Cover image for The color of race in America, 1900-1940
The color of race in America, 1900-1940
Guterl, Matthew Pratt, 1970-
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 2001.
Physical Description:
ix, 234 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E184.A1 G96 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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With the social change brought on by the great migration of African Americans into the urban northeast after the Great War came the surge of a biracial sensibility that made America different from other Western nations. How white and black people thought about race and how both groups understood and attempted to define and control the demographic transformation are the subjects of this book.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Guterl, an assistant professor of cultural studies, highlights the lives and work of a number of personalities during the early part of the twentieth century who reflect the transformation of racial identity in the U.S. Among those profiled are Daniel Cohalan, an Irish-American nationalist and substantial political figure in New York; Madison Grant, a eugenist and white supremacist; W. E. B. Du Bois, an African American social scientist; and Jean Toomer, a novelist and racial pluralist. Guterl explores the convergence of social forces during the period that transformed American society from perceived multiplicity of white races of varying degrees and shades and, to a lesser extent, the diversity of status among African Americans, into the racial absolutes of white and black that persist to this day. World War I shut off the flow of European immigrants with the perceived threat of such alien forces, solidifying the racial unity of those immigrants already in the U.S. Depressed economic conditions in the South provoked the Great Migration of blacks to the North. Both events set the stage for coming racial tensions. --Vernon Ford

Library Journal Review

In four notably nuanced essays, Guterl (comparative American cultures, Washington State Univ.) suggests a parallel between U.S. problems of racial classification at the turn of the 20th and the 21st centuries. He argues that, then as now, the black-white binary of racial identity faced the demographic realities of myriad ethnic and racial groups and engendered fears of disuniting the U.S. community. Focusing on what he fixes as the nation's cultural market centered on New York City's borough of Manhattan, Guterl juxtaposes the lives of four turn-of-the-20th-century New Yorkers: Irish American nationalist Daniel Cohalan, eugenicist and white supremacist Madison Grant, African American advocate W.E.B. Du Bois, and mixed-race novelist Jean Toomer. Showing their individual fascination with race and its politics, Guterl unpacks each individual's race consciousness. The work is absorbing reading bound to take a place alongside recent works on race, and particularly whiteness, by such authors as Mia Bay, Neil Foley, Grace Elizabeth Hale, and Matthew Frye Jacobson. Recommended for collections on U.S. culture, race, or society. Thomas J. Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Race has always been an issue in US society, but only in the 20th century did those feelings coalesce into the clearly defined, rigid lines of black and white. Before the Great War (WW I), there were numerous white races, with the Nordic at the apex. In the open climate of the US, intermarriage between "superior" Nordics with "inferiors"--the Irish or Italians--equaled "the passing of the Great Race" in the eyes of supremacist Madison Grant. Then in the 1920s came the Great Migration of African Americans from the south to the north, and the "science" of racism shifted from the less fit whites to those who clearly were not white. The "one drop" theory, which concluded that even the most remote black ancestor made all descendants black, elevated the status of the Irish, Italians, and Jews while it demonized blacks. Guterl (Washington State Univ.) examines the work of four figures prominent in this transformation: Grant, the Irish American Daniel Cohalan, W.E.B. DuBois, and Jean Toomer. This book complements Philip F. Rubio's broader study A History of Affirmative Action, 1619-2000 (2001). All academic levels and collections. D. R. Jamieson Ashland University

Table of Contents

1 Salvaging a Shipwrecked World
2 Bleeding the Irish White
3 Against the White Leviathan
4 The Hypnotic Division of America