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Some observations on Race in the Age of Colonization English 205 Professor Michael Drexler.

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Presentation on theme: "Some observations on Race in the Age of Colonization English 205 Professor Michael Drexler."— Presentation transcript:

1 Some observations on Race in the Age of Colonization English 205 Professor Michael Drexler

2 Different but not Subservient From 1550, the date of first contact between English voyagers and Africans, until 1631, when the first permanent English settlement on African continent at Kormantin was established, English trade was not primarily in but with Africans. “Initially, therefore, English contact with Africans did not take place primarily in a context which prejudged the Negro as a slave, at least not as a slave of Englishmen.” Compare Drake’s encounter with the Cimmarons with John Sparke’s account of Hawkins’ expedition to capture and enslave Africans. Hawkins, for his time, was exceptional.

3 Color English observers struck by difference in skin color, exaggerating the color of Africans by calling it black English observers struck by difference in skin color, exaggerating the color of Africans by calling it black Used term black moors to distinguish sub- saharan Africans from the more familiar North African peoples, who were rarely enslaved after the 16th century. Used term black moors to distinguish sub- saharan Africans from the more familiar North African peoples, who were rarely enslaved after the 16th century. Black moors were a novelty to the English Black moors were a novelty to the English

4 Definition of Black and White Concept of Blackness already loaded in English language: Concept of Blackness already loaded in English language: from OED, before the 16th century, the meaning of black included, “Deeply stained with dirt; soiled, dirty, foul.... Having dark or deadly purposes, malignant; pertaining to or involving death, deadly; baneful, disastrous, sinister.... Foul, iniquitous, atrocious, horrible, wicked.... Indicating disgrace, censure, liability to punishment, etc.” from OED, before the 16th century, the meaning of black included, “Deeply stained with dirt; soiled, dirty, foul.... Having dark or deadly purposes, malignant; pertaining to or involving death, deadly; baneful, disastrous, sinister.... Foul, iniquitous, atrocious, horrible, wicked.... Indicating disgrace, censure, liability to punishment, etc.” Concept of whiteness as the opposite of blackness: purity, virginity, virtue, beauty, beneficence, God. Moreover, symbol of female beauty. Concept of whiteness as the opposite of blackness: purity, virginity, virtue, beauty, beneficence, God. Moreover, symbol of female beauty.

5 Question of Causation What makes the African black? What makes the African black? Limited by wide-spread belief in monogenesis: all humanity came from one source: Limited by wide-spread belief in monogenesis: all humanity came from one source: “the tawney Moore, blacke Negro, duskie Libyan, ash-coloured Indian, olive-coloured American, should with the whiter European become one sheep-fold, under one great Sheepheard, til this mortalitie being swallowed up of Life, wee may all be one, as he and the father are one.... without any more distinction of Colour, National, Language, Sex, Condition, all may bee One in his that is One, and onely blessed for ever” (Rev. Samuel Purchas, 1614). “the tawney Moore, blacke Negro, duskie Libyan, ash-coloured Indian, olive-coloured American, should with the whiter European become one sheep-fold, under one great Sheepheard, til this mortalitie being swallowed up of Life, wee may all be one, as he and the father are one.... without any more distinction of Colour, National, Language, Sex, Condition, all may bee One in his that is One, and onely blessed for ever” (Rev. Samuel Purchas, 1614). Climate theory: Sun must be cause of blackness Climate theory: Sun must be cause of blackness

6 Contradiction Why weren’t all people at the same latitudes (Africans and American Indians, for instance) the same color? Why weren’t all people at the same latitudes (Africans and American Indians, for instance) the same color? Why, too, if the sun caused blackness, didn’t removing blacks from Africa to cooler climes result in whitening even over generations? Why, too, if the sun caused blackness, didn’t removing blacks from Africa to cooler climes result in whitening even over generations?

7 Heathenism v. Christianity Two facets of the concept of Heathenism Two facets of the concept of Heathenism used as a means through negation to define what was meant by Christian, an exercise in self- definition used as a means through negation to define what was meant by Christian, an exercise in self- definition could difference between two peoples be erased through proselytizing and conversion? could difference between two peoples be erased through proselytizing and conversion? Failure to programmatically attempt to convert Africans proves that Englishmen distinguished between blacks and American Indians, who were the targets of campaigns to convert them. Failure to programmatically attempt to convert Africans proves that Englishmen distinguished between blacks and American Indians, who were the targets of campaigns to convert them.

8 Why? Englishmen had no intention of settling in Africa, while America was viewed as land for colonization Englishmen had no intention of settling in Africa, while America was viewed as land for colonization Perhaps a result of English bias against black skin color Perhaps a result of English bias against black skin color Universalism of Christianity (the unity of the nations of man) played against the belief that the heathenism of black people in Africa was a sign of some fundamental defect. To English observers, Africans appeared to have no religion at all. Universalism of Christianity (the unity of the nations of man) played against the belief that the heathenism of black people in Africa was a sign of some fundamental defect. To English observers, Africans appeared to have no religion at all.

9 Condition of Savagery Black Africans didn’t live like Englishmen Black Africans didn’t live like Englishmen fascination with African curiosities fascination with African curiosities helped English make the transition in their view of themselves from medieval, religious world to proto-scientific rational world-view, from miracles to verifiable monstrosities helped English make the transition in their view of themselves from medieval, religious world to proto-scientific rational world-view, from miracles to verifiable monstrosities

10 Distortions Distortions of Africans in accounts of Africa Distortions of Africans in accounts of Africa emphasize differences and condemn deviations from English norm emphasize differences and condemn deviations from English norm overemphasize similarities—English used the language and socio-cultural framework of their own community to describe foreign cultures (kings, counselors, gentlemen, etc.) overemphasize similarities—English used the language and socio-cultural framework of their own community to describe foreign cultures (kings, counselors, gentlemen, etc.) Savagery less important to discussion of Africans than of Indians Savagery less important to discussion of Africans than of Indians

11 Ourang-outang Situation English stumble across black Africans and apes at the same time, a tragic happenstance English stumble across black Africans and apes at the same time, a tragic happenstance merged with mythical tradition of man-like beasts (Satyr, the minotaur, centaur) merged with mythical tradition of man-like beasts (Satyr, the minotaur, centaur) Association of apes with heightened sexuality Association of apes with heightened sexuality Association of apes with the devil Association of apes with the devil

12 Note on Racism via Albert Memmi Racism: Puts in relief certain differences Puts in relief certain differences Bestows a value on those differences Bestows a value on those differences Utilizes the valuation of those differences to the benefit of one noticing them and giving them a value Utilizes the valuation of those differences to the benefit of one noticing them and giving them a value “ No one of these conditions, by itself, is sufficient to constitute racism.” From Memmi, Albert, Racism. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota Press, 2000


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