Cover image for The white image in the Black mind : African-American ideas about white people, 1830-1925
The white image in the Black mind : African-American ideas about white people, 1830-1925
Bay, Mia.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, 2000.
Physical Description:
viii, 288 pages : illustrations, portraits ; 25 cm
Reading Level:
1610 Lexile.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E185.61 .B29 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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How did African-American slaves view their white masters? As gods, monsters, or another race entirely? Did nineteenth-century black Americans ever come to regard white Americans as innately superior? If not, why not? Mia Bay traces African-American perceptions of whites between 1830 and 1925to depict America's shifting attitudes about race in a period that saw slavery, emancipation, Reconstruction, and urban migration. Much has been written about how the whites of this time viewed blacks, and about how blacks viewed themselves, but the ways in which blacks saw whites have remained a historical and intellectual mystery. Reversing the focus of such fundamental studies as George Fredrickson's The Black Image in theWhite Mind, Bay investigates this mystery. In doing so, she elucidates a wide range of thinking about whites by blacks, intellectual and unlettered, male and female, and free and enslaved.

Author Notes

Mia Bay is Assistant Professor of History and Co-Director of the Center for Historical Analysis at Rutgers University.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Bay, a history professor, explores the time-centered context that shaped the images slaves and freedmen formed of white people in the period before and following emancipation. The dynamic for black perceptions of whites was profoundly affected by slavery and the superior and subordinate status it entailed. But Bay also examines white images that centered around black reaction to the various racial idealogues of the time. Much has been written about the responses of black intellectuals, such as Frederick Douglass and Martin Delaney. Black intellectuals countered the ethnology of academic theories such as environmentalism and social Darwinism. However, much of their work was a reaction to white racial ideology. Less is known about the feelings of uneducated slaves, who left little formal record of their thoughts, except through folklore and accounts obtained by writers in the Works Project Administration. Still, the realities of slavery and racial subordination dictated the images both educated and uneducated held of whites. This is an excellent work that relates the roots of race-centered ideology to their past precedents. --Vernon Ford

Library Journal Review

With a title that makes an unveiled reference to George Fredrickson's classic The Black Image in the White Mind (1971), this study takes a long-overdue look at the other side of the coin. Aware that her task is more than just an inversion of Fredrickson's, Bay (history, Rutgers) explicitly addresses issues of methodology and sources in this carefully considered, thorough volume. African Americans, she notes, didn't always get to write down their own stories. As a result, she admits that she has had to rely heavily on records left by whites. She spends half of the book considering the Herculean efforts of a small group of black intellectuals to counteract white racist ideologies before and after the Civil War. But she also examines the complex racial ideologies of slaves, whose opinions she somehow manages to extract from the prejudicial writings of white observers and interviewers. Throughout, she demonstrates that, with a keen eye, a historian may learn much about the opinions of the unlettered. A worthy successor to earlier work on racial ideology, this book fills a major gap in the scholarship. For academic and larger public libraries.--Charles K. Piehl, Mankato State Univ., MN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

1 Desegregating American Racial Thought
2 Overview
Part I White People in Black Ethnology
Chapter 1 "Of One Blood God Created All The Nations Of Men": African-Americans Respond to the Rise of Ideological Racism, 1789-1830
Chapter 2 The Redeemer Race and the Angry Saxon: Race, Gender, and White People in Antebellum Black Ethnology
Chapter 3 "What Shall We Do With The White People?": Whites in Postbellum Black Thought
Part II The Racial Thought of the Slaves Introduction to
Chapter 4 "Us Is Human Flesh": The Racial Thought of the Slaves
Chapter 5 "Devils and Good People Walking De Road At De Same Time": White People in Black Folk Thought
Part III New Negroes, New Whites: Black Racial Thought in the Twentieth Century
Chapter 6 "A New Negro For A New Country": Black Racial Ideology, 1900-1925