“The law recognizes racial instinct”: Tucker v. Blease and the Black–White Paradigm in the Jim Crow South

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2018-05-29 00:26Z by Steven

“The law recognizes racial instinct”: Tucker v. Blease and the Black–White Paradigm in the Jim Crow South

Law and History Review
Volume 29, Issue 2 (May 2011)
pages 471-495
DOI: 10.1017/S0738248011000058

John W. Wertheimer, Jessica Bradshaw, Allyson Cobb, Harper Addison, E. Dudley Colhoun, Samuel Diamant, Andrew Gilbert, Jeffrey Higgs, Nicholas Skipper

On January 24, 1913, the trustees of the Dalcho School, a segregated, all-white public school in Dillon County, South Carolina, summarily dismissed Dudley, Eugene, and Herbert Kirby, ages ten, twelve, and fourteen, respectively. According to testimony offered in a subsequent hearing, the boys had “always properly behaved,” were “good pupils,” and “never …exercise[d] any bad influence in school.” Moreover, the boys’ overwhelmingly white ancestry, in the words of the South Carolina Supreme Court, technically “entitled [them] to be classified as white,” according to state law. Nevertheless, because local whites believed that the Kirbys were “not of pure Caucasian blood,” and that therefore their removal was in the segregated school’s best interest, the court, in Tucker v. Blease (1914), upheld their expulsion.

Read or purchase the article here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Freedom By A Judgment”: The Legal History of an Afro-Indian Family

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2012-02-29 04:17Z by Steven

“Freedom By A Judgment”: The Legal History of an Afro-Indian Family

Law and History Review
Volume 30, Issue 1 (February 2012)
pages 173-203
DOI: 10.1017/S0738248011000642

Honor Sachs, Assistant Professor of History
Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, North Carolina

Forum: Ab Initio: Law in Early America

On May 2, 1771, John Hardaway of Dinwiddie County, Virginia posted a notice in the Virginia Gazette about a runaway slave. The notice was ordinary, blending in with the many advertisements for escaped slaves, servants, wives, and horses that filled the classified section of the Gazette in the eighteenth century. Like countless other advertisements posted in newspapers wherever slaves were held, Hardaway’s advertisement read: “Run away from the subscriber, a dark mulatto man slave named Bob Colemand, 25 years old, tall, slim, and well made, wears his own hair pretty long, his foretop combed very high, a blacksmith by trade, claimed his freedom under pretense of being of an Indian extraction.”

Read or purchase the article here.

Tags: , ,

Racial Constructions: The Legal Regulation of Miscegenation in Alabama, 1890–1934

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2009-12-08 03:52Z by Steven

Racial Constructions: The Legal Regulation of Miscegenation in Alabama, 1890–1934

Law and History Review
Volume 20, Number 2 (Summer 2002)
DOI: 10.2307/744035

Julie Novkov, Associate Professor of Political Science and Women’s Studies
State University of New York, Albany

For over one hundred years–from the post–Civil War era to the post–Civil Rights era–the state of Alabama maintained a legal and social commitment to keeping blacks and whites from engaging in long-term sexual relationships with each other. Recent studies addressing the laws that barred miscegenation have shown that investigating governmental reactions to intimate interracial connections reveals much about the interplay between legal and social definitions of race as well as about the development of whiteness as a proxy for superior social, political, and legal status. As scholarly interest in whiteness as an ideological category has grown, historians have sought the roots of modern conceptions of whiteness as an oppositional category to blackness in legal, social, and economic relations in the southern United States during the era of Jim Crow.

Prosecutions for miscegenation were an important component in the process of defining race and entrenching white supremacy.  Interracial sexual relationships challenged the boundaries between white and non-white in the most fundamental way by subverting the model of the white family and often by threatening to produce or producing mixed-race children. In most southern states, even before the rise of the so-called “Redeemer” governments and the establishment of Jim Crow, lawmakers in the new postbellum legislatures moved quickly to bar specifically marriages between blacks and whites. By doing so, they sent a signal that even if the national government were intent upon imposing civil and political equality, so-called social equality would not result from emancipation or constitutional reform. The struggle against miscegenation was at bottom a struggle to establish and maintain whiteness as a separate and impermeable racial category that all observers could easily identify. While individuals whose race could not easily be determined threatened this system, the greater threat was the establishment of the miscegenic family. A black man with a white wife, as well as a white man with a black wife, not only had the potential to produce racially ambiguous children but also undermined white supremacy, and thus whiteness itself, by openly melding black and white into the most fundamental unit of society, the family.

Thus, keeping black and white separate required preventing individuals from being able to challenge the boundary between them. In order to do so, however, understandings of what constituted blackness and whiteness had to be in place. Prior to the Civil War, these had rested largely in social context and interaction; whiteness was intimately connected to performance and its constitution depended upon an individual’s ability to do the things that whites characteristically did. While free blacks posed a problem for this schema, their existence did not challenge the fundamental nature of the system in place, which became increasingly stringent and rigid as sectional conflict increased. In the wake of the Civil War, both whiteness and blackness had to be renegotiated and reconstructed, since slavery was no longer a yardstick. Some legislators and legal actors turned to science both to define blackness and whiteness and to understand their significance for public policy. Defining “race” was always in the background of the prohibition against miscegenation, but during the period when genetic understandings of race were most popular, the question of defining blackness was central in Alabama.

Because of the wealth of data, studying Alabama’s regulation of miscegenation is particularly helpful in understanding the generation and shifting of ideological conceptions of race. Other Southern and Western states were also grappling with these questions, as evinced by appellate decisions regarding convictions for miscegenation, but Alabama’s appellate courts were particularly engaged with these questions. They produced thirty-eight opinions concerning miscegenation–more reported decisions on the appellate level than any other state–between the end of the Civil War and the U.S. Supreme Court’s invalidation of such statutes in 1967. The number of individuals charged with violating a statute and convicted of violations is a significant measure of the law’s importance. But reviewing appellate litigation reveals more about the questions that were settled and in flux at particular historical moments.  Charles Robinson speculates that Alabama had significantly more cases than any other state both because of its large black population from the postbellum era to the present and because Alabama’s prohibitionary law was more broadly framed than comparable laws in neighboring states; a legal climate in which appeals were sometimes successful probably also contributed to the frequency of litigation.  Because of the large number of appellate cases, more information is available about the development of legal and social questions regarding miscegenation in Alabama than anywhere else.

This article focuses on a subset of these cases, analyzing the development of racial definitions in the law through the interplay between changing scientific understandings of race and legal actors’ manipulations of these understandings. In the 1890s and early 1900s, appeals of convictions for miscegenation raised evidentiary questions that set the stage for a struggle over proving race in the courts that began in 1918 and continued into the 1930s. In the appellate cases, the focused contention over racial definitions partially resulted from and coincided with the growing presence of eugenic theories about race in public and legal discourse. The science of eugenics captured the popular imagination shortly after the turn of the century and provided a new framework for arguing in terms of scientific expertise that non-whites were inherently and irremediably inferior to whites. This shift toward eugenic explanations of race and racial definition paralleled and partially initiated a shift from evidentiary concerns in the courts to a direct confrontation with questions about racial definition. The new focus on genetic framings of race, however, had an ironic result: criminal defendants convicted of miscegenation were able, often successfully, to challenge their convictions on the ground that the state had not adequately proven that they were black. This temporarily undermined the state’s efforts to maintain whiteness as a separate and impenetrable category.

As background to this argument, the article first addresses the evolution of the prohibition of miscegenation and the scope of appellate litigation that it generated. It then explains the evidentiary battles of the turn of the century and outlines the rise of eugenic theories and their impact on the law. With this legal, social, and scientific context established, the article turns to the question of how defense attorneys were able to exploit genetic framings of racial definitions for their clients convicted of miscegenation…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , ,

“Of Portuguese Origin”: Litigating Identity and Citizenship among the “Little Races” in Nineteenth-Century America

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2009-11-01 23:48Z by Steven

“Of Portuguese Origin”: Litigating Identity and Citizenship among the “Little Races” in Nineteenth-Century America

Law and History Review
Volume 25, Number 3

Ariela J. Gross, John B. and Alice R. Sharp Professor of Law and History
University of Southern California

The history of race in the nineteenth-century United States is often told as a story of black and white in the South, and white and Indian in the West, with little attention to the intersection between black and Indian. This article explores the history of nineteenth-century America’s “little races”—racially ambiguous communities of African, Indian, and European origin up and down the eastern seaboard. These communities came under increasing pressure in the years leading up to the Civil War and in its aftermath to fall on one side or the other of a black-white color line. Drawing on trial records of cases litigating the racial identity of the Melungeons of Tennessee, the Croatans/Lumbee of North Carolina, and the Narragansett of Rhode Island, this article looks at the differing paths these three groups took in the face of Jim Crow: the Melungeons claiming whiteness; the Croatans/Lumbee asserting Indian identity and rejecting association with blacks; the Narragansett asserting Indian identity without rejecting their African origins. Members of these communities found that they could achieve full citizenship in the U.S. polity only to the extent that they abandoned their self-governance and distanced themselves from people of African descent.

Historians have only begun to tell the histories of “red and black” peoples in the United States, and much of their attention has focused on the “Black Indians” of the Five Civilized Tribes of the Southeastern United States. Yet up and down the eastern seaboard, there were clusters of people who shared African, European, and Indian ancestry, many of whom lived as distinct and separate communities into the nineteenth and even the mid-twentieth centuries, some retaining or struggling to retain Indian identities, others becoming known as “free people of color,” and still others claiming whiteness.

These “little races,” as they were sometimes known, in many ways gave the lie to the binary statutory regimes of nineteenth-century America. They came under growing pressure from local officials and neighbors as communities became increasingly preoccupied with racial line drawing. But they followed very different paths. By studying these racially ambiguous communities, it is possible to learn more about the relationship among whiteness, blackness, and citizenship in the United States…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The One-Drop Rule in Reverse? Interracial Marriages in Napoleonic and Restoration France

Posted in Articles, Europe, History, Law, New Media, Slavery on 2009-09-19 20:47Z by Steven

The One-Drop Rule in Reverse? Interracial Marriages in Napoleonic and Restoration France

Law and History Review
Volume 27, Number 3
Fall 2009
University of Illinois

Jennifer Heuer, Associate Professor
Department of History
University of Massachusetts at Amherst

In the early nineteenth century, an obscure rural policeman petitioned the French government with an unusual story.  Charles Fanaye had served with Napoleon’s armies in Egypt.  Chased by Mameluks, he was rescued in the nick of time by a black Ethiopian woman and hidden in her home.  Threatened in turn by the Mameluks, Marie-Hélène (as the woman came to be called) threw in her lot with the French army and followed Fanaye to France.  The couple then sought to wed.  They easily overcame religious barriers when Marie-Hélène was baptized in the Cathedral of Avignon.  But another obstacle was harder to overcome: an 1803 ministerial decree banned marriage between blacks and whites.  Though Fanaye and Marie-Héléne begged for an exception, the decree would plague them for the next sixteen years of their romance.

As we will see, Fanaye’s history was atypical in several regards.  But he was far from the only person to confront the ban on interracial marriage. The decree, which seemed to reinstate a 1778 edict, went hand in hand with the reestablishment of slavery after the French Revolution.  It was officially applied to metropolitan France, rather than the colonies, and was circulated throughout the continental Napoleonic Empire.  It would remain in effect even after Napoleon fell from power, quietly disappearing only in late 1818 and early 1819.

This quiet disappearance has persisted in the historical record: both the ban and its application have been almost completely forgotten.  The reasons for this oversight are both conceptual and practical.  While there is burgeoning interest in the history of slavery in the French empire, historians tend to focus on the drama of emancipation during the Revolution, rather than on the more painful return of slavery after 1802.  When scholars of European history think of miscegenation laws, we often turn immediately to colonial arenas, or look to the later nineteenth and twentieth century when social commentators were particularly obsessed with interracial sex; metropolitan France in the early nineteenth century seems an unlikely site for contestations over racial and family law.  More generally, the supposedly race-blind French model of citizenship, that of republican universalism, has often made it difficult to think about racial categories when discussing French history and politics.

There are also pragmatic reasons why the decree has been forgotten.  The black and mulatto population in metropolitan France was small in the period, at most 5000 people, and there are few records that address them as a group.  Many of the relevant documents are buried in a series at the French National Archives on dispensations for marriage.  While a few are grouped together thematically, many are organized alphabetically, within at least 160 cartons of records.  Others are in a series of administrative correspondence catalogued geographically.  A few are scattered in municipal and departmental archives, often under the rubric of local administration.  These are not categories that promise obvious connections to racial or colonial history…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , ,