Notes on the state of Virginia: Africans, Indians and the paradox of racial integrity

Notes on the state of Virginia: Africans, Indians and the paradox of racial integrity

Union Institute and University
June 2005
277 pages
AAT 3196614
Publication Number: AAT 3196614
ISBN: 9780542425899

Arica L. Coleman, Assistant Professor of Black American Studies
Unverisity of Delaware

Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Arts and Sciences a Concentration in African American – Native American Relations at the Union Institute and University, Cincinnati, Ohio

W. E. B. Du Bois’s famous statement, ‘The problem of the twentieth-century is the problem of the color line,’ invokes images of the century’s racial antagonisms between Blacks and whites. However, racial antagonism in Virginia also occurred between African Americans and Amerindians, as the question regarding who was an Indian and who was a Negro became paramount to Amerindian survival. Central to this problem was the enforcement of a law the Virginia General Assembly passed on March 20, 1924, entitled ‘An Act to Preserve Racial Integrity.’ This legislation, the first such law to be passed in the United States, was the culmination of Virginia’s three hundred year campaign to insure the ‘purity’ of the white race. Racial purity, in early twentieth-century Virginia, was defined by the absence of African ancestry. Therefore, one could be of Indian-white admixture and remain racially pure. But an Indian-Black admixture, even one drop of black ‘blood,’ and one was transformed from pure to impure, and in jeopardy of being ethnically reclassified. By denying the historical relationship between African and Indian peoples in the Commonwealth, this paradox informed the state recognition process and helped many to successfully maintain their aboriginal status. However, the problem of the color line continues in the twenty-first century because racial integrity remains the dividing factor in African-Indian relations. The following discourse examines the changing state of African-Indian relations in Virginia from the Colonial period to the present. Chapter 1 provides a historical overview of the United States racial formation project in relation to Africans and Indians; chapter 2 examines Thomas Jefferson’s racial theories concerning African-Indian admixture, racial identity, and their influence on Virginia’s twentieth-century racial purity campaign; chapter 3 examines the historical relationship between African and Indians by tracing the Indian presence in the slave and free ‘colored’ populations of colonial and antebellum Virginia; chapter 4 examines the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, its impact on African-Indian relations, and the debate it provoked among such figures as W. E. B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey; chapter 5 provides a critical analysis of twentieth-century anthropological advocates Frank Speck and Helen Rountree, their activism on behalf of the Virginia Tribes, and the ways their advocacy contributed to the racial integrity cause; chapter 6 is a case study which examines Central Point, Virginia, the home of Richard and Mildred Loving (Loving v Virginia), to interrogate race and self identity, namely the self identity of Mildred Loving as an Indian woman; the Epilogue examines the contemporary activism of Virginia residents of mixed African-Indian heritage whose alternative historical consciousness defies racial politics and promotes decolonization, reclamation and empowerment.

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgments
  • Preface
  • Chapters
    • 1. Introduction
    • 2. Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia Revisited
    • 3. The Changing State of African and Indian Relations in Virginia
    • 4. Towards State [Un] Recognition: Native Identity and the One Drop
    • 5. The Present State of Virginia Indians: The Predicament of Of Race and Culture
    • 6. “Tell The Court I Love My [Indian] Wife:” Interrogating Race and Self Identity in Loving v. Virginia
  • Epilogue – Coming Together: Decolonization and Empowerment, Reclaiming Ourselves
  • Appendices
    • A. An Act to Preserve Racial Integrity
    • B. Loving Marriage license
    • C. Weyanoke Holiday Card
    • Works Cited

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