Stemming from a gross interpretation of Charles Darwin's
theory of evolution and survival of the fittest, Americans of African
descent were often viewed as merely less evolved human beings. Their
enslavement was, thus, often justified through the belief that the
Africans, as well as the other races of the world with a darker
complexion, were inherently inferior to white, more highly evolved
Americans of European descent. As seen in the 19th century
pseudo-science of craniometry, the physical attributes of a person,
including the bone structure of the skull, were measured and used to
affix them into arbitrary racial classifications, and along with it
certain intellectual limitations. The perceptions of these racial
stereotypes, believed to be in direct correlation with level of
intelligence, were seen in the most mundane references to early
African-Americans, in letters, newspapers, and most condemning, in
sketches and illustrations. In this drawing by Kingston resident,
Nathaniel Booth, we see the stereotypical interpretations of
African-Americans that precipitated the views held by many Americans of
European descent of the period, and aided in the perpetuation of the
subjugation of African peoples.
Equally as ignorant in its conception is this sketch by Alfred Hasbrouck, also denoting typical misconceptions of early African-Americans.
There were, however, those among the white population who, through interaction with African-Americans, came to hold a less condemning view of African-Americans. Such is the case of Johannes Lefevre who, as seen in his letters, came to realize the ignorance in his preconceived notions.