Winthrop D. Jordan

Winthrop D. Jordan photo

Winthrop Donaldson Jordan (1931–2007) was an historian renowned for his work on the complex issues of slavery, race, and American history. He was particularly important for Black people and the broader American community for his pioneering research on the origins and sustaining forces of racial prejudice in the United States.

Jordan is perhaps best known for his seminal book, White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812, which was first published in 1968. The book won several prestigious awards, including the National Book Award and the Bancroft Prize, and is still widely read and cited today. In this work, he explored the deeply ingrained social and cultural attitudes towards African Americans, tracing them back to the earliest days of the American colonies. Jordan analyzed a wide range of sources—from sermons and philosophical treatises to advertisements—to scrutinize how white Americans’ perception of Black people evolved over time and how this perception was reflected in laws, religious practices, and social interactions.

His work was groundbreaking because it delved into the psychological and cultural underpinnings of racial discrimination, not just its economic or political aspects. By tracing the historical origins and evolution of racial attitudes, he provided essential context for understanding the persistent issue of racial discrimination and prejudice in American society.

Jordan’s scholarship set new standards for the study of American racial history and contributed significantly to the civil rights discourse. His meticulous research and thought-provoking insights have influenced generations of historians, scholars, activists, and policymakers concerned with racial inequality in America.

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4 Books by Winthrop D. Jordan