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    Constructions of racial savagery in early twentieth-century U.S. narratives of white civilization

    Aragon, Margarita (2024) Constructions of racial savagery in early twentieth-century U.S. narratives of white civilization. Journal of American Studies , ISSN 0021-8758.

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    This article examines the constructions of Black ‘degeneracy’ through which white Americans rationalized Jim Crow terror. Ruminations on African Americans’ supposed downward trajectory, I argue, drew relational meaning from a range of colonial discourses. Claims that African Americans were deteriorating outside the bonds of enslavement were articulated within wider transnational imperialist discourses circulating in this period that imagined that world’s savage peoples were destined to recede in the march of civilization. Here, I examine white Americans’ narratives of African American degeneration through two other imagined hemispheric encounters between white civilization and savagery. In the article’s first half, I consider images of Haiti employed in cultural and political texts to signify the durability of innate Black savagery and the apocalyptic potential of Black freedom. In the second half, I consider discourses of Black degeneration in freedom alongside the genocidal construction of the 'vanishing Indian.' I focus on two memorial projects: the 1931 Monument to the Faithful Slave erected in Harpers Ferry and the never completed National American Indian Memorial, for which ground was broken in 1913 at Fort Wadsworth.


    Item Type: Article
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): anti-black racism, settler colonialism, African Americans, Native Americans, cultural memory, imperialism, racist violence
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Social Sciences
    Depositing User: Margarita Aragon
    Date Deposited: 01 Nov 2023 14:37
    Last Modified: 07 Mar 2024 02:15


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