Whiteness of a different color: European immigrants and the alchemy of race

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Harvard University Press, Sep 1, 1999 - History - 338 pages
16 Reviews

America's racial odyssey is the subject of this remarkable work of historical imagination. Matthew Frye Jacobson argues that race resides not in nature but in the contingencies of politics and culture. In ever-changing racial categories we glimpse the competing theories of history and collective destiny by which power has been organized and contested in the United States. Capturing the excitement of the new field of "whiteness studies" and linking it to traditional historical inquiry, Jacobson shows that in this nation of immigrants "race" has been at the core of civic assimilation: ethnic minorities in becoming American were reracialized to become Caucasian. He provides a counterhistory of how nationality groups such as the Irish or Greeks became Americans as racial groups like Celts or Mediterraneans became Caucasian.

Jacobson tracks race as a conception and perception, emphasizing the importance of knowing not only how we label one another but also how we see one another, and how that racialized vision has largely been transformed in this century. The stages of racial formation--race as formed in conquest, enslavement, imperialism, segregation, and labor migration--are all part of the complex, and now counterintuitive, history of race. Whiteness of a Different Color traces the fluidity of racial categories from an immense body of research in literature, popular culture, politics, society, ethnology, anthropology, cartoons, and legal history, including sensational trials like the Leo Frank case and the Draft Riots of 1863.

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Review: Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race

User Review  - Michael - Goodreads

This was one of the books I read in my “Introduction to Graduate History” course, back in the dark mists of time when I was a young and enthusiastic aspiring historian. I found it a useful ... Read full review

Review: Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race

User Review  - Amalauna - Goodreads

Jacobson's monograph is an interesting look at the evolution of race and ethnicity in American political and cultural history. Read full review


AngloSaxons and Others 18401924
Becoming Caucasian 19241965

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About the author (1999)

Matthew Frye Jacobson is Professor of American Studies at Yale University and author of "Whiteness of a Different Color "(1998) and "Barbarian Virtues "(2000).