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‘To Turne the Penie’
White over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro 1550-1812 by Winthrop D. Jordan

Tragically, this book one the 1969 Book Award and cursed us to ignorance every since.

Winthrop D. Jordon did an immense amount of primary source reading from the dates spanning the inquire and then applied that to the post 1945 fantasy that only blacks were enslaved in English North America. His first 43 pages, which is an excellent resource, I used to develop the chronology of racial references to Sub-Saharan Africans and their descendents through the early modern period. He then spends the balance of the book trying to rationalize these ancestral attitudes of the 16th and 17th centuries, during the heyday of white slavery in America, to describe the 18th century as a century of exclusively African enslavement when it was a century of on par enslavement of both major racial groups, according to a distorted 20th century view of what the world of 1812 America was like, which view places the actualities of 1861 50 years behind in the deluded scheme of revisionist history.

The most glaring error, was failure to read or cite sources from Protestant New England, focusing exclusively on what would have been very liberal literature of the day, sort of like trying to gauge the deviancy of the movie industry without reading any of the literature that such movies were scripted on. For instance, Increase Mather uses the term Negro to describe a Negro in his Indian Warrs. However, in the work he wrote with his son, Wonders of the Invisible World, he and his son use the term black exclusively to describe the supernatural avatars of Satan. Throughout, Jordan’s book he replaces Negro with the modern known black.

The book, in a word, is a beautiful and useful tragedy of the modern mind. Use is made of it for chronological purposes in the tracking of racial consciousness from antiquity into the early modern era. It is astounding to this amateur historian, now having plumbed the vast well of primary sources documenting the facts that all men were equally enslaved regardless of race in the evil land that became the United States of America, that an outstanding scholar with gifted literary skills, with staff and texts made available for him from prestigious universities, could somehow come away from his reading convinced that whites were beloved servants and blacks were tormented slaves. What is more, when, on the eve of the birth of our grand national delusion, Miss Sibby Grant, a woman of African descent in the Maryland of 1861, serving a limited term of enslavement, wrote to her jailed master of the condition of his family and signed off with:

“I am your humble servant

Sibby Grant”

Sibby Grant, real African American slave, was in stark disagreement as to the condition of her people as framed by Jordan. But the opinion of an African American slave upon his condition is never good enough for the self-hating white fool who believes himself to be the color of bleached paper and possessed of a strange genetic guilt. The book is worth a read with many finely told anecdotes of a misbegotten past.

The eminent Winthrop D. Jordon bequeathed his nation an elegantly fabricated lie calibrated to implant guilt and hatred into the body politic and serve as a time bomb to shatter what rampant sloth had failed to vanquish.

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