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From Savage to Negro: Anthropology and the Construction of Race, 1896-1954

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Lee D. Baker explores what racial categories mean to the American public and how these meanings are reinforced by anthropology, popular culture, and the law. Focusing on the period between two landmark Supreme Court decisions—Plessy v. Ferguson (the so-called "separate but equal" doctrine established in 1896) and Brown v. Board of Education (the public school desegregation Lee D. Baker explores what racial categories mean to the American public and how these meanings are reinforced by anthropology, popular culture, and the law. Focusing on the period between two landmark Supreme Court decisions—Plessy v. Ferguson (the so-called "separate but equal" doctrine established in 1896) and Brown v. Board of Education (the public school desegregation decision of 1954)—Baker shows how racial categories change over time. Baker paints a vivid picture of the relationships between specific African American and white scholars, who orchestrated a paradigm shift within the social sciences from ideas based on Social Darwinism to those based on cultural relativism. He demonstrates that the greatest impact on the way the law codifies racial differences has been made by organizations such as the NAACP, which skillfully appropriated the new social science to exploit the politics of the Cold War.


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Lee D. Baker explores what racial categories mean to the American public and how these meanings are reinforced by anthropology, popular culture, and the law. Focusing on the period between two landmark Supreme Court decisions—Plessy v. Ferguson (the so-called "separate but equal" doctrine established in 1896) and Brown v. Board of Education (the public school desegregation Lee D. Baker explores what racial categories mean to the American public and how these meanings are reinforced by anthropology, popular culture, and the law. Focusing on the period between two landmark Supreme Court decisions—Plessy v. Ferguson (the so-called "separate but equal" doctrine established in 1896) and Brown v. Board of Education (the public school desegregation decision of 1954)—Baker shows how racial categories change over time. Baker paints a vivid picture of the relationships between specific African American and white scholars, who orchestrated a paradigm shift within the social sciences from ideas based on Social Darwinism to those based on cultural relativism. He demonstrates that the greatest impact on the way the law codifies racial differences has been made by organizations such as the NAACP, which skillfully appropriated the new social science to exploit the politics of the Cold War.

30 review for From Savage to Negro: Anthropology and the Construction of Race, 1896-1954

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michele

    This is largely a synthesis that fills a gap in the literature of the history of the social sciences in America by providing insight on the development of the American school of anthropology. As is often the case with syntheses, it makes broad claims that are not deeply examined or substantiated--and therefore is not strongly argued or sharply nuanced, but it gives the reader a better understanding of the issues at stake.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jess

    This book blew my mind and is a great review of how the American concept of "race" was shaped starting from 1896. This book blew my mind and is a great review of how the American concept of "race" was shaped starting from 1896.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Noelle

    Baker argues that anthropology played a pivotal role in the institution of racism in the U.S.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Betsy McGee

    This is an interesting book about how "race" is constructed, internalized, and changed over time, and the role Anthropology has played in all of it. This is an interesting book about how "race" is constructed, internalized, and changed over time, and the role Anthropology has played in all of it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Alok Vaid-Menon

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bij

  7. 4 out of 5

    Katie

  8. 4 out of 5

    Myles

  9. 4 out of 5

    Julia Bilek

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nana

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alexis

  12. 5 out of 5

    Carl

  13. 4 out of 5

    Charde Reid

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

  15. 4 out of 5

    Zohra

  16. 5 out of 5

    Michael Borohovski

  17. 5 out of 5

    Bianca

  18. 5 out of 5

    Brendan

  19. 4 out of 5

    Imani Strong

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tonje Noack

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mary

  22. 5 out of 5

    Matal *NotYourDomesticInfantSupplier* Baker

  23. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

  24. 5 out of 5

    Grace

  25. 4 out of 5

    Julia

  26. 4 out of 5

    John Ervin

  27. 5 out of 5

    Chi Chi

  28. 4 out of 5

    Shannon Re

  29. 4 out of 5

    Yamir

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lewis Jones

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