People of Mixed Ancestry in the Seventeenth-Century Chesapeake: Freedom, Bondage, and the Rise of Hypodescent Ideology

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2019-02-26 01:58Z by Steven

People of Mixed Ancestry in the Seventeenth-Century Chesapeake: Freedom, Bondage, and the Rise of Hypodescent Ideology

Journal of Social History
Volume 52, Number 3, Spring 2019
pages 593-618
DOI: 10.1093/jsh/shx113

A. B. Wilkinson, Assistant Professor of History
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

This article examines the origins of mixed-race ideologies and people of mixed African, European, and Native American ancestry—commonly identified as mulattoes—in the seventeenth-century English colonial Chesapeake and wider Atlantic world. Arguably, for the better part of the century, English colonial societies in the Chesapeake resembled Latin America and other Atlantic island colonies in allowing a relatively flexible social hierarchy, in which certain mixed-heritage people benefitted from their European lineage. Chesapeake authorities began to slowly set their provinces apart from their English colonial counterparts in the 1660s, when they enacted laws to deter intimate intermixture between Europeans and other ethnoracial groups and set policies that punished mixed-heritage children. Colonial officials attempted to use the legal system to restrict people of mixed ancestry, Africans, and Native Americans in bondage. These efforts supported the ideology of hypodescent, where children of mixed lineage are relegated more closely to the position of their socially inferior parentage. However, from the 1660s through the 1680s, these laws were unevenly enforced, and mixture increased with the growth of African slaves imported into the region. While many mulattoes were enslaved during this period, others were able to rely on their European heritage or racial whiteness. This allowed them to gain or maintain freedom for themselves and their families, before Virginia and Maryland institutionalized greater restrictions in the 1690s.

Read or purchase the article here.

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More Than Black? Multiracial Identity and the New Racial Order

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2013-03-23 21:00Z by Steven

More Than Black? Multiracial Identity and the New Racial Order

Temple University Press
December 2001
280 pages
7×10; 1 figure
Paperback: EAN: 978-1-56639-909-8, ISBN: 1-56639-909-2

G. Reginald Daniel, Professor of Sociology
University of California at Santa Barbara

In the United States, anyone with even a trace of African American ancestry has been considered black. Even as the twenty-first century opens, a racial hierarchy still prevents people of color, including individuals of mixed race, from enjoying the same privileges as Euro-Americans. In this book, G. Reginald Daniel argues that we are at a cross-roads, with members of a new multiracial movement pointing the way toward equality.

Tracing the centuries-long evolution of Eurocentrism, a concept geared to protecting white racial purity and social privilege, Daniel shows how race has been constructed and regulated in the United States.  The so-called one-drop rule (i.e., hypodescent) obligated individuals to identify as black or white, in effect erasing mixed-race individuals from the social landscape. For most of our history, many mixed-race individuals of African American descent have attempted to acquire the socioeconomic benefits of being white by forming separate enclaves or “passing.”  By the 1990s, however, interracial marriages became increasingly common, and multiracial individuals became increasingly political, demanding institutional changes that would recognize the reality of multiple racial backgrounds and challenging white racial privilege.

More Than Black? regards the crumbling of the old racial order as an opportunity for substantially more than an improvement in U.S. race relations; it offers no less than a radical transformation of the nation’s racial consciousness and the practice of democracy.

Read the introduction here.

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
    • Part I: White Over Black
    • 1. Eurocentrism: The Origin of the Master Racial Project
    • 2. Either Black or White: The United State and the Binary Racial Project
  • Part II: Black No More
    • 3. White by Definition: Multiracial Identity and the Binary Racial Project
    • 4. Black by Law: Multiracial Identity and the Ternary Racial Project
  • Part III: More than Black
    • 5. The New Multiracial Identity: Both Black and White
    • 6. The New Multiracial Identity: Neither Black nor White
    • 7. Black by Popular Demand: Multiracial Identity and the Decennial Census
  • Part IV: Black No More or More than Black?
    • 8. The Illusion of Inclusion : From White Domination to White Hegemony
    • 9. The New Millennium: Toward a New Master Racial Project
  • Epilogue: Beyond Black or White: A New United States Racial Project
  • Notes
  • Index
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Why Do We Consider Obama to Be Black?

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2011-01-30 23:23Z by Steven

Why Do We Consider Obama to Be Black?

New America Media

Ronald Takaki (1939-2009), Emeritus Professor of Ethnic Studies
University of California, Berkeley

A historical look at the the persistence of the “one drop” rule.

Editor’s Note: Historian and scholar Ronald Takaki uncovers the origins of the “one drop” rule that was key to defining race early in America’s history, and ponders whether we will ever move past it – even with a mixed race presidential candidate. Takaki, emeritus professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, is the author of A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America (updated edition to be published by Little, Brown in December).

Barack Obama is the son of a white mother and a black father. In Latin America, he would be identified as “mulatto” or half white and half black, and in South Africa as “colored” or between white and black.

Why are all African Americans, regardless of their mixed racial heritage, identified as black? What are the origins of the uniquely American “one drop” rule?

The first 20 Africans were landed in Jamestown in 1619. Yet, the planter class did not rush to bring more laborers from Africa. The elite wanted to reproduce an English society in America. By 1670, only 5 percent of the Virginia population was African.

Six years later, the planters abandoned their vision of a homogeneous society. During Bacon’s Rebellion, armed white and black laborers marched to Jamestown and burned it to the ground. After reinforcements of British troops had put down the insurrection, the planters turned to Africa as their primary source of labor: they wanted workers who could be enslaved and disarmed by law based on the color of their skin. The African population inclined upward to 40 percent.

The planters also stigmatized the complexion of the African laborer. They had earlier passed a law which law provided that the child of a slave mother would inherit the status of the mother, regardless of the race of the father. Thus a child of a slave mother and a white father would be a slave.

After Bacon’s Rebellion, the elite passed another law which enslaved the child of a white mother and a black father.

These two laws gave birth to the “one drop” rule. To be black, even part black was to be a slave, and to be a slave was to be black…

Read the entire article here.

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The End of the One-Drop Rule? Labeling of Multiracial Children in Black Intermarriages

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Family/Parenting, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science on 2010-03-08 20:37Z by Steven

The End of the One-Drop Rule? Labeling of Multiracial Children in Black Intermarriages

Sociological Forum
Volume 20, Number 1 (March, 2005)
pages 35-67
Print ISSN: 0884-8971, Online ISSN: 1573-7861
DOI: 10.1007/s11206-005-1897-0

Wendy D. Roth, Assistant Professor of Sociology
University of British Columbia, Canada

The identity choices of multiracial individuals with Black heritage have traditionally been limited in America by the one-drop rule, which automatically designated them as Black. This paper evaluates the rules contemporary influence and argues that, with increasing interracial marriage, options in racial identification are now available to this group. Using the 5% 1990 and 2000 Public Use Microdata Samples, I consider how children from Black intermarriages are racially identified by their families and, using 2000 data, evaluate theoretical hypotheses to explain identification processes. The results show that most families with Black intermarriages reject the one-drop rule, but that Black–White families create unique interracial options, the implications of which are considered.

Read or purchase the article here.

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What Does “Black” Mean? Exploring the Epistemological Stranglehold of Racial Categorization

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2010-02-22 00:17Z by Steven

What Does “Black” Mean? Exploring the Epistemological Stranglehold of Racial Categorization

Critical Sociology
Vol. 28, No. 1-2 (2002)
pages 101-121
DOI: 10.1177/08969205020280010801

David L. Brunsma, Professor of Sociology
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Kerry Ann Rockquemore, Associate Professor of Sociology
University of Illinois at Chicago

The “check all that apply” approach to race on the 2000 census has ignited a conceptual debate over the meaning and usefulness of racial categories. This debate is most intense over the category “black” because of the historically unique way that blackness has been defined. Though the lived reality of many people of color has changed over the past three decades, we question whether the construct black has mirrored these changes and if “black” remains a valid analytic or discursive unit today. While black racial group membership has historically been defined using the one-drop rule, we test the contemporary salience of this classification norm by examining racial identity construction among multiracial people. We find that that the one-drop rule has lost the power to determine racial identity, while the meaning of black is becoming increasingly multidimensional, varied, and contextually specific. Ultimately, we argue that social, cultural and economic changes in post-Civil Rights America necessitate a re-evaluation of the validity of black as social construct and re-assessment of its’ continued use in social science research.

Read the entire article here.

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Research Report: Black + White = Black: Hypodescent in Reflexive Categorization of Racially Ambiguous Faces

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Reports, Social Science, United States on 2010-02-16 21:03Z by Steven

Research Report: Black + White = Black: Hypodescent in Reflexive Categorization of Racially Ambiguous Faces

Psychological Science
Volume 19, Number 10 (2008)
pages 973-977

Destiny Peery
Department of Psychology, Northwestern University

Galen V. Bodenhausen, Lawyer Taylor Professor of Psychology in the Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences
Northwestern University

Historically, the principle of hypodescent specified that individuals with one Black and one White parent should be considered Black. Two experiments examined whether categorizations of racially ambiguous targets reflect this principle. Participants studied ambiguous target faces accompanied by profiles that either did or did not identify the targets as having multiracial backgrounds (biological, cultural, or both biological and cultural). Participants then completed a speeded dual categorization task requiring Black/not Black and White/ not White judgments (Experiments 1 and 2) and deliberate categorization tasks requiring participants to describe the races (Experiment 2) of target faces. When a target was known to have mixed-race ancestry, participants were more likely to rapidly categorize the target as Black (and not White); however, the same cues also increased deliberate categorizations of the targets as ‘‘multiracial.’’ These findings suggest that hypodescent still characterizes the automatic racial categorizations of many perceivers, although more complex racial identities may be acknowledged upon more thoughtful reflection.

After being told that Barack Obama’s mother was White and father was Black, a majority of White and Hispanic interviewees said they considered him multiracial (White, 2006). Does this result highlight the inadequacy of monoracial categories in understanding multiracial people, or does it merely reflect a superficial semantic distinction, with Obama still largely viewed and evaluated in terms of his Black heritage? The categories applied to multiracial persons carry important implications for their self-esteem and experiences of discrimination (Herman, 2004). Thus, it is important to understand how multiracial people are categorized by others…

Read the entire report here.

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one-drop rule

Posted in Definitions on 2009-11-16 18:34Z by Steven

The one-drop rule is a historical colloquial term for a belief among some people in the United States that a person with any trace of African ancestry is black.

See also: hypodescent.


For more information, see Winthrop D. Jordan’s (Paul Spickard, ed.) “Historical Origins of the One-Drop Racial Rule in the United States,” in the Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies (Volume 1, Issue 1, 2014).

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An Unexpected Blackness

Posted in Articles, Canada, Identity Development/Psychology, New Media, Social Science on 2009-11-12 02:07Z by Steven

An Unexpected Blackness

Transition: An International Review
Feb 2009
No. 100
Pages 112-132

Naomi Pabst, Assistant Professor of African American Studies and American Studies
Yale University

What does it mean to be of African descent while residing in Canada, where the hypodescent rule does not hold sway?  Naomi Pabst reflects upon the complexity of life for people of color regarded as neither, nor.

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Racial Mixture and Affirmative Action: The Cases of Brazil and the United States

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2009-10-26 01:59Z by Steven

Racial Mixture and Affirmative Action: The Cases of Brazil and the United States

The American Historical Review
Volume 108, Number 5
December 2003

Thomas E. Skidmore, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Professor of History Emeritus
Brown University

For me, as a historian of Brazil, North America’s “one-drop rule” has always seemed odd. No other society in this hemisphere has defined its racial types in such absolutist terms. David Hollinger, like many American historians before him, is clearly intrigued by this apparently unique “approach to the question of ethnoracial mixture.” How can we account for it? How could such a different racial classification have arisen in North America and not in any of the many other European colonial experiments in the New World?

Hollinger cites three features that in combination allegedly made U.S. racial evolution different. The first is a regime that tolerated slavery and thereby produced a significant population of slave descent. The second is massive immigration that enriched American society. The third is survival of an Indian population, even if only in token numbers.

But Hollinger examines the influence of these three factors on racial attitudes and behavior in the United States alone. If we add one other country, Brazil, to the picture, we find something rather startling. All three of Hollinger’s conditions also obtained in Brazil. Yet they did not produce the one-drop rule. Something else must have been at work.

If I had been writing this commentary a half century ago, I would have stressed the enormous difference between the two countries in the racial status given to the offspring of mixed unions.  Throughout the United States (multi-racial societies emerged in Charleston and New Orleans, but only temporarily), the one-drop rule defined mixed bloods (even the lightest mulattos) as black. In Brazil, by contrast, racial attribution depended on how the person looked and on the particular circumstances of that person, which led to the racial fluidity for which Brazil is famous

Read the entire article here.

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Evidence for Hypodescent and Racial Hierarchy in the Perception of Biracial Individuals

Posted in Live Events, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations, Social Science, United States on 2009-10-19 20:20Z by Steven

Evidence for Hypodescent and Racial Hierarchy in the Perception of Biracial Individuals

SPSP 2010
The Eleventh Annual Meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology
2010-01-28 through 2010-01-30
Las Vegas, Nevada

Arnold K. Ho
Harvard University

Daniel T. Levin
Vanderbilt University

Jim Sidanius, Professor
Psychology and African and African American Studies
Harvard University

Mahzarin R. Banaji
Harvard University

Many have argued that the increasing rate of intermarriage between racial minorities and Whites and resulting patterns of biracial identification will lead to the dissolution of the American racial hierarchy (e.g., Alba & Nee, 2003; Lee & Bean, 2004; 2007a; 2007b; Thornton, 2009). However, little empirical evidence exists on perceptions of new racial identities that diverge from older notions of race purity and the “one drop” rule. We tested whether a rule of hypodescent, whereby biracial targets are assigned the status of their subordinate parent group, would govern perceptions of Asian-White and Black-White targets. Participants morphed faces from Asian to White, Black to White, White to Asian, and White to Black. Consistent with a rule of hypodescent, a face needed to be lower in proportion minority to be considered minority than proportion White to be considered White. In addition, the threshold for being considered White was higher for Black-White biracials than for Asian-White biracials, a pattern consistent with the structure of the current racial hierarchy. Finally, an independent racial categorization task confirmed that hypodescent and the current racial hierarchy guide how biracial targets are perceived. Potential distal (e.g., fear of contagion) and proximate (e.g., racism) causes of these phenomena are discussed.

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