Analysis of White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro by Winthrop D. Jordan

Analysis of White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro by Winthrop D. Jordan

Winthrop D. Jordan author of White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro 1550-1812, expresses two main arguments in explaining why Slavery became an institution. He also focuses attention on the initial discovery of Africans by English. How theories on why Africans had darker complexions and on the peculiarly savage behavior they exhibited. Through out the first two chapters Jordan supports his opinions, with both facts and assumptions. Jordan goes to great length in explaining how the English and early colonialist over centuries stripped the humanity from a people in order to enslave them and justify their actions in doing so. His focus is heavily on attitudes and how those positions worked to create the slave society established in this country.

The first chapter focuses on the first impressions between the people of different color also the reasons Africans had evolved or changed into what they now appeared to be. The section on causes of complexion was both fascinating and entertaining. Many of the theories were of the wall and far fetched. One such opinion of how Africans gained their complexion that the book gave includes an ancient Greek myth of Phaeton. This character drove a chariot into the heavens and thus altered in his appearance (p11). Though this Greek myth, probably not the truth of how Africans gained their color many did believe it probably had something to do with the sun. The theory of equatorial dwellers of Africa, this being the reason for the skin pigmentation, became illogical once Africans were compared to the Indians living in the hottest parts of the New World (p14). Some believed that the African was merely dark because they had left their colder northern climate. Experiments quickly ruled this out as a possible answer (p15). The most far-fetched and humorous theory came through the biblical illustration involving Noah. Many believed it the curse given upon Noah’s son Ham for “looking upon his father’s nakedness” (p17). Each of these contrasting views on color needed to be used in this book. For no better reason in that it showed from an initial point that the English viewed the color of the Africans as a plague. Instead of excepting that Africans may in fact be different, the English consistently made attempts to explain the dif...

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...b in this section of clearly displaying the facts and supporting his arguments.

Laws dealing with the intermixing of races and separate treatment also created a second class or lower standing of the African. Jordan sites several laws and examples of whites involving themselves sexually with blacks being punished in different ways. One such example includes that of a man and his black mistress who were forced stand clad in front of a congregation. Also free Africans did not receive the liberties others enjoyed, they were prohibited the right to bear arms. This inequality serves as a notice of how ingrained the degradation blacks have induced and to the lengths whites have gone to ensure they remain a lower or sub class.

Through out the entire book Jordan makes assumptions and places sort of a personal view on this historical tragedy. He supports the idea that there grew a distinct attitude forming and evolving repressing the African as a society. The most important thing which can be gathered from this book, the idea that the constant and gradual suppression of the African in the colonies and United States led to a mentality of superiority among Caucasians over those of color.

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