Let our settlements and theirs meet and blend together, to intermix, and become one people…

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes, History on 2013-03-20 03:58Z by Steven

In the third year of his presidency, Thomas Jefferson pleaded “to let our settlements and theirs [Indians] meet and blend together, to intermix, and become one people.” Six years later, just before returning to Monticello, Jefferson promised a group of western Indian chiefs, “you will unite yourselves with us,… and we shall all be Americans; you will mix with us by marriage, your blood will run in our veins, and will spread with us over this great island.”5

Gary B. Nash, “The Hidden History of Mestizo America,” The Journal of American History, Volume 82, Number 3 (December, 1995): 941-964.

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We Need to Learn More About Our Colorful Past

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, United States on 2013-01-16 22:36Z by Steven

We Need to Learn More About Our Colorful Past

The New York Times

Maurice A. Barboza, Founder
Black Patriots Foundation

Gary B. Nash, Professor Emeritus of History
University of California, Los Angeles

Back in 1925, American society tended not to advise young white males about the consequences of intimacy with the black maid. Even if the 22-year-old Strom Thurmond considered himself a father, the standards of the time did not require him to give the daughter born of that intimacy any love, support or acceptance. He did, however, irretrievably give her his bloodline.

Essie Mae Washington-Williams, the offspring of Mr. Thurmond and his family’s black maid, 16-year-old Carrie Butler, recently announced that she intended to join the Daughters of the American Revolution based on her Thurmond bloodline. Reared apart from her father, Ms. Washington-Williams did not have the same privileges as Mr. Thurmond’s white children during his life, yet she is seeking the right to some of the privileges of her lineage.

She is not the first to do so. Ms. Washington-Williams said she was motivated by the battle of Lena Santos Ferguson to join a Washington chapter of the organization and by Ms. Ferguson’s quest to honor black soldiers. Ms. Ferguson’s grandmother, a black Virginia woman, had married a white man from Maine whose ancestor, Jonah Gay, was a patriot. In the 1980’s, Ms. Ferguson fought a four-year legal battle for full membership and to enter her local chapter. It wasn’t until the organization was faced with the potential loss of its tax-exempt status in Washington that she was permitted to join.

Perhaps more significantly, Ms. Ferguson demanded, and received, a settlement agreement that bars discrimination and requires the D.A.R. to identify every African-American soldier who served in the Revolutionary War. It was important to Ms. Ferguson that black women know of their ancestors’ contribution to the founding of this nation and that they embrace it…

…The settlement required the D.A.R. to do historical and genealogical research to find the names of black soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War. Yet, while doing this research, the D.A.R. has failed to use census records and other historical documents that could help identify the races of soldiers. It has also used a narrow classification system for race, one that increases the potential for underreporting: the D.A.R. includes only men described in historical records as “black,” “Negro” or “mulatto,” on their lists of black soldiers. However, whites of the period used a far greater range of colors to describe African-Americans. They meticulously recorded color distinctions among slaves: labels like “brown,” “yellow,” and “copper” (among others) were used consistently in advertisements for the return of runaways. Excluding those “colored” patriots puts them off-limits to prospective black D.A.R. members who might otherwise make the connection.

Yielding to pressure, in 2001, the D.A.R. published “African-American and American Indian Patriots of the Revolutionary War.” The number of names grew to 2400 names from 1,656, including an additional 744 previously assumed to be “white.” But there are still many more African-American soldiers to be identified, and while it acknowledges a handful of “brown” soldiers as black, as well as many “yellow” ones, the D.A.R. still holds to a narrow definition of an African-American.

This may give a clue to the D.A.R.’s resistance: when confronted with 64 “brown” soldiers who could have sired members, the organization conceded that as many as 57 may be listed in its index of proven Revolutionary war soldiers (patriots whose descendants became D.A.R. members). Yet, for generations, descendants of “brown” patriots married “light” or “white” mates, thus increasing the chances that white society, including organizations like the D.A.R., would be a safe harbor for their offspring. When the lists are complete, many people whose families assimilated into white society and cloaked their African heritage may learn, for the first time, of their complicated ancestry

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The Hidden History of Mestizo America

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United Kingdom, United States on 2011-06-08 16:12Z by Steven

The Hidden History of Mestizo America

The Journal of American History
Volume 82, Number 3 (December, 1995)
pages 941-964
5 illustrations

Gary B. Nash, Professor Emeritus of History
University of California, Los Angeles

This essay was delivered as the presidential address at the national meeting of the Organization of American Historians in Washington, March 31, 1995.

La Nature aime les croisements (Nature loves cross-breedings).
Ralph Waldo Emerson

On a dank January evening in London in 1617, the audience was distracted from a performance of Ben Johnson’s The Vision of Delight by the persons sitting next to King James I and Queen Anne: a dashing adventurer who had just returned from the outer edge of the fledgling English empire and his new wife, ten years his junior. The king’s guests were John Rolfe and his wife Rebecca—a name newly invented to anglicize the daughter of another king who ruled over a domain as big and populous as a north English county. She was Pocahontas, the daughter of Powhatan. The first recorded interracial marriage in American history had taken place because Rebecca’s father and the English leaders in the colony of Virginia were eager to bring about a detente after a decade of abrasive and sometimes bloody European-Algonkian contact on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay.

The Rolfe-Pocahontas marriage might have become the embryo of a mestizo United States. I use the term mestizo in the original sense—referring to racial intermixture of all kinds. In the early seventeenth century, negative ideas about miscegenation had hardly formed; indeed, the word itself did not appear for another two and a half centuries. King James was not worried about interracial marriage. He fretted only about whether a commoner such as Rolfe was entitled to wed the daughter of a king. Nearly a century later, Robert Beverley’s History and Present State of Virginia (1705) described Indian women as “generally beautiful, possessing uncommon delicacy of shape and features,” and he regretted that Rolfe’s intermarriage was not followed by many more.

William Byrd, writing at the same time, was still commending what he called the “modern policy” of racial intermarriage employed in French Canada and Louisiana by which alliances rather than warfare were effected. Byrd confessed his preference for light-skinned women (a woman’s skin color, however, rarely curbed his sexual appetite), but he was sure that English “false delicacy” blocked a “prudent alliance” that might have saved Virginians much tragedy. Most colonies saw no reason to ban intermarriage with Native Americans (North Carolina was the exception).

In 1784, Patrick Henry nearly pushed through the Virginia legislature a law offering bounties for white-Indian marriages and free public education for interracial children. In the third year of his presidency, Thomas Jefferson pleaded “to let our settlements and theirs [Indians] meet and blend together, to intermix, and become one people.” Six years later, just before returning to Monticello, Jefferson promised a group of western Indian chiefs, “you will unite yourselves with us,… and we shall all be Americans; you will mix with us by marriage, your blood will run in our veins, and will spread with us over this great island.”

In 1809, almost two hundred years after Pocahontas sat in the theater with James I, the sixteen-year-old Sam Houston, taking a page from the book of Benjamin Franklin, ran away from his autocratic older brothers. The teenage Franklin fled south from Boston to Philadelphia, but Houston made his way west from Virginia to Hiwassee Island in western Tennessee. There he took up life among the Cherokees and was soon adopted by Ooleteka, who would become the Cherokee chief in 1820. Reappearing in white society in 1818, Houston launched a tumultuous, alcohol-laced, violent, and roller-coaster political career, but he retained his yen for the Cherokee life. After his disastrous first marriage at age thirty-six, he rejoined the Cherokee, became the ambassador of the Cherokee nation to Washington (in which office he wore Indian regalia) in 1829, and married Ooleteka’s niece, the widowed, mixed-blood Cherokee woman Tiana Rogers Gentry.

…This brings us to a consideration of the virulent racial ideology that arose among the dominant Euro-Americans and that profoundly affected people of color. How most Americans came to believe that character and culture are literally carried in the blood, and how the idea of racial mixture was almost banished officially, has its own history. How would it come to happen, as Barbara Fields has expressed it, that a white woman can give birth to a Black child but a Black woman can never give birth to a white child? How would it come to be that the children of Indian-white marriages would contemptuously be referred to by whites as half- breeds?

The sequence of legal definitions of Blacks in Virginia demonstrates this progression. In 1785, the revolutionary generation defined a Black person as anyone with a Black parent or grandparent, thus conferring whiteness on whomever was less than one-quarter Black. Virginia changed the law 125 years later to define as “Negro,” as the term then was used, anyone who was at least one-sixteenth Black. In 1930, Virginia adopted the notorious “one-drop” law—defining as Black anyone with one drop of African blood, however that might have been determined…

There is nothing new about crossing racial boundaries; what is new is the frequency of border crossings and boundary hoppings and the refusal to bow to the thorn-filled American concept, perhaps unknown outside the United States, that each person has a race but only one. Racial blending is undermining the master idea that race is an irreducible marker among diverse peoples—an idea in any case that always has been socially constructed and has no scientific validity. (In this century, revivals of purportedly scientifically provable racial categories have surfaced every generation or so. Ideas die hard, especially when they are socially and politically useful.) Twenty-five years ago, it would have been unthinkable for Time-Life to publish a computer-created chart of racial synthesizing; seventy-five years ago, an issue on “The New Face of America” might have put Time out of business for promoting racial impurity…

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Amalgamation Schemes: Antiblackness and the Critique of Multiracialism [Review: Spickard]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2011-05-10 03:04Z by Steven

Amalgamation Schemes: Antiblackness and the Critique of Multiracialism [Review: Spickard]

American Studies
Volume 50, No. 1/2: Spring/Summer 2009
pages 125-127

Paul Spickard, Professor of History
University of California, Santa Barbara

Amalgamation Schemes: Antiblackness and the Critique of Multiracialism. Jared Sexton. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 2008.

One of the major developments in ethnic studies over the past two decades has been the idea (and sometimes the advocacy) of multiraciality. From a theoretical perspective, this has stemmed from a post-structuralist attempt to deconstruct the categories created by the European Enlightenment and its colonial enterprise around the world. From a personal perspective, it has been driven by the life experiences in the last half-century of a growing number of people who have and acknowledge mixed parentage. The leading figures in this scholarly movement are probably Maria Root and G. Reginald Daniel, but the writers are many and include figures as eminent as Gary Nash and Randall Kennedy.

A small but dedicated group of writers has resisted this trend: chiefly Rainier Spencer, Jon Michael Spencer, and Lewis Gordon. They have raised no controversy, perhaps because their books are not well written, and perhaps because their arguments do not make a great deal of sense. It is not that there is nothing wrong with the literature and the people movement surrounding multiraciality. Some writers and social activists do tend to wax rhapsodic about the glories of intermarriage and multiracial identity as social panacea. A couple of not-very-thoughtful activists (Charles Byrd and Susan Graham) have been co-opted by the Gingrichian right (to be fair, one must point out that most multiracialists are on the left). And, most importantly, there is a tension between some Black intellectuals and the multiracial idea over the lingering fear that, for some people, adopting a multiracial identity is a dodge to avoid being Black. If so, that might tend to sap the strength of a monoracially-defined movement for Black community empowerment.

With Amalgamation Schemes, Jared Sexton is trying to stir up some controversy. He presents a facile, sophisticated, and theoretically informed intelligence, and he picks a fight from the start. His title suggests that the study of multiraciality is some kind of plot, or at the very least an illegitimate enterprise. His tone is angry and accusatory on every page. It is difficult to get to the grounds of his argument, because the cloud of invective is so thick, and because his writing is abstract, referential, and at key points vague…

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Asian Indian Men and Hispanic Women in California

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2010-02-07 21:59Z by Steven

…Between 1913 and 1948–the latter date the abrogation of California’s law prohibiting racial intermarriage–80 percent of the Asian Indian men in California married Hispanic women.  To this day, several thousand of the children and grandchildren of these Punjabi-Hispanic marriages, which involved vows between Muslims and Catholics or Hindus and Catholics, can be found in Imperial Valley and San Joaquin Valley towns.  Many of the families can still be found under the name of Singh–the most common Sikh surname–but most have Hispanic first names, representing the mixed cultural heritage that emerged.  Hindu temples and Muslim mosques can be found all over the San Joaquin and Imperial valleys…

Nash, Gary B. “The Hidden History of Mestizo America”, In Sex, Love, Race: Crossing Boundaries in North American History, edited by Martha Hodes, 113, 115-116.  New York, New York: New York University Press, 1999.

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Images of Latin American mestizaje and the politics of comparison

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2010-01-20 22:03Z by Steven

Images of Latin American mestizaje and the politics of comparison

Bulletin of Latin American Research
Volume 23, Number 3 (2004)
pp. 355–366
DOI: 10.1111/j.0261-3050.2004.00113.x

Peter Wade, Professor of Social Anthropology
University of Manchester

In a presidential address to the Organization of American Historians, Gary Nash (1995) reveals ‘the hidden history of mestizo America’ (by which he in fact means North America). The emergence of what might have been ‘a mixed-race American republic’ was blocked by ‘prejudice and violence’ (1995: 945), but in particular situations, racial and cultural mixture existed, was recognised and even valued. Nash bemoans ‘today’s multicultural wars’ in which multiculturalism is often construed simply as ‘multiracialism’ leading towards ‘a definitional absolutism that has unwittingly defeated egalitarian and humanitarian goals by smothering inequalities of class and fuelling interethnic and interracial tensions that give more powerful groups opportunities to manipulate these divisions’ (1995: 961). He concludes that what is needed is a ‘pan-ethnic, pan-racial, antiracist sensibility’; he thinks that ‘only through hybridity—not only in physical race crossing but in our minds as a shared pride in and identity with hybridity—can our nation break the ‘‘stranglehold that racialist hermeneutics has over cultural identity’’’ (1995: 962, citing Klor de Alva).

Nash uses Latin America as an explicit counterpoint in his argument, stating that in Spanish America there were ‘no prohibitions against interracial contact and interracial marriage’ (1995: 951)—which is in fact quite wrong (Martinez-Alier, 1974; Morner, 1967). Still, he cautions it would be ‘foolish to overromanticize this mixing of blood’ (1995: 952) and recognises the existence of racism in the casta paintings of eighteenth century Mexico that depicted mixed-race types. Yet he also sees mestizaje (he uses the Spanish word for racial and cultural mixture) as the enemy of ‘racial absolutism’ (1995: 961) and states that ‘racial blending is undermining the master idea that race is an irreducible marker among diverse peoples’ (1995: 960).

Others have also recently invoked Latin American mestizaje (or mesticagem in Portuguese) as an antidote to US-style logics of racial categorisation. Some of this comes from the literature (much of it US-based) on mixed-race people, which shares with Nash a desire to reassess and relocate mixture in US society (Root, 1992, 1996; Spickard, 1989, 2001; Zack, 1995). Fernandez, for example, while acknowledging that racism exists in some form in Mexico and Brazil, nevertheless contends that ‘customary forms of discrimination based on actual ancestry have been rendered impotent’ by centuries of mixture (Fernandez, 1992: 132). As a result, Mexicans in the USA may be able to disrupt and even ‘neutralize’ the US racial system by affirming their own mixed racial identities. Indeed, ‘mestizaje. . .as a social norm. . .can free us all from the limits of ethnocentrism’ (Fernandez, 1992: 139, 140). Alcoff does not go so far as to claim that mestizo identity might neutralise racial categories, but she does invoke Latin American history and experience as an example of the development of identities not based on concepts of purity (Alcoff, 1995). Anzaldua’s well-known work is also part of this trend, with an even more explicit valorisation of mestizaje as a positive force for the future in terms reminiscent of José Vasconcelos’s invocation of the raza cosmica (Anzaldu´a, 1987; Vasconcelos, 1997 [1925]).

Latin America has often served as a counterpoint in comparative ponderings about race, especially in the Americas. The hoary notion of a Latin American ‘racial democracy’ has been subject to devastating critique, yet we see that Latin American mestizaje is still, amazingly, being held up by some as an example from which the rest of the world (particularly the USA) could learn. This trend is linked to a broader postcolonialist interest in processes of mixture and hybridity, which casts Latin American processes of mestizaje in a positive light. It should be clear that over-optimistic assessments of hybridity need to learn from the Latin American experience, and overoptimistic assessments of Latin American mestizaje need reminding of some home truths about racism in Latin America.

More fundamentally, I argue that there is an essential element to ideas about mixture which means that it can never simply be put in a relation of opposition to racial absolutes, or portrayed as necessarily destabilising them. Mestizaje, while it appears to erase origins and primordial categories of race and culture, actually continually reconstructs them. It depends on the idea of original or parent races and cultures to constitute the very possibility of mixture. All identities are constituted relationally and depend on others to exist, and mestizo identities are no exception.  They may be deployed to different effects in different contexts, but to exist at all, they must invoke origins. The reconstitution of racial origins is an inherent part of mestizaje. Blackness, whiteness and indigenousness are constantly being recreated as, in a real sense, racial absolutes with primordial origins. Mixture can not be simply set against original and essential identities. Instead, it recreates them and redeploys them and, in doing so, re-establishes the basis for racism. The recreation of blackness does not automatically mean that anti-black racism will be directed against that category, but the former is a necessary condition for the latter, if not a sufficient one.  In short, to see mixture and hybridisation as inherently opposed to racial absolutism and essentialism is quite wrong…

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