Creating the Racial State us history to 1865

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Creating the Racial State

US History to 1865

General Theoretical Orientation

  1. Groups are in conflict. In our story, the conflict begins with European colonial expansion. One group seeking to take away what belongs to another.

  2. Inequalities in military, economic resources lead to political inequalities

  3. Resources and capacities are crucial

  4. Weaker groups can resist domination and still lose

  5. The struggles of the past create material conditions that constrain action choices in the present.

  6. Today’s conflicts are structured by the past, are legacies of history

Americans Before 1500

  1. Only indigenous Americans (AKA American Indians, Native Americans)

  2. Arrived 12,000 – 30,000 years ago (before agricultural settlements in Europe)

  3. Long history of civilizations rising & falling before Europeans

  4. Estimates 2-10 million in what is now US

  5. 300+ languages spoken but significant trade and “trade languages”

  6. Some hunter/gatherers, some settled agriculture

  7. No horses [horses introduced by the Spanish]

The Europeans & Africans Come

  1. Columbus 1492. Spanish & Portuguese in Latin America & Caribbean

  2. Columbus & slaves

  3. Conquistadores of African descent (Moors)

  4. French and British trade in North America

  5. European settlers & their slaves in North America in 1600s. Importation of slaves 1607-1808.

  6. Settlers vs. armies of conquest.

  7. Settlers ultimately more deadly to the Americans

  8. Indios still survive in much of Latin America

1500-1776 Colonial Era

  1. European incursions

  2. European governments "claim" America and divide it among themselves.

  3. Enslavement, pestilence and plagues, economic disruptions, warfare for the Americans.

  4. South America: Spanish conquerors put a new layer on American [indio] populations.

  5. In North America, European settlers intrude on the land, ultimately displace.

  6. African slavery + some free Africans.

The Europeans

  1. Religious self-views. The Promised Land. The New Canaan, New Israel.

  2. Some thought they should live peacefully with native Americans and share the land. Some did.

  3. Others took a Biblical view: enter Canaan & kill all the inhabitants. Saw disease and deaths of natives as a sign from God. Hostile reactions from natives increased European hostility to the locals.

  4. Tiny proportion of colonists were Pilgrims & Puritans arriving 1620s, but they became icons of the national myth. Most Europeans arrived after 1800. Most colonists immigrated for economic advancement

The Africans

  1. 1607 - 1776. 175 years of slavery in colonial period.

  2. Some Africans, like Europeans, 17 year indentures, but racial differences rapidly emerge

  3. Always ~10% “free Blacks.”

  4. A few even own slaves themselves

  5. Free Blacks support the American revolution. Crispus Attucks.

  6. Whites argue about whether “equality” should include Blacks.

Americans & Europeans: Contact & Genocide

  1. From 2-10 million before 1500 to 500,000 in 1800

  2. Military battles, especially Spanish (less so English, French early on)

  3. Disease: killed 90%+ of many American populations, weakened others, made European settlements possible

  4. Economic disruption: Fur trade, Horses, plains culture

  5. Early contacts more ambiguous: coexistence & conflict; intermarriage, contact between cultures.

  6. Some American groups adopt European ways, even own slaves.

  7. Others retreat west, regroup in the face of disruption

European Claims 1750

USA as a Racial State

  1. Early formation of US was a government of, for, and by White people

  2. American Indians were “foreign nations” to be fought, negotiated with

  3. African slaves explicitly excluded from citizenship in Constitution of 1791; citizenship rights of free Africans taken away after 1790s

  4. 1790 Immigration and Naturalization Act. Migrants from Europe can become citizens in relatively easy process of "naturalization." Only "Whites" can be naturalized. (Restrictions not removed until 1940s)

Act of March 26, 1790 (1 Stat 103-104) (Excerpts)

1776-1815: Formation of the racial state

  1. Europeans (calling themselves Americans) create a new government of, by, and for "White people."

  2. American Indians are excluded, treated as separate nations (generally as they wish to be).

Whites, Blacks, and the Racial State

  1. Slavery enshrined in the Constitution of 1791.

  2. 1808 importation of slaves ends. Henceforth, slaves are all native born.

  3. European Americans mobilize to strip free Africans of their citizenship rights, ban them from communities, kick them out of formerly integrated churches.

  4. The African-American movement begins as a defense against European-American actions.

Immigration to US, in 1000s

Immigration to US as a % of Base

1815-1860 The White State Expands

  1. European immigrants create population pressures, westward expansion. Accelerated displacement, “cleansing” of indigenous Americans.

  2. Louisiana purchase: 1803. Buy from the French land that is inhabited by Americans.

  3. War of 1812. Defeat of Tecumseh, British cannot block expansion.

  4. 1824 BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) created under the War Dept.

Ethnic Cleansing

  1. 1830 Trail of Tears. Forced relocation of "five civilized tribes" from Georgia to what is now Oklahoma. Thousands die in a thousand mile march.

  2. Area west of the Mississippi (originally Oklahoma, Kansas) is "Indian territory" to be governed by "Indians" [Americans] “in perpetuity.”

  3. Plains and Southwest Americans become increasingly hostile to the invaders.

United States 1816-22

Expansion and Displacement

  1. Repeatedly, European settlers move onto land specifically reserved for "Indians," battles ensue, US troops enter the battle, take land from Indians previously reserved to them.

  2. US government seeking to obtain land peacefully by treaty from as many groups as possible. Groups pacified are dumped into "Indian territory," where the groups there make room for newcomers.

  3. 1837, 1842 Chippewa treaties cede what is now northern Wisconsin, Michigan & Minnesota to the US; treaties specifically reserve the right to hunt, fish, and gather on the ceded territory.

New Spain

  1. Spanish colony 1521-1821 (300 years)

  2. Creation of “Mexicans”: mixed indigenous & Spanish ancestry, Spanish culture.

  3. “Indios” resist, remain separate in some areas

  4. Most of northern New Spain never heavily settled by Spanish, strong resistance from indigenous Americans

  5. Mexican independence 1821, Mexican Republic 1824. Political turmoil.

Map: Annexation of Northern Mexico


  1. 30,000 Anglo-Americans had moved into Texas, greatly outnumbering the Spanish-Mexicans; generally slaveholders

  2. 1824 Mexican republic abolishes slavery

  3. 1830 Mexico attempts to stop Anglo immigration, enforce laws against slavery

  4. 1836 new Mexican constitution restricts “states rights” (over slavery, among others); Anglo-Texans backed by some Tejanos (Spanish-Texans) secede from Mexico and create Texas as an independent White state

  5. 1845 fearing Texas expansion west, the US annexes Texas as a slave state

Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

  1. 1848 US provokes a war with Mexico, easily wins

  2. Northern Mexico ceded to the US

  3. Guarantees to Mexican citizens living in the area:

  4. US citizenship

  5. Recognition of property titles from Spain/Mexico

  6. Right to be Catholic

  7. Right to speak Spanish

  8. About 7% of Mexican Americans today are direct descendants of those covered by the treaty

  9. Mixed experiences: some retain land & status, others lose land, forced out by Anglo mobs. No consistent protection of citizenship, language, property rights.

California Gold Rush 1848

  1. First entry of significant numbers of Chinese – initially into gold fields, then as laborers to support growing western economy [more later]

  2. Anglo-American immigrants rapidly overwhelm Mexicans in northern California, drive them out

  3. Fewer Anglos in desert southern California, Mexican landowners retain much of their land in large rancheros.

Black and White 1816-1860

  1. Blacks 20% of the population

  2. Slavery in the US as a extreme institution

  3. Growing international opposition to slavery

  4. Abolition movement in US grows

  5. Restrictions on free Africans in both north and south

  6. The 10% free Africans mobilize against these restrictions & against slavery

  7. Slavery divides the nation.


  1. There had been slavery for thousands of years, but US slavery was a peculiarly capitalist and particularly inhumane institution: people as property, no rights as human beings

  2. Physical geography, social organization made slave rebellions & escape more difficult than in other locales

  3. Slave labor was a fundamental element of 18th and 19th century economy: Black slaves built much of the economic power of the nation

  4. US Black/White racial definitions a product of slavery: child of a slave mother was a slave; “one drop rule”

Abolitionism: Movement to Abolish Slavery

  1. Militant movement rooted principally in the northeast, but gained adherents.

  2. Violent battles between pro- and anti-slavery forces

  3. Black participants & leaders; also racial tensions within movement

  4. 20th century tendency to ignore the history of White abolitionists

John Brown

  1. John Brown: militant radical abolitionist fought a guerilla war against slavery.

  2. 1859 Harper’s Ferry raid, his capture, trial and execution

  3. Bells tolled throughout the North for him

  4. song: John Brown’s body (sung to an old camp meeting him)

  5. tune used for Battle Hymn of the Republic, poem by Julia Ward Howe)

John Brown’s Body

Civil War 1860-1865

  1. Bloody war, occupies White military forces

  2. Black soldiers, slaves gradually being liberated

  3. American Indians choose sides or try to avoid the war, diversion from “Indian wars” in the west

  4. Ends with the victory of the North, abolition of slavery

  5. South occupied by northern army, White southerners disenfranchised

US History Overview

  1. 1860-1865. US civil war (war between the states)

  2. 1865 – 1920. Consolidation of the racial state.

  3. Even more European immigration

  4. Jim Crow segregation worsens conditions for Blacks

  5. Final conquest of the indigenous Americans

  6. Imperialism & colonialism.

  7. Asian immigration & racist anti-Asian movements & laws lead to bans on Asian immigration

  8. 1920 Massive immigration ends for 50 years

Overview 1865-1920

  1. Europeans: South devastated, US consolidates military control of the continent; massive migration from Europe

  2. Africans: Freed slaves start to make some advances, White state reconsolidates around segregation & White dominance

  3. Americans: US military forces conquer the remaining free Americans, drive population down to 200,000

  4. Asians: Significant immigration, explicit racist attacks, segregation, passage of restrictions against immigration; colonialism (Philippines, Hawaii)

  5. Latinos”: colonialism (Puerto Rico), displacement (Mexicans), coexistence

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