Master – slave dialectic

Ross, in ch. 26 of his book Amerikas Schicksalsstunde (1935), stated that America’s blacks had forgotten about Africa and felt American rather than African. Nevertheless, in the very same chapter he reintroduces Africa as something that—in typical Ross parlance—“subconsciously” shaped their experience As well the presence of African Americans rubbed off on America’s white population, although he largely frames this in terms of progeny. 

There is a glimmer here of the master-slave dialectic that historian Eugene Genovese would later unpack and describe in detail. But the would-be anthropologist and historian that is Ross refrains from addressing this issue directly and remains stuck in vague notions as Seelenkräfte and Blut.

The referenced web review by historian Walter Johnson can be seen (but was never meant, of course) as a gloss on Ross’s hint of a master-slave dialectic of mutual influence. Johnson’s text contains an appreciative yet critical rereading of Genovese’s classic study of slavery Roll, Jordan, roll: the world the slaves made (1974). The book introduced a new way of looking at slavery, particularly the dynamics of power between slaves and masters. 

Nico de Klerk

Walter Johnson. A nettlesome classic turns twenty-five. In: Common place: Interactive Journal of Early American Life. 2001 July; 1 (4), [accessed 2017 January 24]

Topic: Race
Case: American journeys

See also

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