OVERRIDE

One Drop of Blood

The American Misadventure of Race

Scott Malcomson

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

A Choice Outstanding Academic Title

Why has a nation founded upon precepts of freedom and universal humanity continually produced, through its preoccupation with race, a divided and constrained populace? Malcomson's search for an answer took him to communities across the country and deep into our past. From Virginia colonists "going native" onward, Malcomson argues, Americans, in their mania for self-invention, pioneered an idea of race that gave it unprecedented moral and social importance. A parade of idealists, pragmatists, and opportunists—from Ben Franklin to Tecumseh, Washington Irving to Bobby Seale—defined, "Indian," "black," and "white" in relation to one another and in service to the aspirations and anxieties of each era.

These definitions, however, have never been gladly adopted by the people they were meant to describe. To escape the limits of race, Americans have continually attempted to escape from other races or to nullify race by confining, eliminating, or absorbing one another. From Puritan enslavement of Indians to the separatism we enact daily in our schools and neighborhoods, Americans have perpetually engaged with and fled from other Americans along racial lines. By not only recounting our nation's most distinctive and enduring drama but helping us to own it—even to embrace it—this redemptive book offers a way to move forward.

REVIEWS

Praise for One Drop of Blood

"Malcomson tracks with a Melvillean intensity the 'unbidden yet unstoppable' evolution of racial categorization in the United States. Close readings of history tease out the manifold ironies and contradictions of the subject."--The New Yorker

"Full of swift insights . . . The chapters speed by . . . like a crash course given by a brilliant teacher."--Daniel Blue, The San Francisco Chronicle

"This is cultural history written as a nation's collective memoir. Malcomson's ambitious narrative, spanning two centuries of an idea, is bound to become a cornerstone of the new American historiography."--Talk

"This book should be read with deliberation, for it invites serious reflection of a kind that for the fair-minded, rational person can only be liberating."--John C. Walter, Seattle Times

"The best single history of race in America in many years, the one to read if you only have time for one book on the subject."--David L. Chappell, Newsday

"Explosive and exhilarating . . . Carried through with an ardor and interpretive brilliance that rivals James Baldwin . . . Malcomson has set a new standard of open, honest dialogue on race in America."--Orlando Patterson, The New York Times Book Review

"Malcomson's accounts of how whites' myths of racial belonging were woven – out of encounters with Indians in forests primeval, with blacks on African coasts and Virginia riverbanks and with Mexicans in the often-fatuous deliberations of the California Constitutional Convention of 1849—are moral without moralizing, intimate without self-pity or self-importance . . . The result is a book almost biblical . . . with commanding flights of moral imagination and poetry."--Jim Sleeper, Los Angeles Times

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Scott Malcomson

  • Scott Malcomson's previous books are Tuturani: A Political Journey in the Pacific Islands and Borderlands: Nation and Empire. From 1984 to 1996 he worked at The Village Voice in a variety of jobs, including a seven-year stint as senior editor at the VLS.
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    One Drop of Blood

    The American Misadventure of Race

    Scott Malcomson

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    Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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