municipal code which regulated the private conduct of individuals.[23] But as the Democrats swept into Congress, wave after wave of violence, policies, and legislation forced the disfranchisement of African Americans. In 1892 lynchings and terrorist attacks reached an all-time high, and the second Cleveland administration was elected on a platform that explicitly attacked the Federal Elections Bill. In 1892 the Democratic Party gained control of the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the White House. With the aid of a sympathetic Supreme Court they began to dismantle, section by section, the Federal Elections Bill. Between 1893 and 1894 Democrats in Congress repealed nearly all bills that federally protected the franchise of Negro men.[24]

Conservative Democrats, now in power at the state and federal levels, moved quickly to disfranchise the Negro completely. Their schemes, policies, and state constitutional amendments found ways to disfranchise African Americans while providing poor, illiterate, and landless Whites with the ability to vote. The overtures to politically empower poor Whites, coupled with zealous White supremacist demagoguery and propaganda, began to reunite poor and rich Whites in the South.[25]

The second Cleveland administration was in a quagmire of conflicts. Domestic issues—such as Free Silver, the rise of the Populist Party, and a severe depression in 1893—and international issues—such as defining the United States' role abroad in places like Hawaii, Venezuela, Cuba, and the Philippines—all diverted federal attention from the Negro problem in the South. The southern states, which had implemented moderately restrictive election reforms prior to the surge of Democratic power, rendered the Fifteenth Amendment virtually void by various schemes and measures after the Republicans became embroiled in international issues.[26]

The structuring of African American inequality during the 1890s converged with the structuring of the working class. Between 1880 and 1900 there were close to 25,000 strikes involving more than 6 million workers. Several riotous strikes took place in the North during the same years in which riots at the polls took place in the South.[27] For example, in 1892 the Homestead and Carnegie Steel Company strikes both ended in fatalities. In the following year came a depression. The Pullman Palace Car Company, near Chicago, wanted to protect its shareholders, so it reduced workers' wages without reducing the cost of housing and services in the company town. The union went on strike, but the management had the staunch support of the Cleveland administration. On Independence Day 1894, Cleveland sent in federal troops, who used lethal force to crush the strike. Many union members were injured, and several died in the four-day confrontation.[28]

The locations where Cleveland chose to deploy federal troops were emblematic of the Democrats' agenda to disfranchise African Americans in the South and destroy organized labor in the North: the president began to pull federal troops out of the South, where they had been deployed to enforce Negro suffrage during elections; and in the same year he routinely deployed federal troops in the North to subvert union strikes and escort strikebreakers through picket lines.

The overwhelming victory of William McKinley and the Republican Party in 1896, without securing one electoral vote from the South, made it painfully evident that the party neither needed nor could secure the southern Black vote. With the backing of powerful capitalists, the Republican Party gained important support from the West, industrialists, and voters interested in procuring foreign markets. The Republican platform included planks that gainsaid lynchings and disfranchisement, but it did not use any language to enforce those planks.[29]

President McKinley immediately began to reconcile northern and southern animosities. In his inaugural address he stated:

The recent election not only most fortunately demonstrated the obliteration of sectional or geographical lines, but to some extent also the prejudices which for years have distracted our councils and marred our true greatness as a nation…. It will be my constant aim to do nothing, and permit nothing to be done, that will arrest or disturb this growing sentiment of unity and cooperation, this revival of esteem and affiliation which now animates so many thousands in both the old antagonistic sections, but I shall cheerfully do everything possible to promote and increase it.[30]

McKinley's inaugural address set the tenor for his administration's hands-off policies and attitudes toward race relations and his hands-on policies and attitudes toward international relations. Whereas Cleveland had only reluctantly taken the helm of the United States as a world power, McKinley gallantly seized it and subsequently assumed the role of admiral. The Spanish-American War, the occupation of Puerto Rico, Cuba, Samoa, and the Philippines, all in 1898, plus the annexation of Hawaii in 1900, were hallmarks of McKinley jingoism.

Northern and southern animosity began to subside during McKinley's administration. One of the key components of this sectional unity was the acquiescence of northern Republicans to southern Democrats' strategies of disfranchisement, segregation, and ideas of racial inferiority. These were implicitly if not explicitly exchanged for Democrats' support in international matters. Senator Benjamin Tillman of South Carolina perhaps best summarized the North's accommodation of the South's ideas of racial inferiority in a diatribe on the Senate floor against northern Republicans during the Fifty-sixth Congress.

The brotherhood of man exists no longer because you shoot negroes in Illinois, when they come in competition with your labor, as we shoot them in South Carolina when they come in competition with us in the matter of elections. You do not love them any better than we do. You used to pretend that you did, but you no longer pretend it, except to get their votes…. You deal with the Filipinos just as we deal with the negroes, only you treat them a heap worse. You deal with the Puerto Ricans, or you propose to deal with the Puerto Ricans, just as we deal with the negroes, only you treat them a heap worse…. I will tell you that this is the difference: We of the South have never made any pretense of considering the negroes our equals or as being fit for suffrage…. You have changed; we have not.[31]

The acquiescence of northern Republicans to segregation and disfranchisement was reconciliatory and helped unify the country. A variety of interest groups integrated anthropology into their attempts to garner public support for foreign and domestic policies along these political lines. In addition, the anthropological discourse on race was (literally, in some cases) brought to life in magazines, museum exhibits, and world's fairs. These media were riddled with the writings of anthropologists, journalists, and so-called experts who appropriated early anthropological notions of race to buttress their propaganda. The American public voraciously consumed anthropology as popular culture. Similarly, world's fairs, magazines, and museum exhibits validated anthropology as a professional discipline in the academy because it provided a scientific justification for Jim Crow segregation and imperial domination.[32]

In 1912 John Daniels sagaciously identified the role of early ethnologists in the process of Southern redemption in his sociological study of Black Bostonians. He noted:

Whatever expectation had formerly been entertained that the Negro, endowed with equal rights, would forthwith rise automatically to the level of the other elements of the community and be received by them into full association, was now replaced by the conviction that the Negro was from these other elements and of a lower gradation. This change of view was in fact an approximation to the attitude held by the South. It was far more, however, than mere reconciliatory truckling to sectional opinion or prejudice. It amounted to an acceptance, in certain measure, of the South's anthropological theory with respect to the Negro, — the substance of which [assumed] … that he belonged to a "dissimilar" race, "unequal in intelligence and responsibility," [and] thus constituted a problem without precedent or parallel.[33]

A Constitutional Endorsement

One must first turn to the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1890s to fully understand how constitutional law structured and dictated the terms of racial categories through World War II. A series of Supreme Court cases actually codified the North's acceptance of the South's racial ideology into the law of the land.[34] Jim Crow statutes differed from the centuries-old de facto segregation and the Black Codes enacted after the Civil War because the U.S. Supreme Court endorsed these state laws and grafted the scientific understanding of racial inferiority onto the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court constitutionalized segregation by basing much of its rationale on popular conceptions of Social Darwinism, even though justices in the minority often dissented.[35]

During the 1896 session seven of the justices were liberal Republicans when appointed, and of the two Democrats, only one was from the South. Ostensibly, this would be a liberal court that would interpret the Constitution to uphold Negro rights and seek retribution from the South. The justices' liberal outlook regarding race seemingly waned in step with their legislative counterparts' because the Court consistently upheld southern segregation statutes.[36] One of these landmark cases was Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). This decision established the constitutionality of statutory segregation and helped to establish a climate for an onslaught of Jim Crow legislation and disfranchisement. It defied considerable precedent and created the disingenuous doctrine of separate but equal, which persisted for fifty-eight years.[37]

Associate Justice Henry B. Brown wrote the majority opinion for the Court; the object of the Fourteenth Amendment, he found, was to enforce equality between the two races before the law. "But in the nature of things" the amendment could not have intended to "abolish distinctions based upon color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political equality."[38] The Court affirmed a Louisiana statute stating that conductors "shall have power and are hereby required to assign each passenger to the coach or compartment used for the race to which such passenger belongs."[39] Furthermore, any passenger insisting on going into "a coach or compartment to which by race he does not belong, shall be liable to a fine of twenty-five dollars, or in lieu thereof to imprisonment for a period of not more than twenty days in the parish prison."[40] If the conductor even failed to assign the passenger to the correct car, the conductor "shall be liable to a fine of twenty-five dollars, or in lieu thereof to imprisonment for a period of not more than twenty days in the parish prison."[41] In this sense, both Blacks and Whites were responsible for assigning and signifying social categories based on some scientific criteria that actually varied from state to state. Justice Brown failed to address the inherent ambiguities in the way he viewed race. The color of the plaintiff, Homer Adolph Plessy, was White or "in the proportion of seven eighths Caucasian and one eighth African blood" and "the mixture of colored blood was not discernible in him."[42]

The Court's opinion was validated by the growing commitment of White politicians and capitalists to the idea that the colored race was biologically inferior, which in turn helped to ensure their own political and economic power. The result became a construct of race imbued with notions of inferiority that promoted the repression of African Americans socially and structurally.

Associate Justice Henry Billings Brown decreed that "a statute which implies merely a legal distinction between the white and colored races — a distinction which is founded in the color of the two races, and which must always exist so long as white men are distinguished from the other race by color — has no tendency to destroy the legal equality of the two races."[43] The Court made a distinction between being equal and being equal before the law, and this distinction formed the basis of the so-called separate-but-equal doctrine. Brown asserted: "If one race be inferior to the other socially, the Constitution of the United States cannot put them upon the same plane."[44]

The state of Louisiana, with the affirmation of the U.S. Supreme Court, sanctioned the use of force to compel submission to those mechanisms that signified racial inferiority. The judicial branch of the federal government actually forced people — White and Black — to comply with the repression of African Americans in the social and cultural aspects of daily life, which helped to ensure African American repression in the political and economic aspects of daily life. Disfranchisement became the vehicle of oppression in state society, and racial segregation became the vehicle of oppression in civil society or the social and cultural sphere of daily life.[45] The idea of racial inferiority helped to define the terms, meaning, and significance for Negroes' racial construct, but statutory laws, public policy, and violence imposed those terms. Ethnologists in the United States at the turn of the century played an exceedingly important, albeit small, role in these complex processes because the self-styled discipline of American anthropology emerged as an authoritative source for expertise on natural laws and the scientific explanation of racial inferiority. In turn, anthropologists contributed to the solidification of the particularly oppressive construct of race that emerged in the late 1890s.

At the turn of the century a variety of ideas regarding racial inferiority served as a unifying ideology to guide the expansion of foreign markets and monopolies, the exploration and exploitation of natural resources, the imposition of American civilization on islands of "savages," and the promotion of disfranchisement and segregation for Negroes. Ideas of White supremacy, evolution, and racial inferiority routinized the notion that there was a natural and inevitable evolution of nations, races, and technology, from rude savagery into proficient civilization. This teleology was both encoded in discursive ideas of Social Darwinism and enacted in laws that structured race relations.

Southern interests marshaled the anthropological discourse on racial inferiority for propaganda and Jim Crow legislation, while Republican interests used the anthropological discourse on race to demonstrate that the inferior races of the Pacific and the Caribbean needed uplifting and civilizing.[46]


1. Audrey Smedley describes the term race as a symbol for a particular "cosmological ordering system" that developed from political, economic, and social dynamics produced by people who colonized and conquered the world in a quest for wealth and power (Smedley, Race in North America, 25). She makes a persuasive argument that race, as a worldview, is composed of "ideological ingredients" or constituent elements that can be isolated and analyzed socially and historically in an effort to map the shift from an ideological system of folk beliefs and prejudices to a systematic view of the world structured by laws and rationalized by science. Smedley identifies five constituent elements that, taken together, form the basis of a flexible and infinitely expandable construct of race. Her elegant summary of these elements warrants reproducing:

The first and most basic was a universal classification of human groups as exclusive and discrete biotic entities. The classifications were not based on objective variations in language or culture, but were categories that eclipsed these attributes and included superficial assessments and value judgements of phenotypic and behavioral variations. The categories were arbitrary and subjective and often concocted from the impressions, sometimes fanciful, of remote observers. A second element ... was the imposition of an inegalitarian ethos that required the ranking of these groups vis-à-vis one another. Ranking was an intrinsic, and explicit, aspect of the classifying process, having derived from an ancient model of the Great Chain of Being (a hierarchical structure of all living things) that had been readapted to eighteenth-century realities.

A third constituent element was the belief that the outer physical characteristics of different human populations were but surface manifestations of inner realities, in other words, the cognitive linking of physical features with behavior, intellectual, temperamental, moral, and other qualities. Thus, what most scholars recognize today as cultural (learned) behavior was seen as an innate concomitant of biophysical form. A fourth element was the notion that all of these qualities were inheritable — the biophysical characteristics,

the cultural or behavioral features and capabilities, and the social rank allocated to each group by the belief system itself. Finally, perhaps the most critical element of all was the belief that each exclusive group (race) so differentiated was created unique and distinct by nature or by God, so that the imputed differences, believed fixed and unalterable, could never be bridged or transcended. (Smedley, Race in North America, 27)

2. Ibid., 49.

3. Ibid., 60-87.

4. Ibid., 81.

5. Ibid., 96.

6. Ibid., 171; Thomas Gossett, Race: The History of an Idea, 4th ed. (New York: Schocken Books, 1970 [1963]); David Bakan, "The Influence of Phrenology on American Psychology," Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 2, no. 2 (1966): 200-220; John C. Greene, Science, Ideology, and World View (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981); William A. Tucker, The Science and Politics of Racial Research (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994); J. S. Sloktin, "Racial Classifications of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries," Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences 36 (1944): 459-467; Herbert Hovenkamp, "Social Science and Segregation before Brown," Duke Law Journal 1985: 624-672.

7. Thomas Jefferson became one of the leading intellectuals in the new republic who articulated scientific ideas of Indian and Negro inferiority. Although tentative and often contradictory, his writings were consistently evoked — well into the nineteenth century — to reinforce the idea that racial inferiority was simply natural (see Smedley, Race in North America, 196).

8. Ibid., 205.

9. George Stocking, Race, Culture, and Evolution: Essays in the History of Anthropology (New York: Free Press, 1968), 47; Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (New York: New York University Press, 1988 [1859]).

10. Stocking, Race, Culture, and Evolution, 144.

11. Smedley, Race in North America, 239; Josiah Nott and George R. Gliddon, Types of Mankind (Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo), 1854.

12. Derrick Bell, ed., Civil Rights: Leading Cases (Boston: Little, Brown, 1980), 7; Smedley, Race in North America, 248. Priscilla Wald makes an excellent comparison between Scott v. Sandford (1854) and Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831). The Court decided it had no jurisdiction to hear the 1831 case because it found that Indians were not members of an alien nation (for Article III purposes). The Court similarly decided that it had no jurisdiction to hear the 1854 case because it found that Negroes were not citizens. Wald argues that both cases "attempt to legislate the disappearances of the 'Indians' and the 'descendants of Africans,' respectively, by judging them neither citizens nor aliens and therefore not legally representable. In so doing, however, these cases call attention to the symbolic processes through which the United States constitutes subjects: how Americans are made" (Priscilla Wald, "Terms of Assimilation: Legislating Subjectivity in the Emerging Nation," in Cultures of United States Imperialism [Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1993], 59).

13. Stephen Jay Gould, The Mismeasure of Man (New York: Norton, 1981), 45.

14. Smedley, Race in North America, 252, 28.

15. The long and intimate relationship between science and racial categories in the United States and Europe dates to the Enlightenment. Many scholars have explored various aspects of the relationship between science and racial categories, slavery, and colonialism before the twentieth century. Among them are Smedley, Race in North America; Bakan, "Influence of Phrenology"; Michael P. Banton, The Idea of Race (London: Tavistock, 1977); Philip D. Curtin, The Image of Africa: British Ideas and Action, 1780-1850 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1964); Carl N. Degler, "Slavery and the Genesis of American Race Prejudice," comparative Studies in Society and History 2, no. 1 (1960): 49-66; Barbara J. Fields, "Slavery, Race and Ideology in the United States," New Left Review 181 (1990): 95-128; George M. Fredrickson, The Black Image in the White Mind (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1971); Gossett, Race; Gould, Mismeasure of Man; Greene, Science, Ideology, and World View; John S. Haller, Outcasts from Evolution: Scientific Attitudes of Racial Inferiority, 1859-1900 (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1971); Winthrop J. Jordan, White over Black: American Attitudes toward the Negro, 1150-1812 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1968); Joel Kovel, White Racism, a Psychohistory (New York: Pantheon Books, 1970); Leonard P. Liggio, "English Origins of Early American Racism," Radical History Review 3 (1976): 1-36; Arthur Lovejoy, The Great Chain of Being (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1936); Dorothy Ross, The Origins of American Social Science (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991); Alexander Saxton, The Rise and Fall of the White Republic: Class Politics and Mass Culture in Nineteenth-Century America (London: Verso, 1990); Walter Scheidt, "The Concept of Race in Anthropology and the Divisions into Human Races, from Linnaeus to Deniker," in This Is Race, ed. E. Count (New York: Henry Schuman, 1950), 354-391; Sloktin, "Racial Classifications"; William Ragan Stanton, The Leopard's Spots: Scientific Attitudes toward Race in America, 1815-1859 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960); Joel Williamson, The Crucible of Race (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984); C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow (New York: Oxford University Press, 1957 [1955]).

16. Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 (New York: Harper and Row, 1988), 276-283.

17. W. E. B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America (New York: World Publishing, 1952 [1935]), 600.

18. Foner, Reconstruction, 278.

19. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America, 703; Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, Revolt against Chivalry: Jessie Daniel Ames and the Women's Campaign against Lynching (New York: Columbia University Press, 1979), 130-191; Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases (New York: New York Age, 1892), 7-15.

20. Richard M. Valelly, The Puzzle of Disfranchisement: Party Struggle and African-American Suffrage in the South, 1867-1894, Occasional Paper 93-4, Center for American Political Studies, Harvard University, 1993, 12.

21. The end of Reconstruction and the beginning of southern redemption is usually delineated by the partial withdrawal of federal troops from the South and the election of President Hayes, generally known as the Compromise of 1877. This compromise was struck between pragmatic southern Democrats and reform-minded Republicans over the contested 1876 presidential election. The bid for the presidency in 1876 included the Republican governor of Ohio, Rutherford B. Hayes, and the Democratic governor of New York, Samuel Tilden. Tilden won the popular vote and secured 185 electoral votes, one vote shy of the majority needed to win. Hayes secured 165 electoral votes. Both parties claimed the twenty electoral votes that hung in the balance. Southern Democrats relinquished the executive branch in exchange for their constituents' immediate concern: establishing home rule and extricating the troops from the South.

22. Valelly, Puzzle of Disfranchisement, 26.

23. See John Hope Franklin, From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans, 4th ed. (New York: Knopf, 1974), 252; Richard Kluger, Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education (New York: Knopf, 1976), 59.

24. Valelly, Puzzle of Disfranchisement, 28.

25. James R. Pole, The Pursuit of Equality in American History, rev. ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 229-253.

26. These restrictions included a poll tax, personal registration, and the Australian ballot. Prior to state election reforms a party ballot was given to voters. These ballots listed all of the party's candidates; one merely checked a "straight ticket" and deposited it in the ballot box. The Australian ballot had both parties' candidates on it and was distributed at polling booths. This disfranchised many illiterate people because the candidates' names had to be read and the votes cast in secret. One scheme made the Black vote ineffective by dividing areas of Black communities into several districts with a system of gerrymandering. Other schemes included the poll tax and changing polling places at the last minute without informing African American communities. The Democrats' election commissioners began to print difficult ballots, on which the voter had to write in the name of the office and the candidate within a two-and-one-half-minute time limit inside a voting booth. The White primary and the White Democratic convention were other devices that effectively made the Democratic Party the governing body of each southern state by 1896. Provisions were of course made to keep Whites eligible to vote because the schemes to disfranchise Blacks would have also disfranchised poor Whites. Such provisions included the good-character clause, the understanding clause, and the grandfather clause, devised in 1898, which made one eligible to vote if one's grandfather could (Franklin, From Slavery to Freedom, 267-272; Kluger, Simple Justice, 62). While the Democrats were disfranchising Blacks in the South, the Irish-controlled Democratic machine in Boston was disfranchising the Black Republican stronghold in New England by similar schemes.

27. Arnold S. Rice, John A. Krout, and C. M. Harris, United States History to 1877, 8th ed. (New York: Harper Perennial, 1991), 62.

28. Ironically, the attorneys for the railroad manager's association secured an injunction for the strike in the federal courts under the Sherman Antitrust Act.

29. Rayford W. Logan, The Betrayal of the Negro (New York: Collier Books, 1972 [1954]); Rice, Krout, and Harris, United States History to 1877, 83-84; Valelly, Puzzle of Disfranchisement, 30.

30. Logan, Betrayal of the Negro, 96.

31. 56th Cong., 1st sess., S2244.

32. John Higham, Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism (New York: Atheneum, 1970), 39; Richard Hofstadter, Social Darwinism in American Thought (Boston: Beacon Press, 1960 [1944]), 38; Leonard Wood, "The Existing Conditions and Needs in Cuba, by Major-General Leonard Wood, Military Governor of Santiago de Cuba," North American Review 168 (1899): 593-601.

33. John Daniels, In Freedom's Birthplace: A Study of the Boston Negroes (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1914), 114.

34. See Edward F. Waite, "The Negro in the Supreme Court," Minnesota Law Review 30 (March 1946): 220-304; Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 US 537 (1896); Williams v. Mississippi, 170 US 213 (1898); Cumming v. Richmond County Board of Education, 175 US 528 (1899); Berea College v. Kentucky, 211 US 45 (1909).

35. Theodore B. Wilson, The Black Codes of the South (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1965), 96-116; Barton J. Bernstein, "Case Law in Plessy v. Ferguson," Journal of Negro History 47 (1962): 192-198; Paul L. Rosen, The Supreme Court and Social Science (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1972), 23-45; Frank Freidel, "The Sick Chicken Case," in Quarrels That Have Shaped the Constitution Court, ed. John A. Garraty (New York: Harper and Row, 1964), 192. In one of these dissents, Oliver Wendell Holmes was actually forced to remind the Court that the U.S. "constitution was not intended to embody" Herbert Spencer's Social Darwinism (Lochner v. New York, 198 US 74).

36. Logan, Betrayal of the Negro, 106-107.

37. Bernstein, "Case Law in Plessy v. Ferguson," 198.

38. Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 US 544 (1896).

39. Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 US 540-541 (1896).

40. Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 US 541 (1896).

41. Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 US 541 (1896).

42. Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 US 538 (1896).

43. Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 US 543 (1896).

44. Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 US 552 (1896).

45. Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks, trans. and ed. Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith (New York: International Publishers, 1971 [1935]), 12.

46. See John T. Morgan, "The Race Question in the United States," Arena 2 (1890): 385-398; William C. P. Breckinridge, "The Race Question," Arena 2 (1890): 39-56; Theodore Roosevelt, "Kidd's 'Social Evolution,'" North American Review 161 (1895): 94-109; John Sharp Williams, "The Negro and the South," Metropolitan Magazine 27, no. 2 (1907): 138-151; Benjamin R. Tillman, "The Race Question," Van Norden's Magazine, April 1907, 19-28.

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