Stamped from the Beginning

Looking at the history of American racism

Stamped from the beginning : the definitive history of racist ideas in America

Kendi, Ibram X. Nation Books, 2016
582p index afp, 9781568584638 $32.99, 9781568584645 $22.99

Self-proclaimed as a definitive history of racist ideas in the US, this exhaustive, encyclopedic opus lives up to that claim. Kendi’s mighty tome is breathtaking in its scope, beginning with Biblical stories of the curse of Ham and Aristotle’s theory that climate explained why black people were dark in color. In his history of ideas about “race” and alleged black inferiority, Kendi (African American history, Univ. of Florida) examines sources as diverse as Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, W. E. B. Du Bois, and E. Franklin Frazier. The author blasts not only traditional racists who insisted on immutable biological inferiority, but also well-meaning assimilationists, both black and white, who attributed black inferiority to the “imbruting” consequences of slavery, matriarchal families, or dysfunctional ghetto culture. Writing from a “left of center” perspective, Kendi praises Angela Davis while excoriating neoconservatives and the likes of Richard Herrnstein, Charles Murray, Abigail Thernstrom and Stephan Thernstrom (“Few whites are now racists”), John McWhorter, and color-blind racism. Progressive antiracists will love this book, while those on the Right will hate it. A great companion to Winthrop Jordan’s White over Black (CH, Apr’68), at 511 pages it will be difficult to get students to read it in full, but intrepid readers will find it both worthwhile and extraordinary.

Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries.
Reviewer: W. Glasker, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Camden
Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences – History, Geography & Area Studies – North America
Choice Issue: Nov 2016