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A Dreadful Deceit: The Myth of Race from the Colonial Era to Obama’s America Hardcover – December 10, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Despite the long, tortured American history surrounding “race,” the thing itself is mythology, a social construct used to rationalize exploitation and abuse of power, argues historian Jones. Focusing on the lives of six African Americans, she traces the use of race to exploit from the seventeenth to the late-twentieth centuries. Jones asks the question, Who benefits from racial difference?, as a focusing point for her portraits of Antonio, an enslaved African living in colonial Maryland, killed by his master because he refused to work in the fields; Boston King, a fugitive slave who sought spiritual equality among all men and women in Maryland; Elleanor Eldridge, a nineteenth-century Rhode Island businesswoman engaged in land-owning disputes as she defied stereotypes; Richard W. White, a Union veteran who appeared white but pushed for civil rights for freed slaves; William H. Holtzclaw, a Tuskegee Institute graduate who founded his own small vocational institute in rural Mississippi; and Simon P. Owens, a Detroit labor organizer who developed a Marxist-humanist collective challenging new assembly-line technologies that threatened the humanity of workers. Through these six individuals, Jones offers a provocative analysis of “race” and the abuse of power. --Vanessa Bush

Review

2014 Pulitzer Prize Finalist

Publishers Weekly, Best of 2013
“Jones forcefully demonstrates how racial ideologies are used to uphold existing power relations and perpetuate injustice, denying some citizens their rightful place in civic life.”

New York Times Book Review
“These six stories, told in vivid detail, are fascinating and a pleasure to read...her book is a call to renounce the very idea of race as a dangerous misconception.”

Wall Street Journal
“Her book is a moving and painstakingly researched, at times almost novelistic, group portrait of five black men and one woman from different eras that, taken together, lays bare the ideology buttressing the notion of race and the ‘peculiar institution’ it justified.... Ms. Jones’s achievement is substantial.”

Chronicle of Higher Education
“[An] arresting and engrossing new book...few historians have written more powerfully or impressively about very large, and racially diverse, sections of the American working class.”

Chicago Tribune
“[A] smart, provocative new book...a persuasive, deeply researched, readable argument…so intricately researched as to feel novelistic.... Though she never quite acknowledges how a biological myth becomes real cultural identity, Jones gives a lot to chew on.”

Salon
“Provocative…fascinating.... The strength of Dreadful Deceit lies in its wealth of detail and the precise picture it offers of specific places and times.”

Choice
“Clearly argued and beautifully written, this book is mandatory reading for everyone. Essential.”

ESPN.com, Tuesday Morning Quarterback
“[This] volume may have a lasting impact on American thought.... A Dreadful Deceit may put into the national conversation the notion that categorizing by ‘race’ is an obsolescent idea. Skin color tells nothing more about a person than eye color; there is simply one human race. That is a powerful, progressive idea.”

Charlotte Observer
“Deeply researched.”

Kirkus, starred review
“A powerful exploration of an enduring myth that has haunted America over the centuries, from one of our best chroniclers of America’s struggle with racial inequality....[Jones is] a graceful writer and natural storyteller...a masterful book about its history.”

Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Heartfelt....In what is the most persuasive and satisfying feature of this authoritative book, Jones relates the stories of six ‘black’ Americans across different eras spanning nearly half a millennium. These riveting tales emerge from Jones’s deep knowledge of African-American history and her brilliant use of previously unexploited sources.”

Kirkus, "Best of the Year"
“For readers who wonder about the impact, for better or worse, of racial framing and discourse in America, Jacqueline Jones weaves a powerful narrative argument against the construct of race.”

Booklist
“Jones offers a provocative analysis of ‘race’ and the abuse of power.”

Thomas J. Sugrue, David Boies Professor of History and Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, and author of Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North
"Jacqueline Jones is one of the most distinguished scholars on race in America and this book shows why. A Dreadful Deceit is both sweeping and intimate, exploring the long history of racial injustice in America and the inspiring struggle against it through beautifully drawn biographical vignettes. Powerful, eye opening, and original, it reminds us that race and power are the central themes of American history."

Edward L. Ayers, author of In the Presence of Mine Enemies: Civil War in the Heart of America
"'Race' is one of the most charged words in Americans' public vocabulary, and Jacqueline Jones dismantles it century by century, life by life. The revealing and memorable stories she tells show how the language of race became so pervasive, so deceptive, and so damaging over four centuries of American life."

Darlene C. Hine, Northwestern University, co-author of The African American Odyssey
“A masterful work of history, biography, and searing analysis of America’s race conundrum. By skillfully unraveling the fiction of race and its use to rationalize institutional oppression and exploitation over the past four hundred years, Jacqueline Jones has produced an important book of uncommon grace and grit. It is essential to understanding America’s racial legacy and the true calculus of lives that have been diminished and destroyed by the dreadful deceit of race. This book is absolutely required reading.”

Joe W. Trotter, Giant Eagle Professor of History and Social Justice, Carnegie Mellon University
“In a variety of settings at different moments in time, this extraordinary book shows just how contingent, malleable, and resilient the notion of race has been in U.S. capitalist development. It also underscores how contemporary usage of race, shorn of its specific historical contexts, obscures more than it explains. Most important, through a meticulous reexamination of myriad permutations of race in American society, this book advances a powerful alternative narrative of U.S. history itself.”
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (December 10, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465036708
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465036707
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #244,195 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By ruth VanHaitsma on November 30, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Thoroughly researched. Dense with detail. Encyclopedic. Slow reading. Much of the detail is irrelevant to the controlling thesis.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Josiah Daniel on June 16, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This, the newest book by Professor Jacqueline Jones, the new Chair of the History Department of the University of Texas at Austin, is excellent.....highly recommended!

Josiah Daniel
Dallas
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By D. Witscher on June 16, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ms. Jones does amazing research into the issue which still perpetuates the hostile divide that lies at the center of our country's fundamental problems. The central contradiction of a nation founded on an idea of equal opportunity yet bound by the past devotion to inequality needs to be understood, and this book offers a key to that wisdom.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bob Walling on October 10, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Excellent read! Well researched and extremely informative. So much of the history of this country comes from, and is about, people like Romney or George W. . The people at the bottom are never talked about! Race is only necessary when it is convenient for the 'Haves'. This is definitely NOT what I learned in school.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on October 26, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
The LA Times Review said it best: "A Dreadful Deceit's" insistence that race is not a factor leads Jones to ignore racism's role in creating economic inequality. Today's workforce, she asserts, is "defined less by skin color and history than by shared powerlessness within a global economy." But if truly "shared," how do we explain the widening wealth gap between whites and blacks or that the world's cheap apparel is made in the global South by a non-white, super-exploited labor force?

If "race" did not matter, why were anti-miscegenation laws introduced in the colonies in the mid-17th century? How do we account for the singularly brutal treatment of captured Africans on slave ships, where they were treated like wild animals, raped and portrayed as having "natural" proclivities for bondage and sexual intercourse

Jones generally treats "race" (a means of classifying difference) as a proxy for "racism" (a hierarchical system of subjugation based on race). The point is not that race explains everything but that racism is built into the very structure of the economy. Race may be a myth, but racism survives.

You can have your colorblind ideology. I suggest the following books: The Invention of the White Race, Volume 1: Racial Oppression and Social Control and The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism
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