The Vanishing American Negro

The Vanishing American Negro

The American Mercury
Volume LXIV, Number 278 (February 1947)
pages 133-139

Ralph Linton (1893-1953), Professor of Anthropolgy
Yale University

In the question period following any talk on minority problems, someone invariably brings up the query, “What do anthropologists consider to be the long range solution of the Negro problem?” Though I usually avoid this point when I can, I sometimes have to reply that most anthropologists agree there will be no Negro problem in another two hundred years; by then there will not be enough recognizable Negroes left in this country to constitute a problem.

When a New York newspaper headlined this statement in reporting a lecture, the main body of which did not deal with this subject, I found myself quoted with indignation in both the white and Negro press. But I was not disturbed by these repercussions until I was misquoted, and with approval, by Senator Bilbo, who said in a campaign speech:

Dr. Linton . . . stated a few weeks ago that if the present rate of intermingling, intermarriage and interbreeding of whites and blacks in this country goes on . . . within nine generations we will have no whites and no blacks . . . only yellow. … I had rather see my race destroyed by the noted atomic bomb than to see it gradually destroyed by mongrelization of the white and black races.

This convinced me that some amplification and clarification of my statement was necessary.

The prophecy of the ultimate disappearance of the American Negro in the United States is based on three facts. First, while the number of Negroes has been steadily increasing since 1790, when the first Negro census was taken, the white population has increased so much more rapidly that the over-all proportion of Negroes to whites is steadily declining. Second, the Negro is no longer concentrated in the South but is redistributing himself more evenly over the entire country. Third, and most important, the American Negro is steadily becoming lighter…

…But the main reason for believing that the Negro will disappear as a distinct American minority is that the Negro population is becoming lighter with each successive generation. This is not a matter of paling out in a northern climate — it takes thousands ofyears to evolve a new biological type—but of steady infiltration of white blood into the Negro group…

Miscegenation has been going on since the Negroes first arrived in America. While most of the slaves imported were black Forest Negroes from West Africa, there were also a considerable number from the West Indies, where some race mixture had already taken place. At the beginning of the slave-trade era there were still many Indians in the Southeast, and considerable interbreeding took place between Indians and slaves. Runaway slaves frequently took refuge in the Indian camps, where they were protected and frequently adopted into the tribe. Indian genes began to take the kink out of Negro hair and to thin Negro lips…

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