America is and has been a nation of minorities, so that these two volumes (the first two in a projected series of six) cover quite a lot of ground. Katz's apparent theme -- stated in the introduction to volume one -- is that ""because they had chosen to take the native land and to enslave the African, whites had agreed to keep the peace among themselves,"" and the fact that the Civil War brought the decline of the Know-Nothings, and won greater acceptance for foreign-born soldiers than for blacks themselves offers some support for this view. However, the text -- and the many biographical sketches and other asides that accompany it -- give countless examples of alliances between white ethnics or religious dissenters and blacks, notably the abolitionist Quakers, Frederick Douglass' efforts on behalf of Irish patriot Daniel O'Connell and the antislavery activity of many German immigrants (including two followers of John Brown in Kansas). The overall conclusion -- insofar as one is possible -- seems to be that the ability and the willingness to assimilate was the only effective defense of a minority group, a fact which worked the greatest hardship on blacks, native Americans and to some extent other groups readily identifiable by skin color. Actually Katz's history is likely to be less valuable as a further chronicle of America's record of racism and discrimination than for the unusual evidence -- of both unsuspected forms of bigotry and little known but courageous dissenters -- which Katz has included in his summary. The scope is vast and the topics not always well integrated, but the appearance of new material on a topic so often treated by the rehashing of the same first generation revisionist sources is an occasion of some interest.