Researcher presents new views on 18th century mixed races and their families

Researcher presents new views on 18th century mixed races and their families

William & Mary: News & Events

Andrea Davis

Daniel Livesay, NEH postdoctoral fellow at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture at William & Mary, presented a paper at the University of Texas in February that discussed the mixed children of white men and black women and their impact on British society in the 18th century. The BBC has contacted him to use some of this new information for a documentary it is working on.
His paper focused on racial groups traditionally labeled as creoles in colonial Louisiana and mulattos in the Caribbean. Livesay’s dissertation centered on social hierarchies in 18th century Britain and the family ties of mixed children both born in Jamaica and of British descent.
According to his paper, “Preparing to Meet the Atlantic Family: Relatives of Color in Eighteenth-Century Britain,” mixed-race children like Edward Thomas Marsh and James Tailyour and their families’ responses signified a time in Britain where society heatedly debated the issue of blacks as inferior.

“During those two decades, debates on the humanity of the slave trade branched into numerous ancillary arguments over skin color, equality, and racial gradation,” he wrote. “The issues of slavery and family overlapped, with observers commenting on the sexual standards of enslaved families, and the demographic implications throughout the Atlantic of an empire with unrestricted connections between races.”

These children faced a serious dilemma. Like the creoles and mulatto, their place in 18th century British society was uncertain. On the one hand, having mothers of color made them slaves by birth; at the same time, their white father’s heritage gave them freedom. Livesay says they stood between the two social placements set out in British and even colonial society. What determined their place was the amount of acceptance they received from their British relatives…

Read the entire article here.

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