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Who's Black and why? : a hidden chapter from the eighteenth-century invention of race

Call Number

  • 305.896 W6286 (CEN)

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Publication Information

Cambridge, Massachusetts : The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2022.

Physical Description

xvi, 303 pages : illustrations, map ; 25 cm


"In 1739 Bordeaux's Royal Academy of Sciences held an essay contest seeking answers to a pressing question: What was the cause of Africans' black skin? Published here for the first time and translated into English, these early documents of scientific racism lay bare the Enlightenment origins of the phantom of racial hierarchy"--


  • Preface: Who is black and why?
  • Part I. Introduction: The 1741 Contest on the "degeneration" of black skin and hair
  • Blackness through the power of God
  • Blackness through the soul of the father
  • Blackness through the maternal imagination
  • Blackness as a moral defect
  • Blackness as a result of the torrid zone
  • Blackness as a result of divine providence
  • Blackness as a result of heat and humidity
  • Blackness as a reversible accident
  • Blackness as a result of hot air and darkened blood
  • Blackness as a result of a darkened humor
  • Blackness as a result of blood flow
  • Blackness as an extension of optical theory
  • Blackness as a result of an original sickness
  • Blackness degenerated
  • Blackness classified
  • Blackness dissected
  • Part II. The 1772 contest on "preserving" Negroes
  • Introduction: The 1772 essays on "preserving" Negroes
  • A slave ship surgeon on the crossing
  • A Parisian humanitarian on the slave trade
  • Louis Alphonse, Bordeaux apothecary, on the crossing.

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