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Miscegenation

Miscegenation

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Miscegenation is generally defined as an intimate sexual relationship between individuals of different races. In practice, however, it has mostly referred to relationships between whites and people of color. Because of its pejorative connotation, the word is not generally used today to refer to interracial relationships.

While the term miscegenation did not exist until the late nineteenth century, interracial sexual intimacy was a matter for concern soon after the first Europeans and Africans settled permanently in the Americas in the 1500s and 1600s. In North America, English colonists founded Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. It was only seven years later that Pocahontas and John Rolfe celebrated their marriage, which was unusual and sensational but not legally questionable. The growing presence of African slaves, however, generated significant legal questions about status, family, and heredity. In 1662, Virginias colonial assembly declared that a childs status as slave or free was based on the status of the mother, and in 1691 it passed the first law against sexual relations between free English or other white women and nonwhites (including both Native Americans and negroes or mulattoes). The 1691 statute also provided for the banishment of any white who contracted a marriage across the racial line. While Virginia was the first colony to act comprehensively to bar interracial marriage and control interracial sex, other colonies followed. Of the thirteen original colonies, nine had laws against interracial marriage in effect at the time of the Revolution. Racial categorization in the colonial era and early history of the United States increasingly moved toward a black-white dichotomy, and policymakers as well as the general white populace came to see individuals with significant African ancestry as black.

Chattel slavery was also prevalent in colonial Latin America, though Spanish and Portuguese colonies initially enslaved Native Americans. The use of Native Americans as slaves, however, was quickly overshadowed by the importation of Africans, particularly as the Native American population declined due to intentional extermination and widespread disease. In the mid-1500s, the Brazilian economy shifted away from reliance on forced Native American labor and toward black chattel slavery, and Portugal began to import slaves to Brazil in 1549. The Catholic Church opposed interracial marriage and procreation early in the colonial period, and European states echoed this condemnation in Brazil and elsewhere. Nonetheless, interracial sexual relations between Portuguese and Spanish men and African and Native American women, which was often coerced, took place extensively in the colonial period and produced a significant mixed-race demographic. During the 1700s and early 1800s, a complex racial hierarchy developed in Latin America, with mixed-race populations increasingly gaining specific recognition as distinct groups. The cultural permissiveness toward interracial sexual contact transitioned toward legal and institutional support during these years as well.

The term miscegenation was coined in 1863 in the United States in the context of the critical 1864 election. Editors of a New York-based Democratic newspaper secretly produced a pamphlet advocating the immediate legalization of interracial marriage as a natural and proper implication of emancipating the slaves. They created the word miscegenation to describe such relationships, combining the Latin words miscere, meaning to mix, and genus, or race. Though the Democrats certainly did not support the idea of interracial marriage, they planned to lure Republicans into openly agreeing with the ideas in the pamphlet. Thus, they sent copies of the pamphlet to prominent Republicans, hoping that some would endorse it and provide the Democrats with a campaign issue, but the Republicans ignored the pamphlet. While their gambit failed to link the Republican Party to a controversial endorsement of racial equality, it did ignite a national discussion among white elites about the dangers of interracial procreation. At the height of Reconstruction, a few individuals challenged emerging criminal prohibitions on interracial marriage, and they even secured a short-lived court victory in Alabama. Ultimately, however, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the states to regulate freely against interracial relationships, and most southern and western states took up the invitation. While the southeastern states primarily focused on relationships between African Americans and whites, southwestern and western states also identified Mexicans, Malays, Hawaiians, Asians, and Native Americans as unsuitable marriage partners for whites. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, blackness increasingly became defined strictly in legal terms, and several southern states moved toward the position that any African ancestry rendered an individual black. Several states actively prosecuted men and women, both white and nonwhite, for crossing the racial boundary. Legal penalties ranged from defining interracial cohabitation as a more serious misdemeanor than intraracial cohabitation to Alabamas two-to-seven year terms in the state penitentiary for interracial marriage, adultery, or fornication.

With the exceptions of Brazil and Cuba, most Latin American nations eliminated slavery in the mid-nineteenth century; Brazil and Cuba emancipated their slaves in the 1880s. Brazil sought to change its national racial complexion by actively soliciting white immigrants and banning black immigration in 1890. In conjunction with this policy, the state endorsed a policy of whitening that actively encouraged individuals of mixed racial ancestry to intermarry with whites. Social, legal, and cultural incentives led to increasing proportions of the population choosing to identify themselves as mixed race or white. While informal and social modes of discrimination persisted, Brazil and other Latin American nations largely eschewed the legal-formalistic path of racial domination that the United States embraced, and race was largely understood more as a continuum than as a binary in formal terms. Even in the United States, however, the emerging legal binary masked a finer-grained racial hierarchy based upon the greater social and economic advancements available to individuals with lighter skin colors, even if these individuals were not able to pass for white.

The first steps to dismantling the modern formal prohibitions against interracial intimacy in the United States took place in the courts. Californias high court invalidated the states ban on interracial marriage in Perez v. Sharp in 1948, claiming that the main state interest that the ban served was the reinforcement of the illegitimate doctrine of white supremacy. A few western states removed their bans through legislative action in the 1950s, but the legal prohibitions in the South remained until the U.S. Supreme Court first struck down Floridas stricter punishments for interracial cohabitation in McLaughlin v. Florida in 1964. The Court finally invalidated Virginias antimiscegenation law in Loving v. Virginia in 1967. Scattered litigation, however, was required in the late 1960s and 1970s to ensure that Loving s rule was respected throughout the nation by justices of the peace and other governmental officials asked to provide marriage licenses to mixed-race couples.

Despite these rulings, a core of social opposition to interracial marriage persists in the United States. As recently as November 2000, 40 percent of Alabamas voters rejected a symbolic amendment to Alabamas constitution that removed the ban on interracial marriage, which had been legally unenforceable since the Supreme Courts ruling in Loving. Some evidence also suggests that even in the contemporary United States, many individuals with interracial backgrounds conceal or downplay their black ancestry, despite the emergence of a greater social and political consciousness among mixed-race people.

Recent studies of Brazil and Cuba have challenged the myth of racial democracy, a general impression that racial discrimination was never a core element in either nations political development. In reality, racial hierarchies remained deeply embedded in Brazilian and Cuban economy and society throughout the twentieth century. While interracial relationships did not have to be legitimized as they did in the United States, mixed-race individuals remained in subordinated systems supported by governmental institutions that refused to acknowledge the social and economic meaning of color. In recent years, movements seeking racial solidarity and empowerment have begun the hard work of dismantling these hierarchies, with mixed-race individuals and groups playing important roles in the process.

SEE ALSO Marriage, Interracial; Race Mixing; Race Relations; Racism

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Butler, Kim. 1997. Freedoms Given, Freedoms Won: Afro-Brazilians in Post-Abolition São Paulo and Salvador. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Helg, Aline. 1995. Our Rightful Share: The Afro-Cuban Struggle for Equality, 18861912. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Marx, Anthony. 1998. Making Race and Nation: A Comparison of the United States, South Africa, and Brazil. New York:Cambridge University Press.

Novkov, Julie. 2002. Racial Constructions: The Legal Regulation of Miscegenation in Alabama, 18901934. Law and History Review 20: 225277.

Romano, Renee. 2003. Race Mixing: Black-White Marriage in Postwar America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Sawyer, Mark. 2005. Racial Politics in Post-Revolutionary Cuba. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Wallenstein, Peter. 2002. Tell the Court I Love My Wife: Race, Marriage, and Lawan American History. New York:Palgrave.

Julie Novkov

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Miscegenation

MISCEGENATION

MISCEGENATION is the intermarriage of people of different races. In the United States the term is primarily used to describe the marriage between a black person and a white person. Miscegenation is an American word, and it is difficult to translate into other languages. It is derived from the Latin "miscere" (to mingle) and "genus" (kind or category). Miscegenation plays a larger role in American history than perhaps in any other nation's history. The states, plagued by racial division between blacks and whites, codified the racial divide by prohibiting mingling of the races in marriage with antimiscegenation laws during colonial times. Prohibition of interracial marriage did not exist under the common law or by statute in England when the American colonies were established. Antimiscegenation laws were first drafted in colonial America.

The enactment of antimiscegenation laws can be attributed to a variety of factors, including economic considerations and a desire on the part of some for the maintenance of so-called "racial purity." The first antimiscegenation statute appears to have been enacted in Maryland in 1661, in part for economic reasons. The statute forbidding interracial marriage in effect gave slave owners the ability to increase their number of slaves through birth. The statute deemed any child born of a free mother and slave father to be a slave of the father's


master. The statute was designed to deter free white women from marrying black men. Before the statute, the freedom of a child was determined by her or his mother's free or enslaved status. If the mother was a free woman, the children would also be free. The 1661 statute changed this and increased the number of children born into slavery. The effect of the statute, however, was to increase forced interracial marriages because of the economic incentive for slave owners to force indentured white female servants to marry black male slaves to produce more slaves by birth from a slave father. Many other states in both the south and the north followed suit. America's first federal naturalization act, passed in 1790, limited the right to become citizens to "free white persons."

Some states' antimiscegenation laws prohibited marriage between any races, but most laws were more concerned with preserving white racial purity. Many antimiscegenation laws were enacted at a time when slavery and notions of white supremacy had already become fixtures in the epic of American history. The notion of white supremacy and preserving "whiteness" encompassed the idea that marriage between races producing "mixed" children would "muddle" the purity of the white race. The "one drop rule" of classifying a person as black because the person had one drop of black blood exemplified the concern of some in the United States for preserving whiteness. To preserve white racial purity and prevent production of mixed offspring, many American states forbade the marriage between whites and blacks. This view was vindicated in the Supreme Court's opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), in which Homer A. Plessy, whose only non white ancestor was one of his eight great-grandparents, was determined to be black in the eyes of the law. Other states, such as California in 1909, added people of Japanese descent to the list of those banned from marrying whites.

Antimiscegenation laws remained in effect in many states from colonial days until 1967, when the Supreme Court declared Virginia's antimiscegenation law unconstitutional in Loving v. Virginia. The Supreme Court found that Virginia's law, which specifically prohibited and prevented the recognition of marriage between blacks and whites, denied citizens the fundamental right to marry. Soon after Loving v. Virginia was decided, most states repealed their own antimiscegenation statutes. Others kept these now unenforceable laws on their books, and some even kept the prohibition in their constitutions. The people of Alabama voted in November 2000 to remove the section of their constitution that prohibited interracial marriage. South Carolina took a similar step in 1998. While "mixed race" couples and their offspring continued to suffer discrimination in the twenty-first century, no state is allowed to deny recognition of a marriage between a black person and a white person or between persons of any different races.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ferber, Abby L. White Man Falling: Race, Gender, and White Supremacy. Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1998.

Sollors, Werner, ed. Interracialism: Black-White Intermarriage in American History, Literature, and Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Williamson, Joel. New People: Miscegenation and Mulattoes in the United States. New York: Free Press, 1980.

Akiba J.Covitz

Esa LianneSferra

Meredith L.Stewart

See alsoLoving v. Virginia ; Plessy v. Ferguson ; Race .

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miscegenation

miscegenation Literally ‘mixing of races’, a racist term denoting sexual relations between different races, especially White and Black. Miscegenation was promoted in some systems–for example Portuguese colonialism and the Baha'i religion–as a means of overcoming artificial ethnic barriers. The concept is treated pejoratively in racist ideology as a source of social and economic degeneration.

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Miscegenation

MISCEGENATION

Mixture of races. A term formerly applied to marriage between persons of different races. Statutes prohibiting marriage between persons of different races have been held to be invalid as contrary to theequal protection clauseof the Constitution.

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miscegenation

mis·ceg·e·na·tion / miˌsejəˈnāshən; ˌmisəjə-/ • n. the interbreeding of people considered to be of different racial types.

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"miscegenation." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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miscegenation

miscegenation mixture of races. XIX (orig. U.S.). irreg. f. L. miscēre MIX + GENUS race + -ATION.

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