R.M. Ballantyne

Doug Phillips has added some new volumes by R.M. Ballantyne to his library of racism. One of them is called The Gorilla Hunters. Here’s an online version where you may find this passage:

While the trader was speaking I observed that the negroes were talking with the eager looks and gesticulations that are peculiar to the Africans when excited, and presently two or three of them came forward and asked several questions, while their eyes sparkled eagerly and their black faces shone with animation as they pointed into the woods in the direction whence we had come.

“They want to know where you have left the carcass of the leopard, and if you have taken away the brains,” said the trader, turning to me. “I daresay you know – if not you’ll soon come to find out – that all the nigger tribes in Africa are sunk in gross and cruel superstitions. They have more fetishes, and greegrees, and amulets, and wooden gods, and charms, than they know what to do with, and have surrounded themselves with spiritual mysteries that neither themselves nor anybody else can understand. Among other things, they attach a very high value to the brains of the leopard, because they imagine that he who possesses them will be rendered extraordinarily bold and successful in hunting. These fellows are in hopes that, being ignorant of the value of leopard brains, you have left them in the carcass, and are burning with anxiety to be off after them.”

“Poor creatures!” said I, “they are heartily welcome to the brains; and the carcass lies not more than four hours’ march from this spot, I should think, – Is it not so, Jack?”

My friend nodded assent, and the trader, turning to the expectant crowd of natives, gave them the information they desired. No sooner had he finished than with loud cries they turned and darted away, tossing their arms wildly in the air, and looking more like to a band of scared monkeys than to human beings.

“They’re queer fellows,” remarked Peterkin.

“So they are,” replied the trader, “and they’re kindly fellows too – jovial and good-humoured, except when under the influence of their abominable superstitions. Then they become incarnate fiends, and commit deeds of cruelty that make one’s blood run cold to think of.”

Why do homeschooling families consider Vision Forum books to be worthy of purchase? Must a Christian education engender hatred towards black people?

5 Responses to “R.M. Ballantyne”

  1. Saidah Ali Says:

    I don’t know if I would consider this so much racist as just honest and reflective of history. a) Nigger wasn’t always a bad word b) The excerpt doen’t demean the Africans; it only points out their savage, superstitious and very foreign characteristics. From what I understand, Ballantyne was focused on telling stories of adventure and in that time period, Africa was the adventure and African savages were apart of the adventure. I agree that one ought to make sure that their son is old enough to understand that anyone of darker skin or even of African ancestry isn’t necessarily savage. However, I don’t think that most boys will go next door to their black neighbor and ask whether or not he is interested in worshipping leopard brains. If he does, I imagine the other child will merely set him straight on the subject and life will go on. = )

  2. Mark Says:

    I think you are judging an author and book by today’s standards versus the day/age they were written in. Considering an African tribe to be of a certain moral disposition does not mean that Ballantyne was saying all black people, because they were black, to be “stuck in gross superstition” or any other such thing.

    I think we should treat children and adults with more respect in the sense that we can discuss whether those views were correct and how other cultures were viewed at the time versus being close-minded, proud and dismissive of other points of view ourselves. They are capable of understanding.

    What would we say of cultures such as the Mayan, etc. that may have sacrificed people? What about accurate accounts of the time about cruel tribes in Africa by Burton, etc. that dealt with customs and treatment/understanding of outsiders? such things were not trying to be a judgement on a particular race or color but rather their circumstances (which is in itself misguided since being a part of the British empire and living in a western setting would not have necessarily improved the moral condition of a particular tribe.)

    You could lighten up a bit,…it was meant to be a fun read for kids in that day/age and your view sounds more like Fahrenheit 451.

  3. Headless Unicorn Guy Says:

    When was this book written?

    If I remember right, the peak of the “Great White Hunter” genre (which this excerpt seems to be from) was sometime before World War Two. In which case, it would accurately reflect attitudes of the time.

    Whether such a period piece (with period attitudes) would be suitable for children (as in forming their first impressions) is a whole ‘nother subject.

  4. Susan White Says:

    I have these Ballantyne books in my home and I have black, white and hispanic children. I teach them that all races were “savages” at one time or another. Early northern Europeans were every bit as able to fit this description of blacks in this book in early times. My toddler from Guatemala looks very Mayan. They had superstitions as well. One race is not better in any way than another, but all races have, at one time or another, been savages. The early Romans, and Nero, for example, who were not Africans, were savages themselves. Hitler and Stalin were very savage. It would be wrong to say that the Africans during this time and place were civilized.

  5. Candace Says:

    Amanda Marcotte had a cover for her book “It’s A Jungle Out There” that incorporated this same imagery, with similar images through the whole book.

    She took a righteous whooping from many feminists and others.

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