Nell Irvin Painter on the History of White People

Feb 11, 2015

Nell Irvin Painter, author of The History of White People, and host Jonathan Judaken talk about race and whiteness, discussing how many ethnic groups now regarded as white were once excluded from mainstream American society as non-white.

Credit Nell Irvin Painter

Host Jonathan Judaken talks with Nell Irvin Painter, Professor Emerita at Princeton University, author of seven books prior to her most recent tome, The History of White People, a work she says might have been entitled, “Constructions of White Americans from Antiquity to the Present.”

They discuss race and "whiteness," and how many ethnic groups now regarded as white, including the Irish, Jews, and Italians, were once excluded from mainstream American society as non-white. They talk about how a slew of different writers pair Americaness with European descent, effectively turning America into a “white man’s country.”

Further, they examine the changing notions of American’s self-conceptions over the course of the first half of the 20th century, including ideas of the “melting pot,” racial discrimination, and advocates of cultural pluralism. They also discuss those who challenged and eventually debunked notions of racial science, where a key turning point was the rise of the Nazis.

Nell Irvin Painter will be at Rhodes College on February 18, 2015  at 6 p.m. to give an overview of her book. For more information, Communities in Conversation at Rhodes College