Race to the Frontier: White Flight And Western Expansion

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9780875864235: Race to the Frontier: White Flight And Western Expansion

Why did so many thousands of settlers pull up stakes and undertake the arduous journey to the frontier in 18th and 19th-century America?' While the desire for a more prosperous future figured prominently in their decisions, so did another, largely overlooked factor -- the presence of slavery and the growing number of blacks, both free and slave, in the eastern half of the United States. Poor white farmers, particularly those in the Upper South, found themselves displaced by the spreading of the plantation system. In order to survive economically they were chronically forced to move further inland. As they did so, they brought with them a deep animosity toward the enslaved blacks whom they blamed for this uprooting.


Wherever these "plain folk" farmers subsequently settled -- in Kentucky, the free states north of the Ohio River, Missouri, and the outpost of Oregon, they sought to erect legal barriers to prevent slavery from taking hold as well as to deter the migration of free blacks who would otherwise compete for jobs and endanger white society. The pushing back of the frontier can be seen as an attempt to escape the complexities of a biracial nation and preserve white homogeneity by creating sanctuaries in these Western lands. The political struggle to establish more free states west of the Mississippi also reflects this goal: white nominally opposed to slavery, many "free staters" were most concerned about keeping all blacks at bay.



"Race to the Frontier" is the first book to trace the impact of this racial hostility throughout the settlement of the West, from the days of colonial Virginia up to the Civil War. It clearly demonstrates how closely racial prejudice, economic growth, and geographical expansion have been entwined in American history.

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About the Author:

John H. V. Dippel is author of World War II -- 'Two Against Hitler' and 'Bound Upon a Wheel of Fire.' In addition, his articles on political affairs have appeared in such publications as 'The Atlantic Monthly,' "The New Republic', and 'The New Leader.'

A graduate of Princeton University, John Dippel also holds advanced degrees from Trinity College, Dublin, and Columbia University. He lives with his family in a village in New York s Hudson Valley.

Review:

Race relations undoubtedly shaped the development of the United States. Much of the nation's early history hinges on the American construction of racial identity. Constitutional recognition of human chattel reinforced the subordination and dehumanization of people of African descent during the founding of the New Republic. King Cotton further solidified American racial attitudes during the 19th century. Whites Generally occupied a superior station in life relative to blacks by sheer virtue of skin color by the start of the American Civil War. Ironically, sectional and philosophical divisions among some white Americans led to a reduction in the divisions between blacks and whites. Or did they?
Race to the Frontier provides readers with an innovative approach to understanding how race and racism shaped life along the western frontier following the Civil War. John V. H. Dippel's alternative view of westward expansion suggests that northern and midwestern whites who refused to accept blacks as equals migrated westward mainly to avoid effects of black in-migration. ....
Abraham Lincoln recognized these fears. Dippel's analysis of Lincoln's bid for Pennsylvania Avenue illustrates how his view of blacks differed little from that of Henry Clay and other frontiersmen. Lincoln astutely observed the rising popularity of the Free Soil Party. In an effort to remain a politically viable presidential candidate, Lincoln had no choice but to fuse the Republican Party's antislavery plan with the idea of limiting land expansion to whites. Southerners viewed his presidential election as the final affront to the peculiar institution.
...
Dippel's eloquent writing is both entertaining and informative. Impeccable research and historical analysis thoroughly support his conclusion that the consistent pattern of white dispersal across the United States reveals an effort to achieve ... a cohesive, homogeneous, and exclusive society. From colonial days onward, this impulse to flee from a far more complicated racial reality has been an integral, if largely unacknowledged, aspect of the American dream (p. 306).
He makes excellent use of memoirs, newspapers, court records, legislative debates, and special collections. As a bonus, he puts white flight westward in perspective by drawing heavily upon a detailed synthesis of early American history prior to 1877. Undoubtedly, one will fully enjoy reading this book, if one is remotely interested in early American race relations, politics, geographic expansion, slavery, migration, and immigration. --Pacific Northwest Quarterly Summer 2006

In a recent US political campaign, one candidate's mantra reiterated, 'It's about the economy.' Paraphrasing that, the westward movement across the US was 'about the land.' Whether quoting a Native American leader or an agricultural laborer seeking economic opportunity, the issue was land. By contrast, Dippel's intriguing and simultaneously elusive thesis argues a westward expansion driven by racial hatred. Read carefully, the book hauntingly questions the pervasive national US racism, but like many chimerical pursuits, it offers no satisfactory answer. The volume is plagued by inconsistent source usage and questionable logic, e.g., when the author contradicts himself regarding the racial attitudes of settlers in Ohio's Virginia Military District. He would also have readers believe that the majority of Virginia planters freed surplus slaves; indeed, while some did, far more regarded the slaves like superfluous spring lambs, selling them to slave dealers who often drove slave coffles to New Orleans. Given the pernicious persistence and unremitting malignity of racism in the US, this volume might best be used by graduate seminars in slavery where the students could undertake the challenge of supporting or rejecting the author's proposition.
Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students/faculty. -- --Jan 2007 CHOICE.

One of the primary factors driving westward expansion in the United States, according to this history, was the displacement of poor farmers by the expanding slave plantation system and racial antipathy towards black slaves and freemen alike. Beginning with the colonial era in Virginia and ending with the settlement of Oregon just before the Civil War, the author describes this process and assesses its lasting influence on race relations in the United States and the political landscape of the West. --Northwest Quarterly Summer 2006

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