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Reply #214: The Myth of the Negro Past, a monograph by Melville J. Herskovitz (1941) [View All]

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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Feb-10-10 02:29 AM
Response to Original message
214. The Myth of the Negro Past, a monograph by Melville J. Herskovitz (1941)
Edited on Wed Feb-10-10 02:32 AM by EFerrari
may be the first clear articulation by the white academy, in this case by an anthropologist, that disappearing black history and culture and replacing them with "a myth" of that erased past was the principal mechanism underpinning discrimination. The five points laid out on pp. 1-2 are the thesis of the work.



http://www.archive.org/details/mythofthenegropa033515mb...

This is the relevant text:


THE MYTH OF THE NEGRO PAST



Chapter I
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF AFRICANISMS



The myth of the Negro past is one of the principal supports of race
prejudice in this country. Unrecognized in its efficacy, it rationalizes
discrimination in everyday contact between Negroes and whites, in-
fluences the shaping of policy where Negroes are concerned, and
affects the trends of research by scholars whose theoretical approach,
methods, and systems of thought presented to students are in har-
mony with it. Where all its elements are not accepted, no conflict
ensues even when, as in popular belief, certain tenets run contrary
to some of its component parts, since its acceptance is so little sub-
ject to question that contradictions are not likely to be scrutinized
too closely. The system is thus to be regarded as mythological in
the technical sense of the term, for, as will be made apparent, it
provides the sanction for deep-seated belief which gives coherence to
behavior.

This myth of the Negro past, which validates the concept of
Negro inferiority, may be outlined as follows:

j. Negroes are naturally of a childlike character, and adjust easily
to the most unsatisfactory social situations, which they accept readily
and even happily, in contrast to the American Indians, who pre-
ferred extinction to slavery;

2. Only the poorer stock of Africa ivas enslaved, the more intelli-
gent members of the African communities raided having been clever
enough to elude the slavers' nets;

j. Since the Negroes were brought from all parts of the African
continent, spoke diverse languages, represented greatly differing
bodies of custom, and, as a matter of policy, were distributed in the
New World so as to lose tribal identity, no least common denom-
inator of understanding or behavior could have possibly been worked
out by them;



2 THE MYTH OF THE NEGRO PAST

4. Even granting enough Negroes of a given tribe had the oppor-
tunity to live together, and tltat they had the will and ability to con-
tinue their customary modes of behavior, the cultures of Africa were
so savage and relatively so low in the scale of human civilization
that the apparent superiority of European customs as observed in
the behavior of their masters, would hazrc caused and actually did
cause them to give up such aboriginal traditions as they may other-
wise have desired to preserve;

5. The Negro is thus a man without a past.

Naturally, there have been reactions against this point of view,
and in such works as Carter Woodson's The African Background
Outlined and W. E. B. Du Bois' Black Folk, Then and Now
serious attempts have been made to comprehend the entire picture
of the Negro, African and New World, in its historical and func-
tional setting. In still another category of those who disagree with
this system are writers whose reactions, presented customarily with
little valid documentation, center attention on Africa principally to
prove that "Negro culture" can take its place among the "higher"
civilizations of mankind. Scientific thought has for some time ab-
jured attempts at the comparative evaluation of cultures, so that
these works are significant more as manifestations of the psychology
of interracial conflict than as contributions to serious thought. They
are in essence a part of the literature of polemics, and as such need
be given little attention here.

It must also be recognized that not every writer who has made
statements of the type oulined above has accepted or, if he has ac-
cepted, has stressed all the elements in the system ; and that popular
opinion often underscores the African character of certain aspects
of the behavior of Negroes, emphasizing the savage and exotic
nature of the presumed carry-overs. Yet on the intellectual level, a
long line of trained specialists have reiterated, in whole or in part,
the assumptions concerning the Negro past that have been sketched.
As a consequence, diverse as are the contributions of these writers
in approach, method, and materials, they have, with but few excep-
tions, contributed to the perpetuation of the legend concerning* the
quality of Negro aboriginal endowment and its lack of stamina
under contact. We may best begin our documentation of this system
with a series of citations concerning the final, culminating element,
leaving to later pages excerpts which demonstrate the tenaciousness
of the other propositions that lead up to this last point.









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  - This one sure will!  cat_girl25   Nov-07-08 02:20 PM   #162 
  - Racist HOA covenants and the SCOTUS case Shelley vs. Kraemer (1948)  Lurking_Argyle   Dec-09-08 07:54 AM   #163 
  - The Niagara Movement and the beginning of the NAACP  Lurking_Argyle   Jan-06-09 01:05 PM   #164 
  - The 1895 Atlanta Compromise speech  Lurking_Argyle   Jan-06-09 01:11 PM   #165 
  - Racism, the Interstate Highway System, and Urban Renewal  Lurking_Argyle   Jan-23-09 03:06 PM   #166 
  - COAHR and "An Appeal for Human Rights" full-page ad  Brewman_Jax   Mar-09-09 01:06 PM   #167 
  - Claudette Colvin  Brewman_Jax   Mar-16-09 12:57 PM   #168 
  - I think I remember hearing about her  Raineyb   Mar-16-09 01:40 PM   #169 
  - recent history I'm surprised many Americans still don't know:  Blue_Tires   May-12-09 07:33 AM   #170 
  - Nice  Number23   May-12-09 11:47 AM   #171 
  - The Venerable Pierre Toussaint (1766 1853) ..  Princess Turandot   Jun-21-09 06:35 AM   #175 
  - Beautiful. Thanks, Princess  Number23   Jul-08-09 05:01 PM   #179 
  - Funded by slavery  Brewman_Jax   Jul-08-09 10:22 AM   #177 
  - Holy crap.  Number23   Jul-08-09 04:59 PM   #178 
  - I see Ivy Leagues, are present...  bliss_eternal   Jul-23-09 02:21 AM   #188 
  - Corporate collusion  Brewman_Jax   Jul-27-10 02:05 PM   #221 
  - Emory University in Atlanta issues its declaration of regret for slavery involvement  Brewman_Jax   Feb-02-11 08:12 AM   #232 
  - Good thread.  BlooInBloo   Jul-09-09 12:16 AM   #180 
  - Black Indians and Black Cowboys in the Old West  Liberation Angel   Jul-23-09 12:20 AM   #185 
  - Africans in the New World Before Columbus (Malian sailors in 1300's)  Liberation Angel   Jul-23-09 12:23 AM   #186 
  - Eugene Bullard. WWI Flying and fighter ace pilot  Liberation Angel   Jul-23-09 12:24 AM   #187 
  - Great stuff, L_A! Thanks for posting.  Number23   Jul-23-09 03:48 AM   #189 
     - Y'welcome!  Liberation Angel   Jul-23-09 09:55 AM   #190 
  - Black GI's Liberated Nazi death Camps during Holocaust and died in Nazi death camps too  Liberation Angel   Jul-23-09 08:18 PM   #191 
  - bttt.  Karenina   Aug-03-09 02:44 PM   #192 
  - Blue_Tires article on the Buffalo Soldiers would be a good fit here  Number23   Aug-18-09 04:45 PM   #193 
  - Prince Hall, a "founding father of America" and the first Black American Citizens  cato287   Sep-19-09 10:29 AM   #194 
  - The Red Summer Riots  Brewman_Jax   Oct-15-09 10:25 AM   #195 
  - Shirley Franklin (1945- ), Mayor of Atlanta  Brewman_Jax   Jan-02-10 09:56 AM   #196 
  - Brew, thank you for keeping this thread open and for contributing (and allowing others to as well).  Number23   Jan-02-10 04:34 PM   #197 
  - Wyoming's "Black 14" and the mormon church's policies on race  fishwax   Jan-07-10 09:34 PM   #198 
  - Story: The other night our sat teevee was down  EFerrari   Jan-10-10 02:37 PM   #199 
  - "She's 77 and was a radical Latina back in the day."  Number23   Jan-10-10 05:44 PM   #202 
     - Why, thank you very much.  EFerrari   Jan-10-10 10:00 PM   #205 
  - Wow  TheBigotBasher   Jan-10-10 04:07 PM   #200 
  - I'm glad you're here. And your participation is welcome in this forum  Number23   Jan-10-10 05:37 PM   #201 
     - I'm looking forward to.  TheBigotBasher   Jan-10-10 05:56 PM   #203 
  - Percy E. Sutton (1920-2009)  Number23   Jan-10-10 05:58 PM   #204 
  - Desegregation of the US Military  Brewman_Jax   Feb-04-10 08:52 AM   #207 
  - When my Mom first told me  NOLALady   Feb-04-10 01:16 PM   #208 
  - Amelia Boynton Robinson first African American woman from Alabama to run for Congress  Blue_Tires   Feb-04-10 01:34 PM   #209 
  - Garvey and Griggs  RoyGBiv   Feb-06-10 11:07 PM   #211 
  - Feb. 2010 - Greensboro, NC sit-ins turn 50  Number23   Feb-09-10 03:09 PM   #212 
  - David Levering Lewis - first author to win two Pulitzer Prizes for biography for back-to-back volume  Number23   Feb-09-10 03:12 PM   #213 
  - The Myth of the Negro Past, a monograph by Melville J. Herskovitz (1941)  EFerrari   Feb-10-10 02:29 AM   #214 
  - Black Men Built the Capitol. (BookTv presentation)  EFerrari   Mar-02-10 03:10 AM   #215 
  - Two interviews, MLK and Malcolm, on line at PBS.  EFerrari   Mar-11-10 08:07 PM   #216 
  - The Sweet Trials, 1925 and 1926  Brewman_Jax   May-17-10 08:47 AM   #218 
  - Darrell Wallace makes history as first African-American to win NASCAR Pro Series  Blue_Tires   May-18-10 11:38 PM   #219 
  - Ralph Gilles, President and CEO of Dodge  Blue_Tires   Jun-08-10 09:00 AM   #220 
  - Reverend Vernon Johns (1892-1965)  Brewman_Jax   Oct-14-10 10:31 AM   #222 
  - Hands on the Freedom Plow  EFerrari   Oct-26-10 04:20 PM   #223 
  - Va Tech to honor school's first black graduate  fortyfeetunder   Oct-28-10 11:00 PM   #224 
  - this was no small accomplishment...  bliss_eternal   Nov-05-10 04:48 AM   #225 
  - Juliette Hampton Morgan (1917-1957)  Brewman_Jax   Jan-20-11 10:51 AM   #229 
  - Black-American winners of the Nobel Prize  Brewman_Jax   Feb-09-11 01:56 PM   #233 
  - The immortal legacy of Henrietta Lacks  Brewman_Jax   Mar-15-11 09:55 AM   #234 
  - Mass deportations of Mexican-Americans in the 1930's  Brewman_Jax   Jun-27-11 11:34 AM   #235 
 

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