Archive for the ‘The One-Drop Rule’ Category

A Book Review of Finding Octave by Nick Douglas

December 7th, 2013

Finding Octave by Nick Douglas is a courageous and painstaking book that blends genealogy, historical analysis, and personal introspection into an important work. It will be useful to genealogists, fascinating to history buffs and, with any luck, informative to the great majority of Americans, Black and otherwise, who were never taught the history of “race” in the United States,

Earliest Precursors of the One-Drop Rule (C15)

December 19th, 2011

Uncovers the earliest hints that Americans around the 1830?s Ohio River Valley were starting to adopt an ideological rather than a biological concept of “racial” classification. This session traces the first emergence of this myth. This is session C15 of a series of topics on the emergence and triumph of the one-drop rule in U.S. history, discussed in lectures on “The Study of Racialism.”

Book Review: More Than Black

August 9th, 2010

G. Reginald Daniel, More than Black?: Multiracial Identity and the New Racial Order (Philadelphia: Temple University, 2002). Endnotes. Index. Pp. xviii, 258. Cloth $69.50. Paper $22.95. — Book reviewed by Frank W. Sweet. This book review was originally published in Interracial Voice magazine in 2002.

Personal Observations on Bliss Broyard’s One Drop

October 28th, 2009

Let me say right off that we at Backintyme Publishing enjoyed the book and recommend it without reservation. But do not be fooled by the misleading marketing blurb (more about this later); One Drop is not a book about a White woman who suddenly discovers that she is “really” Black. It is not about Bliss Broyard’s father. It is not even about her search for her father’s roots among the Louisiana Creoles. The book introspects Ms. Broyard’s feelings about what she found while searching for those roots.

Introduction to the U.S. One-Drop Rule (C14)

September 12th, 2009

Introduces a series on the history of the one-drop rule: how, when, where, and why this odd myth was invented. Session C14 of a series of contemporary issues topics in The Study of Racialism.

The One-Drop Rule

November 28th, 2008

The one-drop rule is the U.S. tradition that someone of utterly European appearance who rejects an African-American self-identity is “really Black,” like it or not, due to having “one drop” of known African ancestry, no matter how ancient. The notion labels such people as merely “passing for White.” Recent examples are New York Times critic Anatole Broyard (a real person) and Anthony Hopkins’s character in the film “The Human Stain” (a fictional character). Such people are involuntarily classified as members of the U.S. Black endogamous group by press and public despite their European appearance and their freely chosen non-Black self-identity.

Redbone Heritage Foundation Conference – 2007

November 1st, 2007

The Redbones are a triracial ethnic community centered between the Sabine and Calcasiue rivers in western Louisiana. Like the terms “Melungeon,” “Brass Ankle,” and “Jackson White,” the name “Redbone” originated as an ethnic slur spoken by mainstream society, and the label is still considered an insult by many residents of the region. This report covers the third annual Redbones Heritage Foundation conference, held in Lake Charles, Louisiana, from October 18 through October 20, 2007. It is divided into three sections: continuity and change, interesting presentations, and memorable moments.

Timeline of U.S. B/W “Racial” Determination

July 1st, 2007

U.S. racialism is dichotomous. You are legally either White or Black with no in-between. But real people are culturally and biologically continuous. Millions of Americans have grandparents of both cultures, and millions more have DNA markers from both Europe and sub-Saharan Africa. How has the U.S. legal system resolved the contradiction in order to decide whether a person of dual heritage is White or Black?

Presenting the Triumph of the One-Drop Rule (C20)

April 1st, 2006

Oral presentation recaps the history of the one-drop rule and shows that it spread nationwide during the Jim Crow era because it kept compassionate White families in line, forcing them to stand idle while African Americans were subjected to 50 years of state-sponsored terrorism. Session C20 is the final lecture of a series of topics on the emergence and triumph of the one-drop rule in U.S. history discussed in lectures on “The Study of Racialism.”

Why Did One-Drop Become Nationwide Tradition?

January 1st, 2006

This essay addresses the question, “Why did one-drop triumph at this time and not before nor after?” It suggests a hypothesis in six topics. The One-Drop Rule Punished Entire Families, not Just Individuals shows that, although the court cases dealt with individuals, entire families were actually punished. The One-Drop Rule was Known to be Irrational presents evidence that one-drop trials were not searches for either factual accuracy or for moral justice. The One-Drop Rule was Wielded Against Whites, not Against Blacks shows that the victims were White. To be sure, some victims may actually have had recent African ancestry, as do one-third of White Americans. But if this made them Black, then it means that one-third of all White Americans were also Black and the question remains—why pick these out? Why Did it Happen surveys the literature for the causes of the Jim Crow wave of terror itself. The One-Drop Rule Kept White Families in Line presents this study’s hypothesis that one-drop was an instance of a well-studied phenomenon of group dynamics involving ideological self-preservation. Other Voices offers an alternative explanation.

Why Did Northerners Invent a One-Drop Rule?

December 1st, 2005

This essay suggests a hypothesis in three topics. A Watershed Event in Three Threads explains that members of the White endogamous group suffered a wave of panic, fueled by sensationalist newspapers, that Blacks were secretly plotting to massacre Whites. African-American Ethnic Solidarity Benefited suggests that the one-drop rule was reinforced and encouraged by ethnic leaders seeking to strengthen group loyalties by strengthening group boundaries. Other Voices presents four objections to the hypothesis: The hypothesis suggests that Blacks and Whites cooperated in creating the one-drop rule. It denies that the one-drop rule increased slave assets held by planters. It ignores pre-1830 literature mentioning an indelible mark. It denies that Latin America has passing literature.

The One-Drop Rule Arrives in the Postbellum Lower South

October 1st, 2005

This essay presents three topics. Florida and Georgia shows two societies in transition. At mid-century, Florida was still in the process of adopting an endogamous color line. By Reconstruction, one was firmly in place and moving towards invisible Blackness. Similarly, the color line in Tidewater Georgia hardened between 1860 and 1880, but had not yet become a one-drop rule. Louisiana describes a post-war struggle between the old aristocracy, who strove unsuccessfully to preserve their biracial French culture and, on the other hand, an alliance of Yankee occupiers and Anglo-American Louisianans who crushed Colored Creole society out of existence by merging it with freed Blacks. South Carolina depicts a third society in transition. It describes the nation’s second attempt to write a one-drop law. The second attempt, like the first in 1853 Virginia, failed when lawmakers realized that it would penalize elite South Carolina families.

The One-Drop Rule in The Postbellum North and Upper South

September 1st, 2005

This essay presents two topics. Three Midwest Cases shows that in the immediate aftermath of the war, the midwestern states were still adjusting to the impact of the new one-drop rule. Three Upper South Cases discusses the pivotal watershed case that established the one-drop rule as the law of the land in court precedent.

Jim Crow Triumph of the One-Drop Rule

May 1st, 2005

This essay examines, in four topics, the events of those decades that gave rise to the notions of endogamous group membership that are still in force today. Terminology Changed shows that the word “Colored,” no longer denoted an intermediate group in the Franco-American culture of the Gulf Coast but became a polite euphemism for any member of the Black endogamous group anywhere. White Children Consigned to Blackness shows that, by far, the strictest enforcement of the one-drop rule in these years was for school segregation, not intermarriage. White Adults Challenged to Defend Their Whiteness offers a slight viewpoint shift to reveal that the one-drop rule did not affect Blacks at all—it targeted only Whites. African-American Complicity shows that far from resisting or challenging the one-drop rule, members of the African-American ethnic community, especially its leadership, embraced it. They enforced it from their side of the color line, as they had in the late antebellum North, as they continue to do today.

The Invention of the One-Drop Rule in the 1830s North

April 1st, 2005

This essay suggests, in five topics, that America’s one-drop rule of invisible Blackness arose in the North between 1830 and 1840. A Bidirectional Strategy describes the analytic approach of bracketing the date by working forwards in time from the Revolution and backwards from Jim Crow. Journals and Diaries presents evidence from travelers’ accounts and newspaper advertisements to show that descriptive terminology changed from “white” to “white-looking” during this period. Literature and Drama shows that “passing” literature, which depends upon the one-drop rule for intelligibility, first arose in this period. Court Cases discusses four pivotal court cases from before and after the emergence of the one-drop rule—two in Ohio and two cases in Kentucky. Graphs and Charts presents graphs of court decisions to show how criteria for determining whether you were White or Black changed over the past two centuries.

Features of Today’s One-Drop Rule

March 3rd, 2005

This essay uses “one-drop rule” to mean that some people without even a hint of African features or skin tone, like New York Times critic Anatole Broyard or Anthony Hopkins’s character in the film The Human Stain, are classified as members of the Black endogamous group by press and public despite their European appearance. They are seen as unsuitable marriage partners by Whites but suitable by Blacks because of an un-measurable, invisible touch (one drop) of Black ancestry. As Naomi Zack puts it, “One-drop rule: American social and legal custom of classifying anyone with one black ancestor, regardless of how far back, as black.”

The Antebellum South Rejects the One-Drop Rule

November 15th, 2004

This essay suggests that between 1830 and slavery’s end in 1865 the South was in transition. Early in this period, which side of the endogamous color line you were on depended on the rule of blood fraction as modified by the rule of physical appearance and the rule of association.10 Eston Hemings, like his wife Julia Isaacs and her uncle James West, were accepted as White despite slight Black ancestry. But in the decades after 1830, after the North had accepted the notion of invisible Blackness, the idea spread southwards. Courts were at first willing to allow one-drop arguments to be made in court, but such arguments were not conclusive in reaching verdicts. Then after several years, verdicts began to be rendered based on invisible Blackness, although they were overturned. Later, appellate decisions began to uphold such verdicts. Step by step, the one-drop rule spread deeper into the slave states. By 1865, the upper South had apparently become comfortable with a one-drop rule in practice, while still paying lip service to the old blood-fraction laws in theory.