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.