The Skull Measurer’s Mistake

And Other Portraits of Men and Women Who Spoke Out Against Racism

Enlightening stories of courageous eighteenth- and nineteenth-century men and women who defied the racial prejudices of their communities

The Skull Measurer’s Mistake is a remarkable intellectual experience, a cavalcade of human rights integrity streaking across 250 years of bad faith, bad science, and execrable social policy. It should be compulsory reading in every high school and college in America.” —David Levering Lewis, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for W. E. B. DuBois: Biography of a Race, 1868–1919

In this unique book, Sven Lindqvist, author of the acclaimed “Exterminate All the Brutes,” shows why the history of antiracist work must not be limited only to the study of racists. Here we have the inspiring stories of more than twenty eighteenth- and nineteenth-century men and women who struggled and fought against ignorance and animus, often going against the times to expose the many facets of racism and hate.

Well-documented and rich in anecdote, The Skull Measurer’s Mistake recounts the antiracist efforts of Benjamin Franklin, Helen Hunt, Joseph Conrad, and Alexis de Tocqueville, as well as others whose names are perhaps forgotten but whose important work lives on. Lindqvist—whose writing, Adam Hochschild has said, “leaves you changed”—shows how racist arguments emerged, and reemerged, over time. At a time when conversations about racial justice are occurring in every corner of society, knowledge of past antiracists can help us defeat racism today.


“[A] unique and groundbreaking book . . . [which] should form part of everyone’s intellectual armory.”
—Richard Gott, former literary editor of The Guardian
“These original sources can help students understand past debates about racist institutions such as slavery and anti-immigration laws and give insight as to how to argue against racist perspectives today.”
Rethinking Schools
“Lindqvist is a courageous, subtle thinker and a dogged researcher . . . [who writes about] systems of oppression with subtlety and force.”
Washington City Paper
“This is a useful, unpretentious volume that may give context and hope to the fight against racism.”
Kirkus Reviews

News and Reviews

The New Press Remembers Sven Lindqvist


Books by Sven Lindqvist

The Dead Do Not Die
“Exterminate All the Brutes” and Terra Nullius

Sven Lindqvist

Terra Nullius
A Journey Through No One’s Land

Sven Lindqvist

“Exterminate All the Brutes”
One Man’s Odyssey into the Heart of Darkness and the Origins of European Genocide

Sven Lindqvist

A History of Bombing

Sven Lindqvist

Goodreads Reviews