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Book Review

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Mississippi Valley Historical Association,




Legal historian Nicholas Guyatt argues in "Bind Us Apart: How Enlightened Americans Invented Racial Segregation" (Basic 2016), that racial segregation was created not by enemies of equality but rather by friends of equality in order to establish practical limits on their disruptive ideas. Drawing on rich sources, he says liberals pursued separationist policies not only to manage the social experience of slaves and former slaves, but also native peoples. Here I make the following points: (1) Guyatt doesn't distinguish between temporary, strategic resort to segregation from deeper philosophical commitments to segregation; (2) juxtaposing the plight of African slaves in America and the experience of native peoples doesn't by itself explain why integration was seen as more feasible for one group and annihilation for the other. We need to know more about each group's relative role in the political economy, the state of politics at the time, and the connections between national policy, territory, and the political imagination.

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