Event—Adult Education

Race-making in the Americas: From Columbus to the 1893 World’s Fair


Examine how race is constructed through European colonialism and its enduring legacies.

Casta painting depicting different racial classifications in Spanish colonial society, 18th century. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Class Description

We will begin by analyzing the journal of Christopher Columbus and expand into the archival materials of religious missionaries in the Western Hemisphere, before turning toward the racial project of chattel-slavery in the Americas. Finally, we will examine anthropology’s project of race-making during the late nineteenth century through the spectacle of the famous 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.

By engaging with primary sources, Newberry collection materials, and academic writings, class participants will learn to articulate how race emerges on the grounds of discovery, coheres under the expansion of Christianity, and solidifies through the race-making projects of settler-colonialism, slavery, and scientific inquiry.

Breanna Escamilla is a doctoral candidate in Anthropology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, with graduate minors in Latina/Latino Studies and Queer Studies. Her research interests include the anthropology of race/ethnicity, gender and sexuality, language, and digital media.

Materials List


  • Digital Course Packet

First Reading

  • Read from the Digital Course Packet:
    • "The Doctrine of Discovery," 1493.
    • Christopher Columbus, “Journal of the First Voyage of Columbus,” in Journal of Christopher Columbus (during his first voyage, 1492-93)
    • Geraldine Heng, “Inventions/Reinventions: Race Studies, Modernity, and the Middle Ages” in The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages. Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Cost and Registration

4 Sessions, $200 ($180 for Newberry members, seniors, and students). Learn about becoming a member.

We now offer our classes at three different price options: Regular ($200), Community Supported ($190), and Sponsor ($210). Following the models of other institutions, we want to ensure that our classes are accessible to a wider audience while continuing to support our instructors. You may choose the price that best fits your situation when registering through Learning Stream.

To register multiple people for this class, please go through the course calendar in Learning Stream, our registration platform. When you select the course and register, you’ll be prompted to add another registrant.


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