White Supremacy: A Comparative Study in American and South African History

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White Supremacy: A Comparative Study in American and South African History

By George M. Fredrickson
Oxford University Press, 1981
356 pp. $19.95
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In this prodigious work, an American historian deepens our understanding of how race relations evolved in the two countries, showing, through detailed comparison, that the important differences stem not from the complicated and shifting quotients of virtue or vice, but from widely varying historical circumstances. Beyond the reversal in numerical ratios between majority and minority races in the two nations, a basic distinction lies in the respective national ideologies and the corresponding role of the central governments. The American revolutionary commitment to freedom and equality, though often honored in the breach, kept the U.S. federal government neutral and sometimes protective of black rights; in South Africa, a nation formed in a series of ethnic struggles, the law of the land has been shaped progressively to ensure the dominance of whites.