How the Use by Eugenicists of Family Trees and Other Genealogical Technologies Informed and Reflected Discourses on Race and Race Crossing during the Era of Moral Condemnation: Mixed-Race in 1920s and 1930s Britain

Posted in Articles, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Social Science, Social Work, United Kingdom on 2018-07-06 04:00Z by Steven

How the Use by Eugenicists of Family Trees and Other Genealogical Technologies Informed and Reflected Discourses on Race and Race Crossing during the Era of Moral Condemnation: Mixed-Race in 1920s and 1930s Britain

Volume 2, Issue 3 (September 2018)
Special Issue “Genealogy and Multiracial Family Histories
15 pages
DOI: 10.3390/genealogy2030021

Peter J. Aspinall, Emeritus Reader
Centre for Health Services Studies, University of Kent, Canterbury

In the 1920s and 30s, significant empirical studies were undertaken on mixed-race (‘hybrid’) populations in Britain’s seaport communities. The physical anthropologists Rachel Fleming and Kenneth Little drew on the methods of anthropometry, while social scientist Muriel Fletcher’s morally condemnatory tract belongs to the genre of racial hygiene. Whether through professional relationships, the conduct of their work, or means of disseminating their findings, they all aligned themselves with the eugenics movement and all made use of pedigree charts or other genealogical tools for tracing ancestry and investigating the inheritance of traits. These variously depicted family members’ races, sometimes fractionated, biological events, and social circumstances which were not part of genealogy’s traditional family tree lexicon. These design features informed and reflected prevailing conceptualisations of race as genetic and biological difference, skin colour as a visible marker, and cultural characteristics as immutable and hereditable. It is clear, however, that Fleming and Little did not subscribe to contemporary views that population mixing produced adverse biological consequences. Indeed, Fleming actively defended such marriages, and both avoided simplistic, ill-informed judgements about human heredity. Following the devastating consequences of Nazi racial doctrines, anthropologists and biologists largely supported the 1951 UNESCO view that there was no evidence of disadvantageous effects produced by ‘race crossing’.


  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Genealogical Technologies
  • Case Studies of the Eugenic Use of Genealogical Technologies in Studies of Mixed-Race
  • Intersections between Eugenicists’ Use of Genealogical Technologies, Discourses on Race, and the Biological Consequences of ‘Race Crossing’
  • Conclusions
  • Funding
  • Conflicts of Interest
  • References

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Dropping Anchor, Setting Sail: Geographies of Race in Black Liverpool

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United Kingdom on 2013-02-21 19:47Z by Steven

Dropping Anchor, Setting Sail: Geographies of Race in Black Liverpool

Princeton University Press
312 pages
6 x 9
ISBN: 978-1-4008-2641-4

Jacqueline Nassy Brown, Associate Professor of Anthropology
Hunter College of the City University of New York

The port city of Liverpool, England, is home to one of the oldest Black communities in Britain. Its members proudly date their history back at least as far as the nineteenth century, with the global wanderings and eventual settlement of colonial African seamen. Jacqueline Nassy Brown analyzes how this worldly origin story supports an avowedly local Black politic and identity—a theme that becomes a window onto British politics of race, place, and nation, and Liverpool’s own contentious origin story as a gloriously cosmopolitan port of world-historical import that was nonetheless central to British slave trading and imperialism.

This ethnography also examines the rise and consequent dilemmas of Black identity. It captures the contradictions of diaspora in postcolonial Liverpool, where African and Afro-Caribbean heritages and transnational linkages with Black America both contribute to and compete with the local as a basis for authentic racial identity. Crisscrossing historical periods, rhetorical modes, and academic genres, the book focuses singularly on “place,” enabling its most radical move: its analysis of Black racial politics as enactments of English cultural premises. The insistent focus on English culture implies a further twist. Just as Blacks are racialized through appeals to their assumed Afro-Caribbean and African cultures, so too has Liverpool–an Irish, working-class city whose expansive port faces the world beyond Britain–long been beyond the pale of dominant notions of authentic Englishness. Dropping Anchor, Setting Sail studies “race” through clashing constructions of “Liverpool.”

Read the entire first chapter for free here in HTML or PDF format.  Excerpts are below.

“TO UNDERSTAND Black people, you’ve got to understand Liverpool.” So argued my friend Scott, a sixty-year-old Black man born and raised in that city…

…In the midst of describing the center’s aims he stopped short, interrupting himself to say, “To understand Black people, you’ve got to understand Liverpool.” He explained that Stanley House was established by charitable White people.  But their charter referred to the children of African seamen and the White women to whom they were often married as “half-castes,” a much despised term now…

Variations of that question were being posed in seaports all over Britain and in the overlapping arenas of social work, philanthropy, and academia, which would, in the mid to late nineteenth century, include physical anthropology and ethnology.  In contrast to eighteenth-century British ideas about human variation, which considered religion and clothing as key indices of civilization and posited climate as an explanation of different human potentials, the 1840s saw the emergence of a more biological argument (Wheeler 2000; Hamer 1996).  Physical types, which were correlated with areas of geographic origin, became the basis of racial distinctions and served to explain differential human capacities. Classificatory schema abounded. In this respect, Brontë’s mysterious, somewhat monstrous representation of the racially ambiguous Heathcliff is intriguing; it accords with the fearful image of the half-caste conjured up in Gothic literature and other discursive contexts.  As H. L. Malchow provocatively explains, “[O]ne may define [the Gothic] genre by characteristics that resonate strongly with racial prejudice, imperial exploration and sensational anthropology—themes and images that are meant to shock and terrify, that emphasize chaos and excess, sexual taboo and barbarism, and a style grounded in techniques of suspense and threat” (1996: 102).  Just as the unpredictable and brooding Heathcliff posed an ever-present danger, so too were the “hundreds of half-caste children” in 1920s Cardiff said to have “vicious tendencies.” These children also confused the categories of science, exhibiting, according to the press, a “disharmony of physical traits and mental characteristics” (Rich 1986: 131). In an era when science had attained unprecedented legitimacy (Lorimer 1996), the racially ambiguous or mixed person was a threat to the social order. Again, Malchow writes, “The terms ‘half-breed’ and ‘half-caste’ are double, hyphenated constructions resonating with other linguistic inadequacies and incompletes—with ‘half-wit’ or ‘half-dead’, with ‘half-naked’ or ‘half-truth’, and of course with ‘half-civilized’” (1996: 104). The person of mixed race was a pathology to be studied from both literary and “scientific” points of view. Their sexuality was of particular concern. It was one thing to be born of immoral unions in immoral circumstances; but as freaks of nature themselves, what moral predilections would they reproduce? Could they reproduce? (Malchow 1996; Young 1995)…

…Into a milieu defined, at the very least, by the above-described dynamics of colonialism, race, nationality, place, sexuality, class, and gender entered one Muriel Fletcher, infamous in present-day Liverpool for a study she conducted in 1928 under the auspices of the Liverpool Association for the Welfare of Half- Caste Children. Fletcher was trained in social research at the Liverpool University School of Social Science, where her circle included eugenicist anthropologists (Rich 1986).  The subjects of Fletcher’s research were White women who were formerly involved with African men and their “half-caste” children. She published her conclusions in Report on an Investigation into the Colour Problem in Liverpool and Other Ports. Ultimately, the Fletcher Report, as it is commonly called, concludes that “the colour problem” in that city owed not to the racist structuring of British society, the ideologies promulgated by the British state and its institutions, nor those circulating within Liverpool’s social welfare establishment, nor to the everyday racism of White Liverpudlians who routinely subjected colored seamen to violence. Rather, Fletcher attributed the colour problem in Liverpool to African seamen. It would be hard to state emphatically enough how thoroughly racial politics in Liverpool/Britain reflect the legacy of the Fletcher Report….

…The African man creates the White woman’s problems, while they both create the myriad crises said to befall their “half-caste” children. Fletcher uses the term half-caste in various ways. At times she distinguishes between “Anglo-Negroid” and “Anglo-Chinese” children; yet both of these groups belong to the half-caste category. Fletcher remarks at the outset, however, that “Anglo-Chinese” children are quite well-adjusted.  Since they pose no problem, we need not hear anything more about them.  As well, in the early pages, Fletcher uses the term Anglo-Negroid for children of African men and White women.  In detailing the minute phenotypical features of “half-caste” children, the Fletcher Report marks some of them “English,” as in “30 per cent. had English eyes… A little over 50 per cent. had hair negroid in type and colour. 25 per cent. had English, while the remaining 25 per cent. exhibited some curious mixtures… About 12 per cent. had lips like the average English child” (27).   She refers to these children’s social characteristics in similar terms. While she does not suggest that biological inheritance is at work, the children nevertheless manifest a troubling duality, exhibiting the worst trait of each parent.  Here speaking about “half-caste” girls, Fletcher argues, “From her mother the half-caste girl is liable to inherit a certain slackness, and from her father a happy-go-lucky attitude towards life” (34). The problems of half-caste children are not of their own making, then. They are victims. They attend earnestly to their schoolwork and seem amiable enough. But the immorality that characterizes their home life, given the low character of both parents, cannot help but be reproduced in these hapless children….

Read the entire first chapter for free here in HTML or PDF format.

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A Color Problem in England

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Social Science, Social Work, United Kingdom on 2012-06-07 01:05Z by Steven

A Color Problem in England

The Journal of the American Medical Association
Volume 95, Number 3 (1930-07-19)
Foreign Letters: London Letter
pages 210-211
DOI: 10.1001/jama.1930.02720030040020

From Our Regular Correspondent (1930-06-21)

There is no color line in England such as exists in America. This does not mean that the English do not appreciate differences of race. They are keen on such differences, even between European races, and often contrast the Latin races with themselves. They are by no means without race prejudices but at the same time they have a strong tendency to take a man for what he is, regardless of race or of color. His color may arouse prejudice but this may be overcome when he is known. This absence of a color line has given rise to a color problem. The great seaport of Liverpool is frequented by seamen of many races, including Chinese and many Negroes from West Africa. The cohabitation of these races with the women of the city has given rise to a half-caste population. The number of Anglo-Negroid families is about 450 and the children born of this union amount to about 1,350. On the other hand, the Anglo-Chinese children do not provide any particular problem. The Anglo-Chinese child is declared to be mentally equal if not superior to the white, and since coloring and features are far less distinctive than those of the Anglo-Negroids they are not such a handicap. Further, the family life appears to be stable, the man remaining faithful to one woman though not married to her. The Anglo-Negroid family is far different. A Liverpool association for the welfare of half-caste children has been formed. The chairman, Prof. P. M. Roxby, says that the conditions under which colored seamen from West Africa enter Liverpool are a social menace and detrimental to the best interests of blacks and whites alike.

Miss Muriel E. Fletcher has for nearly two years been occupied with an inquiry for the association into the condition of half-caste children in Liverpool, where they are more numerous than in any other port. Of the Anglo-Negroid unions she says there is little harmony between the parents; the colored man generally despises the woman with whom he consorts, while the majority of the women have little affection for the men. They regret their union but stay for the sake of the children. The mothers are generally good to the children while they are small but later resent the fact that the children cannot get work and grudge having to keep them. The children find their lives full of conflict, and all the circumstances give undue prominence to sex. These families have a low standard of life morally and economically, and there appears to be little future for the children. They attend school in the poor districts and do not show any inferiority of health or proneness to infections compared with white children. The balance of evidence is that their intelligence is below the average. Their relations with the white children are friendly but they begin to feel outcast when they leave school and this feeling develops rapidly. There is no evidence that they have any special delinquent tendencies, but all their circumstances give undue prominence to sex. Owing to their unemployment, fondness of dress and finery, and the persistence of men, it is practically impossible for them to remain chaste, even if they desire to do so. As employers are unwilling to engage colored labor, the association has tried training schemes for colored girls but with limited success. It is thought that a larger and more intensive scheme might have greater success. It has been suggested that the obvious solution of the difficulty is to replace colored firemen by white on all British ships coming to this country, but the shipowners say that white men could not work in the heat of the stokeholds on the West Coast of Africa. However, the National Union of Seamen denies this. Other suggestions are the signing on of men in Africa so that they would be obliged to take the round trip and receive no pay in this country, and greater discrimination in the issue of British passports.

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… the primary cause of the anxieties underlying the Coloured Alien Seamen Order moved far beyond employment issues in the shipping industry.

Posted in United Kingdom on 2012-02-27 01:13Z by Steven

While the British government was somewhat pressured by white seamen’s organisations to protect jobs for whites, the primary cause of the anxieties underlying the Coloured Alien Seamen Order moved far beyond employment issues in the shipping industry. As has been well-documented by several scholars, the effort to limit immigration of African seamen to Britain was fundamentally linked to growing unease with the social and sexual liaisons between white women and black seamen. According to Carina Ray (2009), the anxiety over interracial sexual relations was at the root of a massive repatriation campaign for black seamen in the interwar era. Jacqueline Nassy Brown’s work depicts the political backlash against black seamen within England at this time, having been identified as the root of the ‘colour problem’ and the degeneration of white women’s morality. To demonstrate the tone of the British public’s views on the subject of racial mixing, Brown cites the writings of Muriel Fletcher, a social scientist who conducted research on black seamen in Liverpool in 1928–30. As Fletcher wrote in the report of her findings:

In their own country they are not allowed to mix freely with white people or have relations with white women. Once having formed unions with white women in this country, they are perhaps loathe to leave England … In this country [the black seaman] is cut adrift from [tribal restrictions] before he has developed the restraint and control of Western Civilization. In Liverpool there is evidence to show that the negro tends to be promiscuous in his relations with white women. [Their] sexual demands impose a continual strain on white women.

Fletcher’s deepest fears, and indeed those of the British public at large, were linked to the ‘half-caste’ children born out of these unions and raised in an environment characterised by immorality. Far from being a marginal view, Fletcher’s findings have been identified as both constructive and representative of ‘systematic social and political disempowerment of Black people’ in Liverpool until the present (Christian 2008:238). According to Brown (2005:28), ‘It would be hard to state emphatically enough how thoroughly racial politics in Liverpool/Britain reflect the legacy of the Fletcher Report’. Indeed, studies from the 1980s and beyond confirmed the ongoing marginalisation and stigmatisation of the black and mixed-race community in Liverpool (Christian 2008:238).

Lynn Schler, “Becoming Nigerian: African Seamen, Decolonisation, and the Nationalisation of Consciousness,” Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism, Volume 11, Issue 1, (April 2011): 46.

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Black Liverpool, Black America, and the Gendering of Diasporic Space

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Media Archive, United Kingdom, United States on 2011-10-20 04:46Z by Steven

Black Liverpool, Black America, and the Gendering of Diasporic Space

Cultural Anthropology
Volume 13, Issue 3 (August 1998)
pages 291–325
DOI: 10.1525/can.1998.13.3.291

Jacqueline Nassy Brown, Associate Professor of Anthropology
Hunter College of the City University of New York

The terms black Liverpool and black America, no less than the African diaspora, refer to racialized geographies of the imagination. The mapping of racial signifiers onto geographical ones lends such terms the illusion of referring to physical rather than social locations. That there is no actual space that one could call “the African diaspora,” despite how commonly it is mapped onto particular locales, points attention to the ways that social spaces are constructed in tandem with processes of racial formation…

Inspired by Paul Gilroy’s first book, There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack: The Cultural Politics of Race and Nation (1987), I set out in 1991 to study the meanings and practices surrounding “race” andnation in Liverpool, England. Set in a city with one of the longest-settled black populations in the United Kingdom, my research investigated why and how black identity is constituted as the mutual opposite of English and British identities. Yet in pursuing these themes, I became increasingly amazed at how frequently my informants would make discursive forays into “black America.” Nested at key moments in their narratives were references to the formative influence that black America—in many forms—has had on racial identity and politics in their city. The experiences they narrated were varied, and the narratives themselves were rich, poignant, and deeply gendered. Black Liverpudlians told of their relations with the black American servicemen (or “GIs”) who were stationed outside their city for some 25 years following World War II. Men and women also spoke about the travels of their own African, Afro-Caribbean, and native black Liverpudlian fathers who were employed as seamen by Liverpool shipping companies. The global wanderings of the city’s black men often brought them to black Atlantic ports of call-many in the United States. Narratives of black Liverpudlians’ diasporic encounters also referred to the emigration of local women to the mythical place called “black America.” Finally, and crucially, men and women told of how and why they have accessed the many black American cultural productions that have, for decades, circulated around the social space of black Liverpool.

Setting Sail: The Birth of Liverpool’s Black Community

When black Liverpudlians narrate their history, three themes often emerge. The first concerns the participation of black men in the city’s shipping industry; the second concerns the birth of the black population-a process narrated with special reference to the prevalence of interracial  marriage in Liverpool; and the third concerns the transformation of their racial identity from “half-caste” to “black.” These related processes, to be examined briefly below, have given rise to the contemporary form of black Liverpudlians’ local and racial identities…

African seamen, as has been suggested, are heralded in Liverpool for essentially giving birth to the black community. Yet they are also noted for setting another phenomenon into motion: the institution of interracial marriage. The prevalence of interracial marriage is a crucial theme in narratives on local history. During their careers at sea, African men commonly docked in Liverpool’s port, formed romantic relationships with local women, mostly white, and later married them, had children, retired from seafaring, and settled in the city—so the dominant narrative goes, both in social scientific and local discourse. Diane Frost’s recent explanation is exemplary of the former. She writes,

Transient work patterns that derive from the nature of seafaring… led to short-term relationships with local women. Permanent and long-standing relationships with local women through marriage (formal or common-law) usually occurred when these seamen became permanently domiciled in Liverpool or in some cases this became a reason for gaining domicile. [1995-96:51]

Several black Liverpudlians told me of a much earlier study of this phenomenon. Published in 1930, it was written by an anthropologist named Muriel Fletcher and given the revealing title Report on an Investigation into the Colour Problem in Liverpool and Other Ports (Fletcher 1930). Mark Christian marks the publication of “the Fletcher Report” as the dawn of philanthropic racism in Liverpool because it expressed “concern” both for the “morally degenerate” white women who consorted with African seamen, and for their haplessly pathological “half-caste” children (1995-96). The sexualized interpretation of seafaring lends specificity to the racialization not only of interracial unions, but also of the children born of them.

Major and minor publications on blacks in Liverpool always condemn the Fletcher Report for essentially developing a non-category (“neither black nor white”) to speak of blacks of mixed racial parentage. Their struggles to overcome that inscription is an absolutely central theme in black Liverpudlian accounts of the way they became black. While some blacks of mixed parentage specifically cite black American influences on the rise of a black identity in Liverpool, the blacks I knew with two black parents tended to boast that “we were always ‘black’ in our family”—speaking somewhat disparagingly, perhaps, of those who took longer to claim that identity. Yet the narratives of black Liverpudlians of mixed parentage reveal the difficulty of that process, for these Liverpudlians indicated rather painfully that their African fathers, whom they said they looked to for racial identity, often perceived their children as racially different than themselves. Blacks of mixed parentage in Liverpool commonly reported that their African fathers referred to them as “half-caste.” While this is not the place to historicize the term, we must grant the obvious possibility that West African societies colonized by the British were heavily influenced by Victorian constructions of “race” that were characterized by a concern for “purity” (Lorimer 1978). African informants in Liverpool reported that they, too, grew up with the term, and never recognized it as derogatory. A relatively recent immigrant to England explained, “Growing up in Nigeria, it was acceptable to call people of mixed race ‘half-caste’ because to a lot of Nigerians it was not an abusive term. It was purely a biological description of somebody who comes from a mixed race.”…

Read the entire article here.

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The Fletcher Report 1930: A Historical Case Study of Contested Black Mixed Heritage Britishness

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Articles, History, Media Archive, Social Science, Social Work, United Kingdom on 2011-10-07 02:42Z by Steven

The Fletcher Report 1930: A Historical Case Study of Contested Black Mixed Heritage Britishness

Journal of Historical Sociology
Volume 21, Issue 2-3 (August 2008)
Pages 213 – 241
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-6443.2008.00336.x

Mark Christian, Professor & Chair of African & African American Studies
Lehman College, City University of New York

This article examines a controversial report that focused negatively on mixed heritage children born and raised in the city of Liverpool. The official title was: Report on an Investigation into the Colour Problem in Liverpool and Other Ports. The social researcher was Muriel E. Fletcher, who had been trained in the Liverpool School of Social Science at The University of Liverpool in the early 1920s.  The report was published in 1930 amid controversy for its openly stigmatizing content of children and mixed heritage families of African and European origin.  It could be deemed the official outset in defining Liverpool’s ‘half castes’ as a problem and blight to the “British way of life” in the city.

…Numerous ‘intellectual’ views held by white commentators, either consciously or unconsciously, or even a mixture of the two if we take the example of Ralph Williams, related to racialised discourse and they appear to have had a strong bearing on the complex nature of the anti-Black riots in 1919 Liverpool.  An outcome of this was to further stigmatise Black-white sexual relations in which the offspring of those liaisons were effectively branded as less-than human, degenerate, only to be despised and scorned by mainstream society.  Again, imbued in the rhetoric, was the notion of hybridity between Black-white unions being anomalous, which echoed the philosophy of the Eugenics Movement in Britain (Park 1930; Searle 1976: 43)….

…The aftermath of the anti-black riots in 1919 saw the problem of ‘half-caste’ children in Liverpool take on greater significance and the issue developed into a much discussed and analysed topic (King and King 1938; Rich 1984, 1986; Wilson 1992).  The debates engendered ‘intellectual’ legitimisation of racialised ideology that effectively produced a climate of opinion that sought to reduce the sexual interaction between Black and white people.  The corollary of this was to further stigmatise the mixed heritage population as a social problem that society had to be rid.  Some of the key racialised stereotypes associated with the term ‘half-caste’ will be made clearer through an examination of key Liverpool-based philanthropic organizations, which were set up to deal specifically with the ‘social problem’ caused by the progeny of Black and white relationships…

…Arguably, in relation to the Liverpool Black experience, the pivotal stigmatising report to be published in the history of poor ‘race relations’ in Liverpool was in regard to mixed heritage children and their family structure. Muriel E. Fletcher (1930), who had the full backing of Ms. Rachel Fleming, a prominent eugenicist (Jones 1982), and other contemporary pseudo-scientific intellectuals, conducted the research on behalf of the Liverpool Association for the Welfare of Half-Caste Children and published in 1930 a document entitled a Report on an Investigation into the Colour Problem in Liverpool and other Ports. It is a sociological report produced in the late 1920s and can be regarded as a nadir in the Liverpool mixed heritage population’s struggle to secure a positive social identity.  This ubiquitous racialised stigma was grounded in the eugenicist tradition of Sir Francis Galton (1822–1911) and the Eugenics Society. The society viewed humans in terms of being ‘inferior’ and ‘superior’ in stock (Jones 1982), and it is an overt philosophy throughout the report. Using eugenicist techniques, it is apparent that Fletcher attempted to study the physical and mental quality of ‘half-caste’ children.  Implicit in the research is the idea that the African and white British/European offspring were an anomaly in terms of human breeding. Eugenicists believed selective breeding could improve the physical and mental quality of humans by, e.g., ‘controlling’ the spread of inherited genetic abnormalities (which led in this era, 1920–1930s, to eugenics being abused by the Nazi Party in Germany to justify the extermination of thousands of ‘undesirable’ or mentally and physically ‘unfit’ humans)…

…Fletcher argued that ‘half-caste’ women were particularly vulnerable in Liverpool as they naturally consort with ‘coloured men’.  She maintains that ‘half-caste’ women were regarded as virtual social outcasts whose only escape from a life of perpetual misery was to marry a ‘coloured man’. As the opportunity in marrying a white man was, for a ‘half-caste’ woman, a near impossibility.  Again Fletcher points out:

Only two cases have been found in Liverpool of half-caste girls who have married white men, and in one of these cases the girl’s family forced the marriage on the man (1930a: 21).

It should be pointed out that this negative reflection of ‘half-caste’ girls in Liverpool is a major theme throughout the Fletcher Report.  Certainly the experience of mixed heritage women would require and deserves a study in itself, if only due to the significance and importance of highlighting the perspective of mixed heritage women in the history of Liverpool.  However, what is important here and central to this historical social research is to provide an insight into the racialised stigma that has impacted all individuals of mixed heritage in the Liverpool Black experience in terms of their collective social identity in the context of the city…

Read the entire article here.

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Love in black and white

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Social Science, United Kingdom on 2011-03-18 04:04Z by Steven

Love in black and white

Electronic Precinct
University of Liverpool
August 1998

Muriel Fletcher and Margaret Todd, (second and third from left, middle row) with students and staff of the School of Social Science 1926-27
Source: University of Liverpool

Two students who graduated from this University in 1927 play important roles in the film ‘Love in black and white’, which will be broadcast as part of the “Windrush” series. One graduate, Muriel Fletcher, wrote a report about mixed marriages in dockland Liverpool which laid the foundation for 50 years of stigmatisation. The other, Margaret Todd, later Simey, spent time in the Caribbean and, on her return to Liverpool, became a champion of the black community.

The programme was made by Liverpool producer/director Bea Freeman, who is herself a Liverpool graduate and one of the University’s first ‘Second Chance’ students.

‘Fifty years ago, the Fletcher report stigmatised white women who married black men. Now, white women who have been happily married to black men for half a century get their chance to tell their story. It is a story of the stigma and discrimination which they, their partners and their children suffered’, she said…

Read the entire article here.

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Whatever action may be taken to prevent such intermixture in the future, if it can be proved to be undesirable, it certainly seems a bad policy of citizenship to penalize half-castes for a fault of birth for which they are in no way responsible.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2010-12-10 03:01Z by Steven

For some time past the writer has been in close contact with girls of Anglo-Chinese and Anglo-Negro origin who are unable to find employment because social stigma refuses to allow them to mix in our society in the ordinary way. They are British citizens, and they are the weakest of our citizens, and as such need protection. Whatever action may be taken to prevent such intermixture in the future, if it can be proved to be undesirable, it certainly seems a bad policy of citizenship to penalize half-castes for a fault of birth for which they are in no way responsible. Liverpool, always to the fore in attempts towards civic betterment, has formed an “Association for the Welfare of Half-Caste Children” (Hon. Sec., Mr. G. E. Haynes, B.Sc., University Settlement, Nile Street, Liverpool), and a wholetime research worker [Muriel E. Fletcher] has been appointed. We hope that other seaport towns may soon follow this example of scientific research into a serious problem…

Rachel M. Fleming, “Human hybrids in various parts of the world,” The Eugenics Review, Volume 21, Number 4, (January 1930) 257–263.

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Fletcher Report, 1930 (The)

Posted in Definitions, History, Social Work, United Kingdom on 2009-09-16 18:24Z by Steven

The Report on an Investigation into the Colour Problem in Liverpool and Other Ports or simply, The Fletcher Report of 1930 was a report sponsored by the Liverpool [England] Association for the Welfare of Half-Caste Children in December, 1927.  The report, released on 1930-06-16, was written by Muriel E. Fletcher a 1920 graduate of the University of Liverpool’s School of Social Science.  She was at that time employed as a probation worker and given the task to investigate the socioeconomic plight of ‘half-castes’.  The social research played particular attention to the family structure of the [so-called] “half-caste” population in Liverpool1.

The Fletcher Report was written in response to the social tension created by the increased population of black (African) seamen who, via colonization—were deemed British citizens—and their “half-caste” (‘mixed-race’) children of their unions with white (English) women.  This tension culminated with the Liverpool anti-Black riots of 1919.   The report was based on a mere fraction the authors’ purported sample size and had little, if any, concern for the actual well-being of  ‘mixed-race’ children and their families. The report was imbued with the racist “hybrid degeneracy” pseudoscience of the day.  Besides the fact that the Fletcher Report stigmatized ‘mixed race’ individuals for decades, the report owns another ignominious spot in race relations in that it embedded the pejorative term “half-caste” into the British lexicon.

The report is available at the Library of the University of Liverpool (Reference Number: D7/5/5/5).  See:

1Mark Christian, “The Fletcher Report 1930: A Historical Case Study of Contested Black Mixed Heritage Britishness,” Journal of Historical Sociology, Volume 21 Issue 2-3, (2008):  213 – 241.

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