“Race” Trials

Trials contesting racial identity illustrate the ways that racial categories have come into being over the course of U.S. history.  Through them we can observe the changing meaning of race throughout our history, and the changes and continuities in racism itself, from the roots in a slave society up through the twentieth century.  Drawing lines between “races” determined not only who could be free but also who could be capable of citizenship.  Thus the trials of racial identity became trials about the attributes of citizenship for the men and women who were their subjects.

Gross, Ariela J. 2008. What Blood Won’t Tell: A History of Race on Trial in America. page 7. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

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