Chapter

The Pursuit of Whiteness: Property, Terror, and National Expansion, 1790–1860

David R. Roediger

in Colored White

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2002 | ISBN: 9780520233416
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520930803 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520233416.003.0008
The Pursuit of Whiteness: Property, Terror, and National Expansion, 1790–1860

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This chapter uses a dramatic moment in the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates as a window through which to survey the strengths, weaknesses, and gaps in recent writings on whiteness, expansion, and terror in the early national and antebellum periods. It then highlights the necessity of considering white racial formation in the context of a settler colonial nation, and a slaveholding one. Stephen A. Douglas' performance in debating Lincoln suggests critical issues much in need of exploration by historians of whiteness who emphasize the roles of property and of terror in making race. It is the very comprehensiveness of the consideration of race, class, and expansion in the works written in the 1970s and early 1980s that offers the most food for thought. The existing literature reveal that in addressing Gesa Mackenthun's call to “add empire” to the study of history, one builds on substantial foundations where racial identity is concerned.

Keywords: whiteness; national expansion; terror; slaveholding; Stephen A. Douglas; Lincoln; class; Gesa Mackenthun; racial identity

Chapter.  6862 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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