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ERIC Number: EJ868496
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Dec
Pages: 11
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 27
ISSN: ISSN-0098-6291
Teaching about Race and Class in Early American Literature
Mazurek, Raymond A.
Teaching English in the Two-Year College, v37 n2 p178-188 Dec 2009
Before the 2008 presidential election, when an African American friend asked him whether he thought whites would vote for Barack Obama, the author found himself answering by going back to the 17th century, to the invention of the white race as a buffer class to keep those at the bottom divided, and the way that his own white working-class people had unfortunately carried this legacy forward. The author may be unusual in the extent to which he sees the problems of the colonial past still playing themselves out in the political landscape of the present, but he has found that he is not alone in finding the study of the origins of America's current divisions relevant to the present. As the late Theodore Allen has argued, America's obsession with race and its ignoring of class issues has its origins in the invention of the white race at the end of the 17th century in America. Americans talk so much about race because they talk so little about class, and the reverse. In a country where class and whiteness are omnipresent but often invisible, students may find studying the past less threatening than discussing the divisions of the present directly. This essay discusses one modest but satisfying attempt to illuminate the present through a thematic approach to the first half of the American literature survey that focuses on race and class.
National Council of Teachers of English. 1111 West Kenyon Road, Urbana, IL 61801-1096. Tel: 877-369-6283; Tel: 217-328-3870; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A