Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Traces of History by Patrick Wolfe

Traces of History by Patrick Wolfe tackles racism and colonialism by comparing Jews, Native Americans, Indigenous Australians, and the descendants of African slaves.  This book is pretty darned amazing and engaging.  Wolfe posits that the experiences of the two indigenous groups were quite a bit different from the experiences of the Jews and Blacks, even if they all experienced discrimination and racism.  He makes his case well.  He even brings up the differing experiences of the two major areas in the Americas that Blacks have faced incredible discrimination: the United States, and Brazil.  Again, my highest praise for a history book, I'll be looking further into this.

I had read of some of the history he went into about the Australian Aboriginal struggles, and knew a lot of them mirrored things the Native Americans experienced, such as the kids being taken from their families so they could have the Native taught out of them.  It boggles the mind that this was still happening up until the 1960s, though. 

One thing he mentions in a footnote has my inner genealogist going "Hmm".  On page 115 he states that there were only 400,000 Africans brought to the United States, but by 1860 there were over 4,000,000 slaves.  Even with enforced breeding by slave owners, not every one could have given birth or sired children, so I have to wonder how closely related the Black population is to each other.  How many distant cousins are out there that don't even know it?  Obviously, that wasn't the point of the book.

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