Marriage, Melanin, and American Racialism

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Law, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2013-06-12 03:32Z by Steven

Marriage, Melanin, and American Racialism

Reviews in American History
Volume 41, Number 2, June 2013
pages 282-291
DOI: 10.1353/rah.2013.0048

Heidi Ardizzone, Assistant Professor of American Studies
St. Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri

Adele Logan Alexander, Parallel Worlds: The Remarkable Gibbs-Hunts and the Enduring (In)significance of Melanin. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010. 375 pages. Photographs, notes, bibliography, and index.

Fay Botham, Almighty God Created the Races: Christianity, Interracial Marriage, and American Law. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009. 288 pages. Notes, bibliography, and index.

Peggy Pascoe, What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. Photographs, maps, notes, bibliography, and index.

The development of the multidisciplinary field of Mixed Race Studies over the last few decades has focused new attention on patterns of cross-racial unions and the experiences of people of mixed ancestry in the U.S. and elsewhere. Historians bring to this endeavor a rich understanding of the long history of racial mixing, documenting the tremendous variety of contexts for consensual and nonconsensual interracial sex, the diversity of cultural attitudes and policies towards such relationships, and the resulting spectrums of identity and social standing available to the children, families, and communities that resulted from these unions. While pundits and intellectuals debate the significance of the emergence of multiracial families and identities in the U.S., historians can attest that there is little new here. As George Sánchez has put it from the vantage point of Latino and Latin American history, “Welcome to the Americas!”€  The American past is full of examples of cross-cultural unions, people and communities of mixed ancestry, and marked shifts in racial and ethnic categories in response to demographic, economic, and political changes. So, too, new U.S. scholarship is providing rich contributions to ongoing debates of the meaning of race, racial identity, and racial mixing in the twentieth century and beyond.

The three scholars considered here span this latest surge in U.S. historical studies of racial mixing and mixedness. Adele Logan Alexander is a pioneer in the field. Parallel Worlds: The Remarkable Gibbs-Hunts and the Enduring (In) significance of Melanin joins her previous books in focusing on communities and families of mixed—€”primarily black and white—€”ancestry. In her latest offering, Alexander rescues to historical memory the fascinating political careers of Ida Gibbs (1862-1957) and William Henry Hunt (1863-1951), whose activist and diplomatic work, respectively, brought them into close, if sometimes ambivalent, connection with African American and Pan-African communities in the late nineteenth through the early twentieth century. Like Alexander’s earlier works, Parallel Worlds spans multiple methodologies, this time offering a rich entre into an international world of shifting racial identities and political loyalties. Faye Botham’s Almighty God Created the Races: Christianity, Interracial Marriage, and American Law, on the other hand, is her first academic book, reworking a religious studies dissertation. Botham identifies a large and significant gap in historians’€™ collective approach to interracial marriage and its accompanying concerns with racial identity and categorization; social constructions of gender, race, and sexuality; and civil rights. Her work models a new direction of inquiry into the role of religious ideology and influence on what Peggy Pascoe calls miscegenation law, particularly the distinctive Catholic doctrine on marriage as a sacrament. In turn, Pascoe’€™s research for her recent publication spans this new age of historical scholarship. Begun in the early 1990s with a few pieces published as articles, the long-awaited and much celebrated What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America is a multilayered cultural, social, and legal history of post-Civil War legal prohibitions against interracial marriages and the enduring significance of the laws.

The books by Botham and Pascoe share an interest in legal and cultural sanctions against interracial marriage, but each author comes to the subject from vastly different training and experience. (Pascoe was a member of Botham’s dissertation committee, and that difference in academic maturity is evident in their works as well.) Botham’€™s analysis of the impact of American Catholic and Protestant theology on race and interracial marriage is strongest in her treatment of the Perez v. Lippold case (better known as Perez v. Sharp), which ultimately overturned California’s anti-intermarriage laws. Botham is especially interested in the longer history of Catholic influence on both Perez and the later Loving v. Virginia case, which respectively offer evidence of American Catholics’€™ support for and opposition to interracial marriage. The prominence of Catholics in bringing and opposing these legal challenges to laws against interracial marriage is most central to her analysis. But she returns to a focused treatment of the Perez case several…

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Almighty God Created the Races: Christianity, Interracial Marriage, and American Law (Davis review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Law, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2012-12-24 21:41Z by Steven

Almighty God Created the Races: Christianity, Interracial Marriage, and American Law (Davis review)

Journal of the History of Sexuality
Volume 22, Number 1, January 2013
pages 163-165
DOI: 10.1353/sex.2013.0012

Rebecca L. Davis, Associate Professor of History
University of Delaware

Campaigns to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples have inspired activists, journalists, scholars, and others to look to the history of interracial marriage for comparisons. Fay Botham’s new book appears as one consequence of these interests. Frustrated by the Roman Catholic hierarchy’s refusal to countenance marriage for same-sex partners in the early twenty-first century, Botham details the Roman Catholic Church’s relatively progressive attitude toward interracial marriage in the late nineteenth and the twentieth centuries. She notes as well the pernicious influence of southern Protestant beliefs about racial differences to the history of interracial marriage in the United States. Historians need works that probe these intersections among religion, race, sexuality, and American culture. Unfortunately, this book’s flaws limit its usefulness.

Almighty God Created the Races tries to answer two related but distinct questions: First, how did religious ideas and arguments shape antimiscegenation laws in the United States? Second, what role did American ideals of religious freedom play in the campaign to end restrictions on interracial marriage? Botham argues that religion was determinative in both cases. Southern Protestant ideas about racial separateness undergirded the defense of slavery and subsequent rationales for banning interracial sex and marriage. “The attorneys and judges who argued for antimiscegenation laws,” she contends, “employed Protestant theologies of marriage and separate races to bolster their legal arguments” (131). Given the overwhelming predominance of Protestants on the bench, that claim hardly seems surprising, but Botham’s contribution is to tease out how deeply certain Protestant theological interpretations penetrated American jurisprudence on marriage. Botham argues that, by contrast, Roman Catholic doctrines of racial equality and marital freedom proved crucial to a court case that laid the groundwork for the eventual dismantling of state bans on interracial marriage. These arguments give too much causative weight to theology at the expense of social, cultural, and political history, but they nevertheless result in some insights.

Botham begins with an intriguing premise: that we owe the ultimate dismantling of antimiscegenation laws in the United States to Roman Catholic theologies of marriage and race. In 1947 a county clerk in Los Angeles denied Sylvester Davis Jr. and Andrea Perez a marriage license because Davis was identified as African American and Perez, whose family was of Mexican ancestry, was considered white. Davis and Perez, who were Catholic, hired Daniel Marshall, a lawyer who was both Catholic and liberal, to take their case to the California Supreme Court. Marshall argued that California’s antimiscegenation law denied the religious freedoms of interracial Catholic couples who wanted to participate in what Catholic theology defined as the holy sacrament of marriage. Chief Justice Roger Traynor, who wrote the majority opinion in Perez v. Sharp (which Botham identifies by its less common name, Perez v. Lippold), largely ignored Marshall’s first amendment argument; Botham concedes that “religious freedom . . . did not even make a ‘blip’ on Traynor’s ‘radar screen’ in terms of having any real importance to the case” (42). Botham is intrigued, however, by a concurring opinion, in which one justice agreed with Marshall that the first amendment protected the rights of interracial Catholic couples to marry. Botham argues that because the concurring opinion tipped the court to a 4–3 majority, the case “pivot[ed] on the axis of religious liberty” (49).

More plausible is the argument that Peggy Pascoe made in What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America: that Marshall prevailed in Perez in spite of his religious liberty arguments. Marshall instead piqued the court’s interest when he pointed out that most of the cases that the state of California cited as precedence for its antimiscegenation law were steeped in the increasingly discredited logic of race science. As Botham notes, Marshall pressed this point with comparisons to the race science employed in Nazi Germany; the lawyer for the state strained to explain why interracial marriages produced offspring…

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Almighty God Created the Races: Christianity, Interracial Marriage, & American Law (Anderson review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Religion, United States on 2011-01-18 05:36Z by Steven

Almighty God Created the Races: Christianity, Interracial Marriage, & American Law (Anderson review)

The Catholic Historical Review
Volume 97, Number 1 (January 2011)
pages 179-180
E-ISSN: 1534-0708, Print ISSN: 0008-8080

R. Bentley Anderson, S. J. Associate Professor of African and African-American Studies
Fordham University

In Almighty God Created the Races: Christianity, Interracial Marriage, & American Law, Fay Botham, adjunct professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Iowa, focuses on a rarely examined issue in American race matters: the intersection of religion, law, and interracial marriage. To what extent did Protestant or Catholic understanding of marriage influence secular law regarding this institution? In particular, how did the Catholic understanding of marriage as a sacrament and the Protestant notion that marriage was sacred but a state matter influence judicial decision making? Furthermore, what are the proper roles of the church and state in establishing marriage laws in this country?

Divided into six chapters, Almighty God begins with an examination of the 1948 California-based case Perez v. Lippold, which outlawed religious discrimination in marriage. The deciding vote in the state of California’s Supreme Court decision was cast by a Christian Science jurist who agreed with the…

Read or purchase the review here.

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Almighty God Created the Races: Christianity, Interracial Marriage, and American Law

Posted in Books, History, Law, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, Religion, Social Science, United States on 2009-12-04 17:14Z by Steven

Almighty God Created the Races: Christianity, Interracial Marriage, and American Law

University of North Carolina Press
December 2009
288 pages
6.125 x 9.25, notes, bibl., index
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8078-3318-6
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4696-0727-6

Fay Botham, Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies
University of Iowa

In this fascinating cultural history of interracial marriage and its legal regulation in the United States, Fay Botham argues that religion–specifically, Protestant and Catholic beliefs about marriage and race–had a significant effect on legal decisions concerning miscegenation and marriage in the century following the Civil War.

Botham argues that divergent Catholic and Protestant theologies of marriage and race, reinforced by regional differences between the West and the South, shaped the two pivotal cases that frame this volume, the 1948 California Supreme Court case of Perez v. Lippold (which successfully challenged California’s antimiscegenation statutes on the grounds of religious freedom) and the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia (which declared legal bans on interracial marriage unconstitutional). Botham contends that the white southern Protestant notion that God “dispersed” the races, as opposed to the American Catholic emphasis on human unity and common origins, points to ways that religion influenced the course of litigation and illuminates the religious bases for Christian racist and antiracist movements.

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