A Dreadful Deceit: The Myth of Race from the Colonial Era to Obama’s America

Jacqueline Jones, Author
Jacqueline Jones. Basic, $29.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-465-03670-7
Ebook - 260 pages - 978-0-465-06980-4
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-0-465-05567-8
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MacArthur Fellow and Bancroft Prize–winning historian Jones’s aim in this heartfelt book is to redefine our ideas of what constitutes “race” while arguing that the entire foundation of racial categorizing is unscientific and deeply injurious historically. While that argument is widely held by scientists and scholars, it still lacks widespread acceptance. So 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. If at times unsubtle—Jones finds it necessary to keep reminding us that “race” is mythic, not real—she leaves no doubt that ever-changing racial mythologies “have nothing to do with biological determinism and everything to do with power relations.” Racial ideologies, she shows, have long been a pretext for injustice, are always in flux, and while they deeply affect us all, have never extinguished the robust determination of the oppressed to gain safety, dignity, and a rightful place in the nation’s civic life. Agent: Geri Thoma, Writers House. (Dec.)
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