Vermont and the geography of whiteness
“The U.S. state of Vermont is often portrayed as a place where “race” is of little significance, yet notions of whiteness are central to how the state has been represented and represents itself," begins Vermont and the Imaginative Geographies of American Whitenessby Dr. Robert M Vanderbeck, professor of Human Geography at the University of Leeds. Vanderbeck argues that Vermont’s imagined geography of whiteness aids in, “the reproduction of understandings and imaginings of racialized difference and ‘who belongs where,’” ultimately leading to exclusion and prejudice against non-white Vermonters.
Dr. Amani Whitfield holding a 1783 bill of sale for an enslaved woman named Rose at UVM's Special Collections. Photo by Glenn Russell.
Slavery and Vermont’s constitution
Vermont’s constitution was the first to outlaw slavery, a fact often taught in Vermont schools and a point of pride for many Vermonters. In reality, slavery continued in the state for decades after being outlawed in 1777. This is the subject of The Problem of Slavery in Early Vermont, 1777-1810 by Dr. Harvey Amani Whitfield, Professor of history at UVM which examines how slavery illegally continued in Vermont during this period. In The Power of Erasure: Reflections on Civil War, Race, and Growing Up White in Vermont, historian Elise A. Guyette discusses Vermont’s history of institutional racism and asks why Vermonters neglect the discussion. This history of racism in Vermont is also examined by historian John M. Lovejoy in the article, Racism in Antebellum Vermont. Read historian Mark Bushnell's article one of the most famous racially motivated incidents in Vermont in this column and author Bill Schubart reflects on Vermont’s troubled history with racism, here.