cover image The Hidden Roots of White Supremacy: And the Path to a Shared American Future

The Hidden Roots of White Supremacy: And the Path to a Shared American Future

Robert P. Jones. Simon & Schuster, $28.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-668-00951-2

In this illuminating and erudite study, historian and religious studies scholar Jones (White Too Long) contends that the origins of American racism can be traced back to 1493, the year when, in response to Columbus’s voyage to the “New World,” the Catholic Church set out the Doctrine of Discovery, which asserted that Christian European culture was innately superior, and therefore Europeans had the right to settle and rule over other lands and their inhabitants. This edict, Jones argues, formed the legal basis for both Indigenous dispossession and African enslavement. Tracing the long arc of this white supremacist worldview, Jones surveys the entire sweep of post-Columbian history at the sites of three acts of 20th-century racial violence—the 1920 lynching of three Black men in Duluth, Minn.; the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre in Oklahoma; and the 1955 murder of Emmett Till in Mississippi. He draws parallels between these episodes of anti-Black violence and the earlier history of Native American dispossession at these same sites: the mass execution of 38 Dakota men near Duluth in 1862, the mistreatment of forcibly resettled Indigenous refugees in Oklahoma beginning in the 19th century, and the expulsion of the Choctaw from Mississippi between 1830 and 1850. Arresting and deeply researched, this unique account brings to the fore the deep-rooted sense of “divine entitlement, of European chosenness” that has shaped so much of American history. It’s a rigorous and forceful feat of scholarship. (Sept.)