Review: “From Savage to Negro”

May 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

“From Savage to Negro” written by Lee Baker explores the meaning of race in a white society. Starting from the “’wild’ Irish” to African Americans and Native Americans, Baker explains how the perception of the “less-than-human” beings progressed throughout history. Josiah Nott, a notable physician during the time, said that African Americans were like children who needed aid and boundaries. Moreover, Roger B. Taney, the Chief Justice of the Dred Scott v. Sanford, decided that all African Americans had no rights as citizens. By limiting the scope of activity available for the African Americans and the other neglected races, white Americans felt justified to have slaves and treat them as another being less than human. And behind all of this there was science.

In the reading, I found the perception of science particularly interesting. “The critical difference between the seventeenth-century English idea of savagery and the early-twentieth-century ideas in the United States was the authority: the former was religious; the latter, scientific.” In the seventeenth century when religion was the rules, religion was thought to be scientific. It wasn’t necessarily considered mythical, and people truly believed that it was the objective fact. In respect to this, how can we say our methods today are scientific? People rely significantly on science these days because science is the fact. To current society, science is the most objective concept. Science is proven and always has a different scientific reasoning behind it. However, how can the generation today claim that such a human-created concept is the “civilized” truth?


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