• Although the English were not the first Europeans to come to North America, they were the first to
colonize it in large numbers. By the early eighteenth century, there were approximately 350,000 English
and Welsh colonists in North America. At the time of the revolution, this number had increased to
between 1 and 2 million.
• English advocates of establishing North American colonies put forward a number of explanations to
explain the practice. The need for trading posts and for new sources of raw materials, as well as new
markets for English goods, received much attention. Others emphasized Protestant missionary
objectives, the search for a passage to Asia, the need to stop Spanish and French expansion, and the
need for a place for England’s surplus population.
The Invention of the “White Race”
• Nineteenth century European immigrants did not initially define themselves as “White” but rather as
Irish, German, or Italian; they constructed themselves as “White” as they moved up economically and
politically in U.S. society.
• The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries saw the emergence of the “white race” as a deliberately
constructed social group for the first time in North America or, for that matter, world history. From the
beginning, English settlers and their descendants saw themselves as quite different from Native
Americans and African Americans, whom they initially stereotyped as “uncivilized,” “idolaters,” and
“savages.” In contrast, English Americans saw themselves as protectors of the new nation who were to
reserve it for the “worthy part of mankind.”
• By the early 1800s, the growing importance of southern cotton plantations for the U.S. economy as a
whole (northern entrepreneurs and bankers were often linked to the southern cotton economy)
increased the demand for Native American land and African and African American slaves.
• As a result of these developments, a White Anglo-Protestant elite developed and circulated the idea of
an advantaged “White race,” in part as a way to provide racial privileges for propertyless British and
other European immigrants and to prevent them from bonding with Americans of color.
• Sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois suggested that these White workers came to accept a lesser economic
position and lower wages in return for the “public and psychological wage” that went with “Whiteness.”
In return for acceptance of their subordinate class position, white workers were allowed or encouraged
by the White elite to be part of a racial hierarchy in which all Whites enforced deference from African
Americans and other Americans of color. Racial privileges also generally included the right to substantial
personal liberty, the right to travel and immigrate, and the right to vote.
The Dominant Culture and Major U.S. Institutions • Most analysts of the