Is racism a blot on the American democratic tradition? Or, as Alexander Saxton argues, has racial discrimination always been integral to it? In the nineteenth century, the United States was transformed into an industrialized mass democratic society. But central to this economic growth and the territorial expansion which accompanied it was slave labor in the South and the expropriation of Indian lands in the West.
In this meticulous historical study, Saxton asks why white racism remained an ideological force in America long after the need to justify slavery and Western conquest had disappeared. He shows how the notion of white racial superiority continued to meet the needs of the various class coalitions that ruled the nation, at the same time as a creed of liberty and equality became dominant. And he explores the processes of ideological revision that made possible these seemingly contradictory transformations.
Examining images of race at a popular level—from blackface minstrelsy to the construction of the Western hero; from grassroots political culture to dime novels—as well as the philosophical construction of the political elite, The Rise and Fall of the White Republic: Class Politics and Mass Culture in Nineteenth-Century America is a powerful and comprehensive account of the ideological forces at work in the formation of modern America.
Alexander Saxton, was professor emeritus of history at the University of California, Los Angeles, is also the author of The Indispensable Enemy: Labor and the Anti-Chinese Movement in California as well as several novels. He spent nearly twenty years as a merchant seaman and carpenter before launching a distinguished academic career.
David R. Roediger teaches history and African American Studies at the University of Kansas. He was born in southern Illinois and educated in public schools in that state, with a B.S. in Ed from Northern Illinois University. He completed a doctorate in History at Northwestern in 1979. Roediger has taught labor and Southern history at Northwestern, University of Missouri, University of Minnesota, and the University of Illinois. He has also worked as an editor of the Frederick Douglass Papers at Yale University. He has written on U.S. movements for a shorter working day, on labor and poetry, on the history of radicalism, and on the racial identities of white workers and of immigrants. His books include Our Own Time, The Wages of Whiteness, How Race Survived U.S. History, Towards the Abolition of Whiteness, and Working Towards Whiteness.