Black & White: The Idea of Racial Purity
On this episode of BackStory, the History Guys look for the roots of America’s obsession with race, and ask why the line between black and white has remained so bold despite centuries of racial mixing.
Were the categories of “black” and “white” already in place when Africans first came to America, and if not, when did they take shape? How did the founders think about race, and what are we to make of the contradictions between the public writings of men like Jefferson and their behavior in private? What is the “one-drop rule,” and where did it come from? In what ways have religion and science affirmed and challenged notions of racial difference? It’s not hard to see the progress that’s been made on the road to racial equality, but what have been the major setbacks and reversals along the way?
*Pulitzer Prize winner Annette Gordon Reed (The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family) reflects on why Thomas Jefferson’s relationship with his slave, Sally Hemings, continues to be so controversial
*Historian Daryl Scott (Howard University) parses the differences between race consciousness and racism throughout the 20th century
Features & Highlights
Hear more about racial purity and racism in these interviews with Annette Gordon Reed and Daryl Scott. Listen here.
Want to dig deeper into the history of racial purity? The BackStory research team has compiled a comprehensive list of resources for further explanation. Read on.