From Volume 83, Number 3 (March 2010)
In What Blood Won’t Tell: A History of Race on Trial in America, Ariela J. Gross provides a compelling and nuanced account of race in America. Through her examination of “racial trials”—litigation in which racial identification plays a crucial role—Gross ties together the personal, social, and political dimensions of racial identity and classification. This discussion provides an important new perspective on the study of race in this country.
Earlier studies of racial classification have focused on the meanings of statutory racial categories. Gross, however, centers her analysis on the formation and reaffirmation of racial categories as a primarily social process. Gross draws from numerous racial trials—spanning slavery in the antebellum South to modern-day Mexican Americans grappling with “whiteness”—in order to survey the origins and history of “black” and “white” as categories in American life.