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The physical differences of blacks and Indians became the symbols or markers of their status. It was during these times that the term race became widely used to denote the ranking and inequality of these peoples—in other words, their placement on the Chain of Being. Beginning in the late 18th century, differences between the races became magnified and exaggerated in the public mind. Hundreds of battles with Indians had pushed these populations westward to the frontiers or relegated them increasingly to reservation lands.

A widely accepted stereotype had grown that the Indian race was weak and would succumb to the advances of white civilization so that these native peoples would no longer be much of a problem. Their deaths from disease and warfare were seen as a testament to the inevitable demise of the Indian. Racial stereotyping of Africans was magnified by the Haitian rebellion of This heightened the American fear of slave revolts and retaliation, causing greater restrictions and ever harsher and more degrading treatment.

Grotesque descriptions of the low-status races, blacks and Indians, were widely publicized, and they helped foster fear and loathing.


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This negative stereotyping of low-status racial populations was ever present in the public consciousness , and it affected relations among all people. By the midth century, race in the popular mind had taken on a meaning equivalent to species-level distinctions, at least for differences between blacks and whites.

The ideology of separateness that this proclaimed difference implied was soon transformed into social policy.

Although legal slavery in the United States ended in with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, the ideology of race continued as a new and major form of social differentiation in both American and British society. The black codes of the s and the Jim Crow laws of the s were passed in the United States to legitimate the social philosophy of racism.

More laws were enacted to prevent intermarriage and intermating, and the segregation of public facilities was established by law, especially in the South. Supreme Court decisions, such as the Dred Scott case of , made clear that Negroes were not and could not be citizens of the United States. We must visit it with open minds and all due respect for its customs, eager to learn, not simply to judge. Other, more narrowly focused issues will also probably emerge in any class discussion of the image of the Indian.

Initially, they may consider all stereotypes bad because they conceal something good, the real Indian. Two lines of questioning suggest themselves:. Or by an allegiance to traditional culture? Second, are some stereotypes more acceptable than others?

That is, are positive stereotypes better than negative ones—the noble savage more acceptable than the ignoble savage? Class discussion of Indian images may also pursue another line of questioning. Granted stereotypes like the noble and ignoble savage and the Vanishing American, who, in particular, believed them—and how do you show that they believed them?

Citing a few heavyweight thinkers proves little, and smacks of elitism. How about ordinary people? What did they think—and how do we know? Here the popular culture of any given period is relevant. Today we would look at the electronic media, films, music, etc. At the very least, the sheer pervasiveness of the major Indian stereotypes in popular culture will be a revelation to most students. Given that people held certain views about Indians, So what? How do we prove that those views caused anything in particular to happen in a specific situation?

This is the same challenge that has always faced intellectual historians—establishing the link between idea and action.

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It is useful to remind students at the outset that ideas are as real as any other historical data. Since history itself is a mental exercise, the historian can hardly deny people in the past a fully active mental life of their own. As a general proposition, what people believe explains what they do. When, for example, Congressmen in the nineteenth century debated Indian affairs and referred to the bloody savage to promote an aggressive policy, or talked about a noble race that had been dispossessed to advocate a humanitarian policy, we can see a belief system at work with direct, practical consequences.

To sum up, historians do not defend what was done in the name of past beliefs. They are not apologists or advocates.

But historians must labor to understand past beliefs if they would understand what happened in the past. Ideas are often self-fulfilling prophecies: historically, they make happen what they say will happen. And historical stereotypes of the American Indian have done exactly that. Bird, ed.

Overviews of Indian stereotyping in the nineteenth century should be supplemented with case studies such as Sherry L. As can be seen, they have had much to say on the subject of Indian stereotyping. A readable, accessible book is Louise K. The image of the Indian in art has been comparatively neglected. Two illustrated essays provide different interpretations.

Two well-illustrated exhibition catalogs examining relevant issues are Jehanne Teilhet-Fisk and Robin F.

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Nigh, comps. Boehme, et al. There has been a growth industry in Edward S. Curtis: The Life and Times of a Shadow Catcher is the most substantial of the many Curtis picture books, and students always enjoy looking at his work. Christopher M. Curtis fired the opening salvo by documenting the ways Curtis manipulated his subjects to create images of the timeless Indian. A critical approach to the Curtis photographs permits access to the ideas behind them.

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Savage Constructions: The Myth of African Savagery

Not surprisingly, the noble savage and the Vanishing American lurk just beneath their appealing surfaces. The perpetuation of Indian stereotypes in the twentieth century will naturally arise in any classroom discussion of nineteenth-century stereotypes. Students invariably turn to film, television, and music as sources for their own ideas, and I have already mentioned the usefulness of a film like Dances with Wolves in stimulating interest.

Consequently, the literature on cinema as a source for Indian stereotypes may prove relevant.

Catalog Record: Savage constructions : the myth of African | HathiTrust Digital Library

The relief-force sent in to lift the siege of Chitral, where a small British garrison was surrounded by tribesmen, was armed with the new Lee-Metford rifle, which was for the first time seeing extensive service. The conceptualization of non-white enemies within the Empire moreover combined different discourses relating not only to racial and cultural difference, but also to medicine, anatomy and ballistics.

In an article in the British Medical Journal , in which he described the use of expanding bullets on wild game, Surgeon-Major J. Hamilton thus referred to the Mark II: This bullet was complained of as not having stopping power — that is, it passed through the limbs or body without causing immediate collapse unless some vital part or important bone was struck. In European warfare this was of comparatively little consequence, as civilised man is much more susceptible than savages. Many of the British officers in India and elsewhere were avid hunters and when it came to the development of a replacement for the Mark II on the front-line of Empire, the most obvious source of inspiration was the types of ammunition used to shoot dangerous game such as tigers and rhinos.

The bullet that was eventually adopted by the British army in , known as the Mark III or the Dum-Dum bullet after the Indian garrison where it was manufactured, was in fact so closely modelled on expanding bullets used for hunting that Tweedie complained about patent infringement. The Dum-Dum bullet, though not explosive, is expansive. The original Lee-Metford bullet was a pellet of lead covered by a nickel case with an opening at the base. In the improved bullet this outer case has been drawn backward, making the hole in the base a little smaller and leaving the lead at the tip exposed.

The result is a wonderful and from the technical point of view a beautiful machine.