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The Invention Of Race

Gomes de Zurara, the Portuguese inventor of blackness (and whiteness), highlighted, on The Monument to the Discoveries in Lisbon, Portugal.
Harvey Barrison
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Gomes de Zurara, the Portuguese inventor of blackness (and whiteness), highlighted, on The Monument to the Discoveries in Lisbon, Portugal.

Compiled by Award-winning producer John Biewen from the “Seeing White” series on his “Scene on Radio” podcast, The Invention of Race traces the development of racial and racist ideas from the ancient world — when there was no notion of race — up to the founding of the United States.  

Relying on the work of Nell Irvin Painter, National Book Award-winning historian Ibram Kendi, and a recorded workshop presentation by the Racial Equity Institute, host and reporter John Biewen tells a story that names names: The Portuguese writer who, commissioned by the slave-trading leaders of his country, literally invented blackness, and therefore whiteness, in the 1450s, according to Kendi. The Enlightenment scientist who first divided humanity into five "races" and coined "caucasian." The black runaway indentured servant in 17th-century Virginia whose capture, and sentencing to lifelong servitude, marked the first official sanctioning of chattel slavery, and the first time a black person was treated differently from a white person in the law, in colonial America. And Thomas Jefferson and Ralph Waldo Emerson, whose "Anglo-Saxonist" thinking gets a fresh look. 

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