Who’s Black and Why?: A Hidden Chapter from the Eighteenth-Century Invention of Race by Henry Louis Gates Jr.
In 1739 Bordeaux’s Royal Academy of Sciences announced a contest for the best essay on the sources of “blackness.” What is the physical cause of blackness and African hair, and what is the cause of Black degeneration, the contest announcement asked. Sixteen essays, written in French and Latin, were ultimately dispatched from all over Europe. The authors ranged from naturalists to physicians, theologians to amateur savants. Documented on each page are European ideas about who is Black and why.
“The eighteenth-century essays published for the first time in Who’s Black and Why? contain a world of ideas―theories, inventions, and fantasies―about what blackness is, and what it means. To read them is to witness European intellectuals, in the age of the Atlantic slave trade, struggling, one after another, to justify atrocity.”―Jill Lepore, author of These Truths