The Science Behind Race

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Complicity: The Science Behind Race

“And thus in the Land of the Color-line I saw, as it fell across my baby, the shadow of the Veil. Within the Veil was he born, said I; and there within shall he live, - a Negro and a Negro’s son. Holding in that little head- ah, bitterly! - the unbowed pride of a hunted race, clinging with that tiny dimpled hand – ah, wearily!- to a hope not hopeless but unhopeful, and seeing with those bright wondering eyes that peer into my soul a land whose freedom is to us a mockery and whose liberty a lie.”

- W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk ( Du Bois p.151)

In Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged and Profited from Slavery the authors delve into the complexity and the dependency of the American economy on the free labor system pre and post Civil War. Providing compelling evidence of the North’s involvement in slavery well beyond the Southern cotton industry. In addition, Complicity provides the narrative of how the concept of “race” evolved in America. Slavery and racism are interwoven throughout U.S. history however they are distinctly different slavery was a labor system whereas the idea of race was a social construct that reinforced stratification in society. In the late 1830s and 1840s a number of “scientific and systematic writings on race emerged, primarily a reaction to abolitionist assaults on slavery.” (Wilson, 1996 p.75) It was these scientific findings that supported the social construct of race ideology, which was used to rationalize slavery, and formed the bases of racial discrimination that has shaped America’s culture.

There is no doubt that slavery was controversial but what about the concept of race and “black inferiority.” One aspect of the North’s suppo...

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...ists held the same racist views that the black “race” was inferior to whites. Thus even with freedom, blacks were guaranteed to face a life filled with discrimination and prejudice. “Race science may well be the most lasting and devastating legacy of the North’s involvement in slavery.” (Farrow, et al. p. xxviii)

Works Cited:

Du Bois, W.E.B. The Souls of Black Folk. New York, NY. 1st Vantage books/The Library

of America. 1986. Print.

Farrow, Anne, Lang, Joel and Frank, Jenifer. Complicity: How the North Promoted,

Prolonged and Profited from Slavery. New York, NY. Ballantine Books. Random House Inc. 2005. Kindle Edition. ebook.

Jefferson, Thomas. Notes on the State of Virginia. New York, NY. Palgrave. 2002.


Wilson, Carter A. Racism: From Slavery to Advanced Capitalism. V.17 Thousand Oaks,

CA. Sage Publication. 1996. Print.
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