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Race: The History of an Idea in America

About the Author

Shelley Fisher Fishkin

Shelley Fisher Fishkin's principal concern throughout her career has been literature and social justice. Much of her work has focused on issues of race and racism in America, and on recovering and interpreting voices that were silenced, marginalized, or ignored in America's past. 

Her broad, interdisciplinary research interests have led her to focus on topics including the challenge of doing transnational American Studies; the place of humor and satire in movements for social change; the role literature can play in the fight against racism; the influence of African American voices on canonical American literature; the need to desegregate American literary...

Oxford University Press
1997

When Thomas Gossett's Race: The History of an Idea in America appeared in 1963, it explored the impact of race theory on American letters in a way that anticipated the investigation of race and culture being conducted today. Bold, rigorous, and broad in scope, Gossett's book quickly established itself as a critical resource to younger scholars seeking a candid, theoretically sophisticated treatment of race in American cultural history.

Here, reprinted without change, is Gossett's classic study, making available to a new generation of scholars a lucid, accessibly written volume that ranges from colonial race theory and its European antecedents, through eighteenth- and nineteenth- century race pseudoscience, to the racialist dimension of American thought and literature emerging against backgrounds such as Anglo- Saxonism, westward expansion, Social Darwinism, xenophobia, World War I, and modern racial theory.

Featuring a new afterword by the author, an introduction by series editors Shelley Fisher Fishkin and Arnold Rampersad, and a bibliographic essay by Maghan Keita, this indispensable book, whose first edition helped change the way scholars discussed race, will richly reward scholars of American Studies, American Literature, and African-American Studies.