Inventing The Concept of Race: There's Nothing Natural About Segregation

Presented with Strand Bookstore

Bar & Grill by Jacob Lawrence

Many people believe that racial segregation is natural. People simply want to be around others who look like them. This line of reasoning assumes there is something coded in our DNA that compels us to marry, live, and work around people from the same ethnic backgrounds. If this were true, why did the interracial marriage rate drastically increase after laws forbidding it were abolished? If a natural inclination to racially segregate existed, why were anti-miscegenation laws necessary in the first place?  


This Olio will trace the historical invention of the “race” concept as a step-by-step, intentional process designed to prevent interracial collaboration.  We will look at important laws and images that tell the story of how and why “race” was invented. This class will also address what happened to ethnic groups that did not fit within the “black/white” dichotomy, the performance of whiteness, and how these processes continue to impact us today.


Recommended Reading:
PBS interview with Audrey Smedley (based on her book Race in North America: Origins of a Worldview)




Location: Strand Bookstore

828 Broadway, New York, NY 10003

The Rare Book Room at Strand Bookstore boasts an elegant venue, the walls lined with leather-bound treasures from a book hand printed in 1480 to a limited edition Ulysses signed by Henri Matisse, the illustrator, and by James Joyce. 


Presented with Thought Gallerydelivering the best of smart New York right to your inbox.


Other upcoming Olios


Aug 1

Envy, Greed, and the Common Good

Taught by Fernando Zapata
7:30 p.m. at Nowadays

Sign Up - $12

Aug 4

*OlioMuse* An Exploration of the String Quartet Across Time

Taught by Whitney George
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $25

Aug 11

*Double Feature* // Modern Art, the Work-Life Balance, and the Gig Economy

Taught by Two Olio Professors
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20

Aug 17

Thomas Paine and the Flame of Revolution

Taught by Ward Regan
7:30 p.m. at The Old Stone House

Sign Up - $15

Aug 26

1950s & Nostalgia: In Search of Greatness in the "Golden Age"

Taught by Lawrence Cappello
7 p.m. at Atlas Studios // Newburgh, NY

Sign Up - $20

Aug 29

Sep 10

Meditations: A Wisdom of the Everyday

Taught by Michael Prettyman
4 p.m. at IDIO Gallery

Sign Up - $10


Find out when we launch new classes!

Official Partner with Penguin Press.