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date: 24 September 2020


  • Sam Hitchmough


Prior to the 1830s, in both the North and the South, the inferiority of black Americans was generally accepted as a given, a tacit assumption that was not strongly challenged. However, the development of immediate abolitionism after 1830 compelled the South in particular to articulate its racism more than it had done before. Rather than presuming white superiority, southerners had to prove it, and they had to defend the political and social status quo that supported the extremely institutionalized racism of slavery.

As abolitionism escalated, racism became unambiguous, based not so much on customs and practices as on the “unquestionable fact” that blacks were in every way inferior. It was not long before southerners used slavery, black inferiority, and racism as mutually reinforcing constructs by claiming that slavery was a natural condition for blacks given their inferiority. In 1833 the publication of Evidence against the Views of the Abolitionists Consisting ...

A version of this article originally appeared in The Encyclopedia of African American History, 1619–1895.

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