This chapter examines white atheists’ views of African Americans. Freethought
newspapers often contained one-dimensional caricatures of black people as
pious, superstitious, foolish, and immoral. These were the opposites of the
traits on which white freethinkers prized themselves, and therefore the
image of black Americans often acted as a mirror in which white freethinkers
could clarify their own identities. Despite these negative depictions,
however, on the whole white atheists attempted to portray themselves as free
from racial prejudice and argued for equal rights and opportunities for all
regardless of race. Yet not all white atheists held such optimistic views.
An alternative discourse within freethought circles held that a rational and
scientific approach showed the innate inferiority of blacks. This chapter
wrestles once more with the competing demands of scientific rationalism,
hostility to Christianity, and a commitment to equality that helped to
inform white atheists’ racial views.