Game: I Know It When I See It…


During the late colonial era, travelers and artists increasingly thought they could tell what race someone was by looking at them.  This game is designed to test whether race was as self evident and visual as early Americans believed and to help students begin to rethink some of their own possible assumptions about race and ethnicity.  This game is modeled on the intriguing website AllLookSame.


Around 1831, Belgian artist Pierre Jacques Benoit (1782-1854) traveled to the Dutch colony of Suriname.  While he was there he produced a larger number of drawings.  upon his return to Europe, these illustrations were lithographed and printed by Madou and Lauters in a collection called Voyage a Surinam, with an accompanying text written by Benoit.  During the era when Benoit visited Surinam(e), race and Jewish identity were being reformulated.  As Joyce Chaplin and others have argued, “racism in its present form is a specific product of Atlantic history. That is, if race is a perceived physical difference that is assumed to be inherited, is strongly associated with color, and is crafted to support systems of human subjugation, this idea was peculiar to the Atlantic world created by European colonization” (Chaplin 154).  Benoit was explicitly pro-slavery.  Moreover, in his work he suggested that people of different races could be easily recognized by physical differences.  You can look at a more extensive gallery of his images, but here are some of the racial types that he presented:

 BenoitJew Jew
 BenoitIndian Native American
 Benoitwhite White 
BenoitAfrican African
BenoitCreole Part White, Part African
BenoitKaboegroe Part Native American, Part African

Proceed to Portraits from the colonies and test whether Benoit was correct that racial types are self evident.

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