Benjamin Madley to Lecture on an American Genocide

Genocide, according to the United Nations, is “…acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”  Benjamin Madley, an associate professor of history at UCLA, applies the term to describe the treatment of American Indians in mid-19th century California in his book, An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe. In two weeks, Dr. Madley will lecture at an FHSS event to argue that California Indians didn’t fare much better than Armenians, Rwandans, or even European Jews during the Nazi regime.

You’re invited

  • Who: Dr. Benjamin Madley, hosted by the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies
  • What: A presentation on the American Genocide
  • When: Thursday, September 21st, from 11 a.m. to noon
  • Where: B192 JFSB (the Education in Zion auditorium)
  • Why: To discuss important historical events that often lack awareness and understanding
american-genocide
Courtesy of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies.

An American Genocide

An American Genocide, in which Dr. Madley estimates that 9,000 to 16,000 California Indians were killed from 1846 to 1873, has been reviewed by The New York Times, Newsweek, The Nation, and many others. Some of Dr. Madley’s fellow historians have criticized his book for applying the term “genocide” to the conflicts between Americans and California Indians. Gary Clayton Anderson, a history professor at the University of Oklahoma, challenges Dr. Madley’s death toll estimates and characterizes the California massacres as “ethnic cleansing.” The reasoning? Dr. Anderson argues that government policy never supported mass killings, so the genocide label might be inappropriate.

But An American Genocide details murders and massacres carried out by vigilantes, state militias, and the United States Army. Dr. Madley “methodically [gives] examples of each and [tags] the incidents like corpses in a morgue,” according to Richard White of The Nation. A seasoned historian, Dr. Madley also compiles many accounts of the incidents in nearly 200 pages of appendices. Every reader can weigh the evidence and conclude whether or not the incidents were genocidal.

Dr. Madley developed a passion for the interactions between indigenous groups and colonizers during his childhood; he was born in Redding, California, and lived in Karuk Country in northwestern California. Dr. Madley has earned degrees from Yale University and Oxford University, and he has authored many journal articles and book chapters.

bmadley
Courtesy of UCLA’s Department of History.

 

How do you think historians should apply the modern definition of “genocide” to historical events?

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