Race and Ethnic Inclusion and Exclusion
In Ira Berlin’s (1998) Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America, the author shows how groups in the U.S. struggled to exclude other groups. White people made a serious effort to exclude black people from anything other than the most menial jobs for a very long time (Davidson, 2005; Gasorek, 1998). The desire to exclude was based on skin color and race, but there was also an element of inclusion in that black people were included in one group based on their skin color, and were not seen as individuals who were unique people based on their own merits (Sherif, 1967; Tajfel & Turner, 1979).
Black people struggled to gain access to institutions and status as they developed their own identities in an area with which they were unfamiliar (Berlin, 1998). They became soldiers and worked as artisans, along with working as field hands, but they were generally held down by white society and not allowed to take jobs they would have been clearly capable of because no one would hire them. During that time, avoiding hiring someone because of race was perfectly legal.
Slavery is often thought to be synonymous with cotton, but that is not the case. The book addresses how slavery was much different than what many people thought it was. Artisans, field hands, and soldiers were jobs for black people who were just coming out of slavery, and the book looks at them but also at the earliest black people brought to the U.S. And how they struggled to adapt to unfamiliar and often brutal conditions.
The main points and objectives for Berlin’s (1998) book were to show that slavery was not what most people thought it was and to help readers gain a better understanding of how black people worked to integrate themselves into society over a period of two centuries. It was not an easy road, but with persistence they were able to become more involved, more accepted, and more comfortable as a part of the United States.
The strengths of Berlin’s (1998) book are all focused on how he tells the story so thoroughly. It is easy to gain a much better understanding of slavery from reading the book, and it tells the tale without dragging it out into something that become uninteresting. However, there are also weaknesses, as Berlin (1998) seems to paint a picture of slavery that appears to be much nicer than the reality actually was for the slaves.
Ira Berlin was born in 1941, and is an American historian. He is also a professor at the University of Maryland and holds a Ph.D. He writes prolifically on American history, with a specific focus on the 18th and 19th centuries. He studies diversity in African-American life and slavery.
In Linda K. Kerber’s (1998) No Constitutional Right to be Ladies: Women and the Obligations of Citizenship, she addresses the issue of how women have long been excluded from many civic obligations, as well as having fewer rights than men. She also shows how women have been excluded from various things all throughout history, and how they are still being excluded from certain jobs — like specific options in the military (Kerber, 1998). Men have continued to exclude women, originally under the guise of protecting them and later for other reasons that fit with them feeling women were not capable of certain jobs (Hyter & Turnock, 2006).
Women have long struggled to gain access to institutions and status that men have always enjoyed. They had to fight for the right to vote, and they also have to fight for proper health care, to be taken seriously, and to do with as they will for their bodies (i.e. issues like abortion) (Rubin & Hewstone, 2004). They continue to work for that access, even today, because they are not treated entirely as equals with men of the same ethnicity, age, or other factors.
The argument made by Kerber (1998) is that women had very few rights early on, and they had to fight and argue for them throughout history. However, the book also talks about the obligations that men had to be patriots and serve their country, and how women did not have to meet those same obligations (Kerber, 1998). Wanting to be totally and unconditionally equal with men comes with obligations that women may not be expecting.
The main point of Kerber’s (1998) book is that women have had fewer rights throughout history, but they have also had fewer obligations they have had to meet. The objective is not to show that it is better to be a woman or a man, but only that there have always been drastic differences and that there will continue to be these differences. Equality may come in some areas, but is an illusion in many ways.
The strength of the book is that the author looks at the rights and obligations of women so differently from other authors who address the same issues. However, the book is very dense with information and narrowly focused. The textbook style read could put off some people who would be reading it for pleasure, so that is something to consider if one is looking for books on the rights and evolution of women throughout history.
Linda K. Kerber is an American historian and a professor at the University of Iowa. She teaches in the College of Law and also in the Liberal Arts & Sciences Department. Kerber has served as president of various historical societies, and has received prizes for her historical work on women. She has a Ph.D. In history from Columbia University.
In Daniel K. Richter’s (2001) Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America, he focuses on Native Americans and how they were the beginning people in the United States. In that sense, they tried to exclude European settlers who were taking their land and resources. In turn, the settlers excluded the Native Americans from the settlements and towns in “their” country, even though they were not the first people to inhabit the area (Miller & Katz, 2002). This exclusion led the Native Americans to build their own settlements and remain by themselves, on the outskirts of the societies that were being created by large numbers of European settlers.
Richter’s (2001) book also shows that Native American people first struggled to gain access to institutions and status once the settlers moved in and, essentially, took over. Native Americans and settlers fought frequently and killed one another in a struggle for dominance, land, and resources (Roberson, 2006). Eventually, most Native Americans just stopped trying to become a part of the lives of the settlers, and they lived on the reservations they settlers “gave” to them.
The Native Americans enjoyed a relatively peaceful existence, although not all tribes got along with one another. As the settlers began to come into the country, some tribes worked together to fight against the settlers. Over time, their fights were unsuccessful. There were simply too many settlers and not enough Native Americans to push them back or keep hold of the land. Most Native Americans ended up on reservations, and a number of their ancestors are still there today.
The main objective of the book is to show how the settlement of the country came about and looked from the other side. The Native Americans had a very different opinion on the “takeover” of their country, and most history books address the issue from the standpoint of the settlers. This book makes the point that there is always two sides to every story, and that the one from the Native Americans is generally untold.
The main strength of the book is the way in which it focuses on an important time in history from a completely different direction. This helps people see history differently, which is generally always beneficial to them and can help them have a better understanding of how the world has changed. However, the book is not unique and there are other books that have addressed this same kind of issue in the past and just as thoroughly.
Richter teaches at the University of Pennsylvania, where he helps students learn early American history and also directs the McNeil Center, which focuses on early American studies. He has won awards for his books on history and has been a Pulitzer Prize finalist. He is deeply interested in history and all of its facets.
In Gordon S. Wood’s (1992) The Radicalism of the American Revolution, the author addresses the break with England, but it is much more than that. He focuses on how the British attempted to keep the colonists at bay, and how the colonists worked very hard to exclude themselves from British society. In their case it was a calculated exclusion of their own people, not something where exclusion was done because of a perceived difference of race or ethnicity (Rubin & Hewstone, 2004). The transformation from a feudal society to a democratic one is particularly interesting and important, as it excluded many groups as it evolved.
Since the time of the American Revolution, groups have been struggling to be included (Hyter & Turnock, 2006). One sees this in the way the colonies were first created and how they adjusted to provide options for some people but not all. People were divided by race, ethnicity, social class, gender, and many other categories. Today, most people are less divided in those ways, at least from a societal and/or employment standpoint.
The argument in the book is that the American Revolution was significantly more than just a group of people who decided to break with their roots in England. While that was important, it was more than just a change of scenery. There were huge political, economic, and cultural reasons why the colonists moved to the U.S. from England, and those all needed to be addressed to better understand the Revolution itself.
The main point of the book was to showcase the formative years of the U.S. Quarreling colonies were the beginning of something that became a more tight-knit if somewhat unruly republic, and that evolved into the huge society that makes up the United States today. It was a very radical time, and many of the books written about it downplay that too much, which means the reader misses out on the complete experience of the United States’ creation.
Like all books, this one has strengths and weaknesses. The main strength is how the book focuses on the radical wildness of that time in history. That is very important, and something that is often overlooked. The weakness the book possesses is that it spends too much of its energy on class conflict and — in some ways — makes the radical nature of that time period out to be more than it was. People who read the book will need to draw their own conclusions on the accuracy of the radicalism.
Gordon S. Wood is a history professor at Brown University. He is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the Bancroft Prize. Wood is a frequent contributor to The New Republic and The New York Review of Books. His views on history have been applauded by some and discounted by others, but it is clear that Wood believes in the opinions he holds and is deeply fascinated by history.
Berlin, Ira. 1998. Many thousands gone: The first two centuries of slavery in North America. Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Davison, K.N. (2005). The mixed race experiment: Treatment of racially categorized individuals under title VII. Law journal library, 12: 161-164.
Gasorek, Dory. 1998. Inclusion at Dun & Bradstreet: Building a high-performing company. The Diversity Factor 8(4).
Hyter, Michael C. & Turnock, Judith L. 2006. The power of inclusion: Unlock the potential and productivity of your workforce. NY: John Wiley & Sons.
Kerber, Linda K. 1998. No constitutional right to be ladies: Women and the obligations of citizenship. New York: Hill and Wang.
Miller, Frederick A. & Katz, Judith H. 2002. The inclusion breakthrough: Unleashing the real power of diversity. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Richter, Daniel K. 2001. Facing east from Indian country: A native history of early America. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
Roberson, Quinetta M. 2006. Disentangling the meanings of diversity and inclusion in organizations.” Group & Organization Management 31(2): 212-236.
Rubin, M., & Hewstone, M. (2004). Social identity, system justification, and social dominance: Commentary on Reicher, Jost et al., and Sidanius et al. Political Psychology, 25, 823-844.
Sherif, M. (1967). Group conflict and co-operation. London: Routledge.
Tajfel, H. & Turner, J.C. (1979). An integrative theory of intergroup conflict. In W.G. Austin & S. Worchel (Eds.), The social psychology of intergroup relations (pp. 33 — 47). Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole.
Wood, Gordon S. 1992. The radicalism of the American Revolution. New York: A.A. Knopf.
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