Publisher description for Buying whiteness : race skin slavery from the English Renaissance to African American literature / Gary Taylor.

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White people are not literally white. When and why did they decide to call themselves "whites"? That story has never been told, because the belief in a "white race" presupposed the existence of permanent biological distinctions. But Gary Taylor's original and magisterial history shows that the modern racial sense of the word "white" is relatively new. From prehistoric cave paintings to medieval stained glass, Europeans did not depict themselves as white-skinned. Modern biological theories of human difference began with the third voyage of Columbus (1498), which disproved classical theories about the relationship between geography and body color. Over the next two centuries, Taylor tracks the evolution of idealized white identity through the history of art, language, geography, biology, labor, law, literature, masculinity, optics, philosophy, and religion. From Shakespeare's Othello (which does not include a single "white" man) to the works of John Locke (the first white philosopher) and William Wells Brown (the first African-American novelist), Buying Whiteness will transform the way you read our past and revolutionize your understanding of what it means to be white.

Library of Congress subject headings for this publication: English literature History and criticism, Race in literature, American literature History and criticism, Race awareness English-speaking countries, Slavery English-speaking countries, Racism English-speaking countries, African Americans in literature, Human skin color in literature, Slavery in literature, Racism in literature, Whites in literature, Blacks in literature