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White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America - Nancy Isenberg

Staff Pick

This informative tome retells American history, showing how paradoxical attitudes towards the white underclass have held firm over nearly 400 years. On the one hand, poor whites have long been seen as an undesirable group condemned by heredity to feeblemindedness, sloth, and animalistic behavior. From the colonial period through the early 20th century elites used language borrowed from animal husbandry to describe poor whites as an inferior breed. This abhorrent classist bias culminated the emerging “science” of eugenics and the Supreme Court infamously sanctioning forcible sterilization in Buck vs. Bell (1927), a case that was brought by a poor white maid who resisted the State of Virginia’s efforts to sterilize her.  However in contradiction with the denigration and dehumanization of poor whites, they also have long been idealized, from Jefferson’s belief in the innate nobility of America’s yeoman farmers through the examples of Presidents like Jackson, Lincoln, and most recently Bill Clinton, who rose from humble origins in rural backwaters. Isenberg also examines changing depictions of poor whites in the popular culture and media over the years, and when eventually Sarah Palin and Honey Boo Boo find their way into this fascinating book, you won’t be surprised, given the historical continuities Isenberg so compellingly describes.

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780670785971
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Viking - June 21st, 2016

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780143129677
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Penguin Books - April 4th, 2017

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