While the large majority of Southerners relied upon the Bible and a Christian perspective in their approach to the African, racial hierarchy and directed labor, some took a scientific approach to the racial question. American historian Avery Craven wrote in The Growth of Southern Nationalism, 1848-1861 (LSU Press, 1953):
Dr. Josiah C. Nott, a Mobile physician and later professor of anatomy at the University of Louisiana, gave the argument a different turn. From his medical practice among slaves he was convinced that the Negro constituted a different species from the whites. He did not believe that the two had sprung from a single pair of progenitors. He insisted that “the Mosaic account [of creation] sheds no satisfactory light on this question” and that the clergy after two thousand years of discussion had only proven that they knew nothing about it. He, therefore, concluded that there had been many creations, no just one. Some animals on the present earth were different from those before the Flood, and must have been created since Noah gathered the few in his locality into the Ark. New lands, rising out of the sea, were known to produce their own peculiar type of vegetation. The wide variety of human types in different parts of the world seemed to indicate that it was the same with mankind.
Physical forces, he argued, could not change one species into another regardless of the changes they might make within a single species. They cold not make a white man out of a Negro, nor a Negro out of a white man. The two races had existed for thousands of years without basic changes in physical characteristics, and nowhere could a relationship be shown between them. The Negro was clearly a separate and inferior creation. Nature had from the beginning destined him for servitude.
Thus the good doctor, who was recommending mesmerism as form for certain ill-defined nervous disorders and suggesting that yellow fever was spread by insects (he even mentioned the mosquito), would turn to science for justification of the South’s peculiar institution. He was laying the foundations for an “Aryan” superiority doctrine.
His approach to the racial question naturally disturbed the clergy of the South, who saw the Bible as providing a sufficient defense of slavery and a more stabilizing influence upon their society than the progress of science. Yet, Dr. Nott was one of the South’s greatest medical and scientific minds. He co-edited Indigenous Races of the Earth (1857) which explored his Polygenistic racial theories, founded the Medical College of Alabama (see featured image) and served as a Confederate surgeon during Lincoln’s War upon the South. He lost both of his sons in that tragic conflict.
Nott’s scientific racialism can be studied and built upon by those of the Alt-South. It provides a native Southern foundation to the future exploration of an important field of study and potential basis for social policy.
NOTE: As Hunter Wallace has explained, “[t]he Alt-South isn’t a membership organization. It is… a space for everyone in Dixie who isn’t some kind of leftist or mainstream conservative (i.e., nationalists, populists, reactionaries) to come together to discuss our past, present and common future. Southern Nationalists [are] at the core of the Alt-South.”