Race in North America

Origin and Evolution of a Worldview

Audrey Smedley, Brian D. Smedley

Fourth Edition • July 1, 2011 • 400 pages

Print ISBN: 9780813345543 • $50.00 USD$64.99 CAN

Ebook ISBN: 9780813345550 • $33.99 USD$33.99 CAN

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In a sweeping work that traces the idea of race for more than three centuries, Audrey Smedley shows that “race” is a cultural invention that has been used variously and opportunistically since the eighteenth century. Race, in its origin, was not a product of science but of a folk ideology reflecting a new form of social stratification and a rationalization for inequality among the peoples of North America.

New coauthor Brian Smedley joins Audrey Smedley in updating this renowned and groundbreaking text. The fourth edition includes a compelling new chapter on the health impacts of the racial worldview, as well as a thoroughly rewritten chapter that explores the election of Barack Obama and the evolving role of race in American political history. This edition also incorporates recent findings on the human genome and the implications of genomics. Drawing on new understandings of DNA expression, the authors scrutinize the positions of contemporary race scientists who maintain that race is a valid biological concept.

Audrey Smedley is professor emerita of anthropology and African American studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her books include Women Creating Patriliny: Gender and Environment in West Africa and Race in North America: Origin and Evolution of a Worldview, which won an outstanding book award from the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights. She is also the author of the American Anthropology Association’s position paper on race, Encyclopedia Britannica’s materials on race and racism, and elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Brian D. Smedley holds a PhD in psychology from UCLA and is vice president and director of the Health Policy Institute of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a think tank in Washington, D.C. He has also served as research director and cofounder of The Opportunity Agenda, senior program officer at the Institute of Medicine, and director for public interest policy at the American Psychological Association.


1 Some Theoretical Considerations
2 Etymology of the Term “Race”
3 Antecedents of the Racial Worldview
4 The Growth of the English Ideology about Human Differences in America
5 The Arrival of Africans and Descent into Slavery
6 Comparing Slave Systems: The Significance of “Racial” Servitude
7 Eighteenth-Century Thought and Crystallization of the Ideology of Race
8 Antislavery and the Entrenchment of a Racial Worldview
9 The Rise of Science and Scientific Racism
10 Growth of The Racial Worldview in 19th Century Science
11 Science and the Expansion of Race Ideology Beyond the US
12 Twentieth-Century Developments in Race Ideology
13 Changing Perspectives on Human Variation in Science
14 Dismantling the Folk Idea of Race: The Election of Barack Obama and the Transformations of an Ideology
15 The Health Consequences of the Racial Worldview


“In this fourth edition, Drs. Audrey Smedley and Brian Smedley describe, in a scholarly but widely accessible and engaging manner, the evolution of the concept of race and the way shifting views of the meaning of race have shaped North America. The book is an essential resource for anyone interested in the past, present, and future of race and race relations in North America.” —John F. Dovidio, Yale University

Race in North America is an essential text for anyone who engages ‘race’ from the early modern period to the present. … Eminently suitable for a range of learners, from undergraduates to researchers, the book is critical to courses and writings on the ways in which race has been, and continues to be, socially constructed in the Anglo world.” —Laura A. Lewis, James Madison University

“This much anticipated new edition continues the global exploration of the roots of race and racism and reveals how structural racism maintains disparities in the modern age. Followers of the epistemology of race and racism will get a historically broader and detailed explanation of why we think about groups of people the way we do today.” —Janis Hutchinson, University of Houston

Race in North America provides an excellent historical overview of how race came to be such a powerful social construct in the United States, and its continued significance in the life outcomes of people of color today. While grounded in research, the book is written in a manner that is well-suited for the casual reader as well as students and scholars interested in the subject of race.” —Maria-Elena Diaz, The University of Oklahoma

Praise for Previous Editions:

“I am absolutely devoted to this book. Over the years my students have often commented on how much it has changed their thinking and opened their eyes.”—Robyn Rosen, professor of history, Marist College

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