Children in Black and Mulatto Families

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2013-07-06 18:06Z by Steven

Children in Black and Mulatto Families

American Journal of Sociology
Volume  39, Number 1 (July 1933)
pages 12-29

E. Franklin Frazier (1894-1962), Professor of Sociology
Fisk University

Although the belief in the hereditary inferiority of the mulatto has been slowly dissipated by the accumulation of scientific knowledge, it is still echoed occasionally in scientific studies. In order to determine how far this belief is substantiated or refuted by census data, the writer has analyzed the 1910 and 1920 statistics for children in over 13,000 Negro families for each enumeration in three cities and three rural counties in the South. On the whole, the mulattoes have a smaller proportion of families without children and there is on the average a larger number of children in the mulatto families. Further analysis of the 1910 statistics for the number of children born and living in 10,921 families showed: (1) mulattoes and blacks had about the same proportion of families in which no children were born; (2) on the whole, the mulattoes and blacks in the same community had the same average number of children born; (3) for the entire group a larger proportion of black families had one or more children dead; (4) the blacks had lost on the average a larger number of children; (5) the mulattoes had about 7 per cent more of all their children living than the blacks. Differences in the socio-economic status of these two groups as reflected in literacy and home-ownership seemed to point to cultural rather than biological causes for the differences between them.

In 1860 a physician who contributed monthly articles on the Negro to the American Cotton Planter gave considerable space in the December issue to a comparison of the physical qualities of pure Negroes and mulattoes. From that article, which was presumably supported by the best contemporary scientific opinion, we cite the following observations.

…. mulattoes are generally much shorter lived than negroes of unmixed blood. The pure African, when judiciously managed, has a reasonable prospect of reaching his three score and ten; and instances of much greater longevity abound. Not so with mulattoes; from want of congeniality in the mixture of white and black blood, or from some unexplained, and perhaps inexplicable cause, they die early as a general rule…..Dr. Cartwright and other learned men might say “the offspring is a tertium quid, unlike either father or mother, and incapable of perpetuating its existence beyond a few generations.” We think it would be much better to say at once, it is so, because God made it so; and that he made it so because it was not pleasing to him that the fruits of such an unnatural and unholy commerce should remain long on the earth. But whatever the explanation, there can be but little doubt of the fact for it seems to be established by the concurrent testimony of numerous observers…..

Prof. Dugas, of the Medical College of Georgia …. forcibly taught in his lectures that mulattoes are short lived; …. The testimony of Dr. Merrill, of Memphis, is …. that the amalgamation alluded to, exercises important physiological and pathological influences, one of the tendencies of which is, to impair the energies of the vital forces, predispose to a dynamic (low, typhoid) diseases, and to shorten life. These conditions, it is natural to suppose, must have a tendency, also, to the impairment of the procreative powers, and thus to retard increase; while the congenital debility and disordered innervation resulting, give rise to a still greater sacrifice of infant life, than with the full-blooded negro … if active, intelligent, house-servants are a prime consideration, and if planters have sufficient means to consult pleasure and convenience before interest, it may do to rest in this mongrel race; but if stout hearty, durable, long lived slaves are wanted, and if  pecuniary interest is a permanent consideration, the pure African should be chosen in preference to the mulatto; and the blacker the better. The jet black, shiny, unadulterated, greasy-skinned, strong-smelling negro is the best every way, after he has been in the country long enough to undergo proper training, and to get rid of some of his native, African notions.

Although the writer was fearful at the time that “the truth that mulattoes are short lived is not as extensively known, and as firmly established in the minds of the southern people as it should be,” during the following half-century the beliefs expressed in his article not only became the foundation of popular opinions concerning the mulatto but characterized supposedly scientific studies. In 1896 Hoffman, who concluded that mulattoes were “physically the inferior of the white and pure black,” based his opinion largely on the testimony of physicians who examined recruits during the Civil War. The following is a typical testimony: “Although I have known some muscular and healthy mulattoes, I am convinced that, as a general rule, any considerable admixture of white blood deteriorates the physique and impairs the powers of endurance, and almost always introduces a scrofulous taint.”…

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The most striking characteristic of the free Negro communities was the prominence of the mulatto element.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2012-08-05 22:40Z by Steven

The most striking characteristic of the free Negro communities was the prominence of the mulatto element.  About thirty-seven per cent of the free Negroes in the United States in 1850 were classed as mulattoes, while only about a twelfth of the slave population was regarded as of mixed blood. Although no definite information exists concerning the number of mulattoes during the colonial period, we find that in 1752 in Baltimore County, Maryland, 196 of the 312 mulattoes were free, while all of the 4,035 Negroes except eight were slaves. Early in the settlement of Virginia doubt concerning the status of mulatto children was the occasion for special legislation which determined that mulatto children should have the status of their mother. In Maryland, by an act in 1681, children born of white servant women and Negroes were free. By another act in 1692 mulatto children through such unions lost their free status and became servants for a long term.  In Pennsylvania the mulattoes followed the status of their mothers, and when the offspring of a free mother became a servant for a term of years.

The conspicuousness of the mulatto element in the free Negro population was not due, therefore, to any legal presumption in its favor. The accessions to the free Negro class through unions of free white women and Negro men, and free colored women and white men was kept at a minimum by the drastic laws against such unions. Nor can the enormous increase in the free mulattoes be accounted for by natural increase from their own numbers. The increase in the number of free mulattoes came chiefly from the offspring of slave women and white masters, who manumitted their mulatto children. Russell says concerning the free mulattoes of Virginia: “The free mulatto class, which numbered 23,500 by 1860, was of course the result of illegal relations of white persons with Negroes; but, excepting those born of mulatto parents, most persons of the free class were not born of free Negro or free white mothers, but of slave mothers, and were set free because of their kinship to their master and owner.” Snydor in showing how the sex relations existing between masters and slaves were responsible for the free class in Mississippi, cites the fact that “Of the 773 free persons of color in Mississippi in the year 1860, 601 were of mixed blood, and only 172 were black. Among the slaves this condition was entirely reversed. In this same year there were 400,013 slaves who were classed as blacks and only 36,618 who were mulattoes.” In regard to the mulatto character of the free Negro population, it should be noted that the association between the Indians and the Negro was responsible for mulatto communities of free Negroes in Virginia and elsewhere. In Florida the Seminoles were mixed with the Negroes to such an extent that the conflict with the United States was due in part to the attempt of Indian fathers to prevent their Indian-Negro children from being enslaved. There was also considerable interbreeding between the Indians and Negroes in Massachusetts. Many of the offsprings of these relations passed into the colored community as mulattoes. The predominance of the mulattoes among free Negroes was most marked in Louisiana, where 15,158 of the 18,647 free Negroes were mulattoes.

E. Franklin Frazier, The Free Negro Family: A Study of Family Origins Before the Civil War, (Nashville: Fisk University Press, 1932): 12-13.

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The Free Negro Family: A Study of Family Origins Before the Civil War

Posted in Anthropology, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2012-08-05 22:12Z by Steven

The Free Negro Family: A Study of Family Origins Before the Civil War

Fisk University Press
72 pages
E185.86 .F84
Source: University of Michigan via The Hathi Trust Digital Library

E. Franklin Frazier (1894-1962), Professor of Sociology
Fisk University


  1. Origin, Growth, and Distribution of the Free Negroes
  2. Character of the Free Negro Communities
  3. The Free Negro Family
    • Selected Bibliography


  1. Growth of the Slave and Free Negro Population in the United States: 1790-1860
  2. Distribution of the Free Negro Population According to States in 1830 and 1860
  3. Number of Slaves and Free Negroes in the Total Population of Four Leading Cities in 1790
  4. School Attendance and Adult Illiteracy Among the Free Negro Population in 16 Cities: 1850


  1. Percentage of the Negro Population Free in the Counties of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia: 1860
  2. Distribution of Free Negro Families: 1830


A class of free Negroes existed in America almost from the time that they were first introduced into the Virginia colony in 1619. Contrary to popular belief, the free class may even be said to be prior in origin to the slave class, since the first Negroes brought to America, did not have the status of slaves, but of indentured servants. Contracts of indentured Negro servants indicate that the status of the first Negroes was the same as that of the white servants. Moreover, court records show that Negroes were released originally upon the completion of a term of servitude. The slave status, for which the white colonists had no model in England, “developed in customary law, and was legally sanctioned at first by court decisions.” Although it was not until 1662 that the first act of the Virginia slave code was passed, slavery by this time had apparently become established in practice. As early as 1651 we find a Negro, Anthony Johnson, who was probably enumerated among the indentured servants in the census of 1624, having assigned to him in fee simple a land patent for two hundred and fifty acres of land. Two years later this same man was the defendant in a suit brought against him by another Negro for his freedom from servitude, after having served “seaven or eight years of Indenture.” According to Russell, “The upper limit of the period in which it was possible for negroes to come to Virginia as servants and to acquire freedom after a limited period is the year 1682” Nevertheless, the free class continued to grow until the Civil War.

The free Negro population was increased through five sources: (1) children born of free colored persons; (2) mulatto children born of free colored mothers; (3) mulatto children born of white servants or free women; (4) children of free Negro and Indian parentage; (5) manumitted slaves. The increase in the free Negro population through the offspring of free colored parents, though difficult to estimate, contributed to the growth of this class until Emancipation. Likewise, the numerous cases of offsprings from white fathers and free colored mothers would indicate that from this source the free Negro population was constantly enlarged. Mulattoes born of white servant women and free white women were also a significant factor, for it was soon the cause for special legislative action. Virginia, in 1691, passed a law prescribing that “any white woman marrying a negro or mulatto, bond or free,” should be banished. Maryland, in 1681, provided in an act that children born of white servant women and Negroes were free. Eleven years later any white woman who married or became the mother of a child by either a slave or free Negro became a servant for seven years. Pennsylvania found it necessary to restrict the intermarriage of Negroes and whites through legislative action in 1725-1726, after having punished a woman for “abetting a clandestine marriage between a white woman and a negro” in 1722. This restriction was swept away, as well as the other restrictions upon the Negro, in 1780. Seemingly, mixed marriages became common, for Thomas Branagan complained:

There are many, very many blacks who . . . begin to feel themselves consequential . . . will not be satisfied unless they get white women for wives, and are likewise exceedingly impertinent to white people in low circumstances … I solemnly swear, I have seen more white women married to, and deluded through the arts of seduction by Negroes in one year in Philadelphia, than for eight years I was visiting (West Indies and the Southern States). I know a black man who seducted a young white girl. . . who soon after married him, and died with a broken heart. On her death he said that he would not disgrace himself to have a Negro wife and acted accordingly, for he soon after married a white woman . . . There are perhaps hundreds of white women thus fascinated by black men in this city, and there are thousands of black children by them at present.

It is difficult to determine to what extent the intermixture of free Negroes and Indians contributed to the growth of the free colored population. There was always considerable association between the Indian and Negro, both in areas given up to Indians and outside of these areas…

Read the entire book here.

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African-American Reflections on Brazil’s Racial Paradise

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2011-12-12 17:30Z by Steven

African-American Reflections on Brazil’s Racial Paradise

Temple University Press
February 1992
276 pages
5.5 x 8.25
Cloth ISBN: 0-87722-892-2
eBook ISBN: 978-1-59213-104-4

Edited by

David J. Hellwig, Professor Emeritus of Interdisciplinary Studies
St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, Minnesota

Essays that focus on the authors’ observations of race relations in Brazil from the first decade of the century through the 1980s

At the turn of the twentieth century, the popular image of Brazil was that of a tropical utopia for people of color, and it was looked upon as a beacon of hope by African Americans. Reports of this racial paradise were affirmed by notable black observers until the middle of this century, when the myth began to be challenged by North American blacks whose attitudes were influenced by the civil rights movement and burgeoning black militancy. The debate continued and the myth of the racial paradise was eventually rejected as black Americans began to see the contradictions of Brazilian society as well as the dangers for people of color.

David Hellwig has assembled numerous observations of race relations in Brazil from the first decade of the century through the 1980s. Originally published in newspapers and magazines, the selected commentaries are written by a wide range of African-American scholars, journalists, and educators, and are addressed to a general audience.


  • Acknowledgments
  • Preface
  • Introcution: The Myth of the Racial Paradise
  • Part I: The Myth Affirmed (1900-1940)
    • 1. “Brazilian Visitors in Norfolk”
    • 2. “Brazil vs. United States”
    • 3. “Brazil and the Black Race”
    • 4. “Brazil” – W.E.B. Du Bois
    • 5. “Opportunities in Brazil: South American Country Offers First Hand Knowledge of the Solving of the Race Question”
    • 6. “Brazil” – Cyril V. Briggs
    • 7. “Wonderful Opportunities Offered in Brazil for Thrifty People of All Races” – Associated Negro Press
    • 8. “South America and Its Prospects in 1920” – L. H. Stinson
    • 9. “Brazil as I Found It” – E.R. James
    • 10. “Sidelights on Brazil Racial Conditions” – Frank St. Claire
    • 11. “My Trip Through South America” – Robert S. Abbott
    • 12. “Sightseeing in South America” – William Pickens
  • Part II: The Myth Debated (1940-1965)
    • 13. “The Color Line in South America’s Largest Republic” – Ollie Stewart
    • 14. “Stewart in Error – No Color Line in Brazil” – James W. Ivy
    • 15. Letter by W.E.B. Du Bois to Edward Weeks, Atlanta, Georgia, October 2, 1941
    • 16. “Brazil Has No Race Problem” – E. Franklin Frazier
    • 17. “A Comparison of Negro-White Relations in Brazil and the United States” – E. Franklin Frazier
    • 18. Excerpt from Quest for Dignity: An Autobiography of a Negro Doctor – Thomas Roy Peyton
    • 19. “Brazilian Color Bias Growing More Rampant” – George S. Schuyler
    • 20. “The Negro in Brazil” – Lorenzo D. Turner
  • Part III: The Myth Rejected (1965-)
    • 21. “From Roxbury to Rio-and Back in a Hurry” – Angela M. Gilliam
    • 22. “Brazil: Study in Black, Brown and Beige” – Leslie B. Rout, Jr.
    • 23. “Equality in Brazil: Confronting Reality” – Cleveland Donald, Jr.
    • 24. “‘Mestizaje’ vs. Black Identity: The Color Crisis in Latin America” – Richard L. Jackson
    • 25. “Black Consciousness vs. Racism in Brazil” – Niani (Dee Brown)
    • 26. “Brazil and the Blacks of South America” – Gloria Calomee
    • 27. “In Harmony with Brazil’s African Pulse” – Rachel Jackson Christmas
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