Charles Darwin a racist? Look at his involvement in the Jamaica Committee | Letters

Charles Darwin in the mid-1870s. Photograph: General Photographic Agency/Getty Images

“Most early evolutionists were racist, Darwin included,” claims your correspondent (Letters, 30 March). Mid-Victorian intellectuals can conveniently be identified as racist or anti-racist by their reactions to the 1865 Morant Bay rebellion in Jamaica and the brutal reprisals of Governor John Eyre.

Darwin was a leading light of the Jamaica Committee, which tried to have Eyre prosecuted, and recruited most of the leading scientists of the day. The racists organised an Eyre defence committee, led by Thomas Carlyle, Charles Dickens and John Ruskin.

More generally, Darwin’s anti-racist views and activities are described in Darwin’s Sacred Cause (Review, 31 January 2009) by Adrian Desmond and James Moore.
John Wilson

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