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Essay 2

2191 words - 9 pages

In the middle of the 20th century, a new generation of historians began to take another look at the beginnings of the American experience and they spent years exploring the original documents relating to the establishment of colonies in America. Their research reveals that the 19th and 20th century beliefs about races did not exist in the 17th century. Race originated as a folk idea and ideology about human differences; it was a social invention. Historians have documented when, and to a great extent, how race as an ideology came into our culture and our consciousness. It begins with Jamestown in Virginia. This was settled by English colonists in 1607 and from the start the town was rough, crude and considered turbulent. The community was made up of young Englishmen who came to seek their fame and fortunes in the New World. The settlers hoped to obtain wealth by conquering and enslaving the native peoples. However, the Indians in the New World did not take well to slavery and many died of European diseases, while others escaped to outside territories. The area did not produce gold and silver as the settlers hoped but tobacco was discovered. This crop in trade would bring them the wealth they sought. Growing and processing tobacco required very hard work and the settlers were faced with a lack of labor. Within ten years, the Jamestown colony began to import indentured servants from England. The pattern of servitude provided a model for the slavery that was to come later to the New World. History shows that the original Africans in America were not slaves but indentured servants and they participated in the communities as the English indentured servants. It was not until the 18th century that racial slavery was established (Smedley). Laws were passed that separated out the Africans and their families, restricting their rights. After 1672, British ships entered the slave trade and the numbers of peoples greatly increased.
According to Thomas F. Gossett, in Race: The History of an Idea in America, American slaveholders had an “irrational contempt of the blacks, as creatures of another species, who had no right to be instructed or admitted to the sacraments” (pg.31). Gossett comments, that though Thomas Jefferson declared ‘all men are created equal’, he still felt the Negro was “Condemned by nature to an inferior status” (pg.42). Gossett’s book continues with various theories to distinguish races. When the subject of the Aryan theory of race and America, Gossett writes, “the race problem here [America] was concerned with differences between whites and Negroes or whites and Indians, and the country was not yet ready for a race theory which in important ways set one group of whites against another group of whites.” The Aryan theory in 1859, stated the race was “‘destined to dominate the entire globe’ and ‘it was privileged by the beauty of its blood and the gifts of intelligence’ and the proof of its superiority was to be found in the...

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