The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 86, July 1982 - April, 1983

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

an emphasis provides about the causes, character, and consequences of
white supremacy in the two societies" (p. xx). It begins in the seven-
teenth century, when both societies were founded, and continues to
the present. Fredrickson does not merely tell two parallel stories, which
is often the device (and the limitation) of comparative history. Rather,
he intermeshes his narrative and analysis of the two societies into a
unitary and exceptionally insightful account. His achievement here is
all the more impressive because he finds the differences between the
two societies more important than the similarities. In Fredrickson's
hands, however, the differences illuminate the nature of each society
as much as the similarities do.
No brief review can do justice to so fine an achievement. A major
strength of the study is Fredrickson's success in interweaving racial
and nonracial factors, especially class, demography, and physical en-
vironment, and the interaction of those things with "the semi-autono-
mous realm of government and politics" (p. xxiii). Fredrickson thus
avoids the tendency of many writers on racial topics to rely on race or
racism to explain everything. He is equally successful in avoiding the
moralism that often mars studies of sensitive subjects. Especially nota-
ble is Fredrickson's effectiveness in handling the nineteenth and twen-
tieth centuries, when his story becomes increasingly complex and
divergent. No previous writer has so successfully integrated the multi-
ple aspects of the history of white supremacy in those centuries.
Even so accomplished a study as this one cannot exhaust so large a
subject. The chief deficiency of Fredrickson's work is his failure to give
systematic attention to groups against whom white supremacy was
directed. Afro-Americans, Africans, Cape Coloreds, and others appear
here only as passive recipients of racist policies. Surely their multiple
and differing responses to exploitation over time were among the im-
portant factors influencing "the causes, character, and consequences
of white supremacy." But they perhaps are fit subjects for an additional
University of Hawaii at Manoa I. A. NEWBY
An Imperfect Union: Slavery, Federalism, and Comity. By Paul Fink-
elman. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1981.
Pp. xii + 378. Introduction, epilogue, bibliography, index of cases,
index. $22, cloth; $12, paper.)
Paul Finkelman selected an apt title. The many facets of slavery in


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 86, July 1982 - April, 1983. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed May 30, 2016.

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