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Historical Race and Ethnography Series Part 2: The Custom of Hierarchy in Civilization

"March of civilization".

“March of civilization”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1911 the United States Immigration Commission published its fifth volume, a report titled “Dictionary of Races or Peoples.” The committee included United States congressmen and senators who were charged with the task of facilitating a better understanding of the immigrant population. They relied on the foremost racial, anthropological, demographic, geographic, and ethnographic studies of the time. While the dictionary does not actually define the term, it makes some interesting notations about the concept of “civilization.”

“The Assyrian is an ancient language, extinct for at least 2,000 years. No people to-day can claim pure physical descent from this stock. The arid region occupied by the early Assyrian empire has been swept by one civilization after another.”

“The savage manners of the last century are still met with amongst some Serbo-Croatians of to-day. Armed conflicts are not uncommon. Political feuds are especially bitter. Murders resulting from private vendettas occur frequently in some localities. Illiteracy is prevalent and civilization at a low stage in retired districts.”

“Ethnologically the term “East Indian ” has no meaning, although its convenience has perhaps justified its use while immigration to the United States from this part of the world was very small. Geographically it comprises races of the most diverse culture, from the dwarf Negrito of the Philippines, perhaps the lowest race of mankind in degree of civilization, to the European-like Hindu, who uses the Aryan speech (see) and has a civilization older than our own.”

“Greek (sometimes Hellenic). The modern Greek race or people is that which has descended, with considerable foreign admixture, from the famous race of ancient Greeks, which is one of the oldest branches of the Aryan group (see), and the first to reach a high state of civilization.”

Of the “Hindus… it is not generally realized how great a number of races and tribes there are in India, many of them extremely low in civilization and approaching the Negro in physical characteristics. Such are some of the Dravidas and Mundas, who occupy all of southern India.”

Regarding “Negro, Negroid, African, Black, Ethiopian, Or Austafrican. “In a simple classification for immigration purposes it is preferable to include all the above under the term “Negroes.” They are alike in inhabiting hot countries and in belonging to the lowest division of mankind from an evolutionary standpoint. While the Australians do not have the kinky hair of the African Negroes, they are still lower in civilization.”

SOURCE: Excerpts are from Reports of the Immigration Commission, Dictionary of Races or Peoples, 61st Congress, 3d Session, Senate Document No. 662, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1911, pp. 19, 47, 53, 68-69, 75 and 100.