merrill peterson

Tragically, Jefferson’s pseudoscientific proclamations fostered the subsequent development of proslavery science, which led to scientific racism. Jefferson helped invent racism as an intellectually credible viewpoint. As Winthrop Jordan notes, Jefferson’s positions about race “constituted, for all its qualifications, the most intense, extensive, and extreme formulation of anti-Negro ‘thought’ offered by any American in the thirty years after the Revolution.” The very importance of Jefferson to the founding era - and the power that [Merrill] Peterson calls the “symbol” of Jefferson - helped make racism respectable in antebellum America. Racism might have developed without his support for it in the Notes [on the State of Virginia], but it is nevertheless a legacy of Jefferson.
—  Paul Finkelman, Slavery and the Founders