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Race and the Making of American Liberalism$
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Carol A. Horton

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195143485

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195143485.001.0001

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Introduction: Race and American Liberalism

Introduction: Race and American Liberalism

(p.3) Introduction: Race and American Liberalism
Race and the Making of American Liberalism

Carol A. Horton

Oxford University Press

What is the best way to understand the relationship between race and liberalism in American political development? Has the historical experience of racial inequality been a troubling exception to a generally liberal rule of equal rights and opportunities? Or, has racial oppression constituted a basic component of American liberalism—albeit one that has been imperfectly masked by cultural pieties of individualism and equality? Has liberalism, in other words, functioned primarily as a progressive engine for racial equity or as an oppressive tool of racial injustice? Since the abolition of slavery in 1863, there has been an extremely wide range of responses to the question of what it would take to establish racial equity in the United States, particularly with regard to African Americans. These have included liberal positions that alternately endorsed or rejected racial hierarchy, race-based discrimination, and a more equitable distribution of social or economic resources. Race is a particularly important construct in the United States because it plays a pivotal role in structuring perceptions of equity issues more broadly.

Keywords:   United States, liberalism, race, racial inequality, racial injustice, equal rights, racial equity, African Americans

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