Charles Carroll typifies his era. White, privileged, a slave owner. He contends that the Black population are literally not people and yet this takes nothing from him as a first hand source or as a primary account giver of the thought process so prevalent at the time.
This book was originally published at the dawn of the 20th century and only by engaging critically with the material contained within is it possible to truly understand the climate which created the iterations of violent racism that America’s black population weathered.
Carroll makes reference in ‘The Negro, A Beast’ to both a vague concept of evolution and a selective kind of biblical argument to make his point. The understanding of evolution that he displays however is deeply flawed, preserving in aspic for the reader a set of popular misconceptions of his age. In his biblical inspiration he relies heavily on the arch traditionalism of Saint Paul with little interest in the Gospels. No modern reader could give credence to Carroll’s deeply prejudiced view and his argument will scarcely make a jot of difference in that regard. The fascination in this volume is to pry into the mind of the contemporary white reader who may have found this volume convincing.
This combination of once new scientific theory and traditional Christian orthodoxy would have been seductive to a particular readership in 1900 and it is those people we try to understand here. What would have taken them in? Which explanations would have appealed to those benefiting from the desperately unequal social structure? What type of faith led to this view as opposed to those devout persons who devoted themselves to the abolition?