The History of White People cover

The History of White People

by Nell Irvin Painter

published in 

first published in 2010


✔ Available to borrow

496 pages

published by W. W. Norton & Company

published in New York, NY

owned in Printed Book format

Remarkable book. Gave me a painful reckoning on the Transcendentalist roots of my philosophy. I have a well-worn copy of Nature and Selected Essays that I used to read aloud and sleep with at many campouts and on my entire solo trip out west, but I never realized how instrumental Emerson was in constructing American whiteness and Teutonic chauvinism, that "second enlargement" as Painter refers to it.

Very interesting to align the history outlined at the end of this book (which stops around the Civil Rights Era) and the contemporaneous histories outlined in the-power-broker and, to some extent, towards-a-new-architecture. It's interesting what those white authors don't include in their description of the city and its people, in the boundaries of whiteness, particularly in the history of New York City that spans so many decades—and therefore so many shifting definitions of whiteness—in Robert Moses' biography.

I bought this when a lot of other white people suddenly got interested in Black literature and history, in the wake of George Floyd's murder. The New Jim Crow was the other main book I purchased that summer, and I was able to finish it much quicker.

I really encourage anyone who is racialized as white read this book. There is a good audiobook if long nonfiction isn't your vibe.


Painter, Nell Irvin. The History of White People. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010. Printed Book.

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