How did African-American slaves view their white masters? As demons, deities or another race entirely? When nineteenth-century white Americans proclaimed their innate superiority, did blacks agree? If not, why not? How did blacks assess the status of the white race? Mia Bay traces African-American perceptions of whites between 1830 and 1925 to 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. By contrast, 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 the White Mind, Bay investigates this mystery. In doing so, she uncovers and elucidates the racial thought of a wide range of nineteenth-century African-Americanseducated and unlettered, male and female, free and enslaved.
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 Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.