In early 1933, before his first American sojourn of that decade, Ross had one of his meetings with the management of his book publisher Brockhaus. During that meeting he announced that, contrary to his habit of setting out on a journey without much research, he would from now on acquaint himself with up-to-date knowledge.
Starting with his upcoming 1933-1935 sojourn in North America Ross wanted to write a different kind of book, not mere travel accounts. As they continued to be written and marketed as popular books, with no footnotes or bibliographies, identifying the sources of his research is mostly guesswork. One of the rare sources that Ross does mention, in his history of German Americans Unser Amerika (1936), is American philosopher and historian John Fiske’s book The American Revolution (1891, reprinted in 1919). But for the rest it is a matter of informed speculation. The books that resulted from these journeys, especially where they concern the topic of race, unmistakeably echo some of the essays on American “character” American historian Frederick Jackson Turner wrote in the late 1890s. And Ross’s proposition, in a chapter of his book Amerikas Schicksalsstunde,1 to segregate African Americans from the rest of American society and relocate them within US territory may have been taken from an argument advanced by both Scottish writer William Archer, in his travel account Through Afro-America (1910), and American eugenicist Madison Grant, in his “Manifesto of Scientific Racism” The passing of the great race (1916). The former proposed to concentrate African Americans in a separate “Negro state” somewhere in the south of the country, while the latter, besides suggesting something similar in “the lower Mississippi Valley”, also recommended the (American) West Indies—both areas where “[t]he white man is being rapidly outbred by Negroes”.2 In fact, a number of phrases and ideas of Grant’s book resound in Ross’s work, notably what Grant called “the folly of the ‘Melting Pot’ theory”.3
So, even though Ross claimed that his books were based on “Studien”,4 what these implicit and explicit sources strongly suggest is that he had not updated his knowledge beyond the late 1910s.5
Nico de Klerk
Sächsisches Staatsarchiv, Staatsarchiv –Leipzig. Bestand 21083 - F.A. Brockhaus. Leipzig, Nr. 790. Brockhaus minutes. Dr. Colin Ross und Frau bei FB Jä von 11-12.30 Uhr. 7.2.33; 3-4
Case: American journeys
1 Colin Ross. Amerika vom Pol bis Panama. In: Amerikas Schicksalsstunde. Die Vereinigten Staaten zwischen Demokratie und Diktatur. 12. Aufl. Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus; 1942 ; 289-294.
2 William Archer. Through Afro-America. An English reading of the race problem. London: Chapman & Hall; 1910; 237-244; Madison Grant. The passing of the great race: or, The racial basis of European history. s.l.: Ostara Publications, 2016 ; 48.
4 Colin Ross. Die ‘Westliche Hemisphäre’ als Programm und Phantom des amerikanischen Imperialismus. 1. Aufl. Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus; 1942; 118. See Library.
5 For some of his writings Ross may well have consulted a later edition of Madison Grant’s book, which was reprinted in 1918 and 1921, while a fourth, updated edition was published in 1936. However, Ross’s notions on the melting pot and his proposal for the segregation and relocation of African Americans were penned in 1935, before that last edition was available. (The referenced, white supremacist publisher’s “centenary edition” of 2016 reproduces Grant’s updated 1936 version.)