Essays on the Color Line and the One-Drop Rule
by Frank W Sweet
February 1, 2005
ob Wiggins died in 1797, leaving several properties in northeast Florida and in Cuba. The court in St. Augustine, finding no will on record, ordered a militia officer to take some men and secure the Wiggins plantation, on the St. Johns River near Tocoi. The soldiers marched to the site and took possession of the deceased planter’s livestock and slaves pending the estate sale. Following the court’s instructions, they also brought the Wiggins children into town to stay temporarily with a court-appointed guardian. One of the female slaves—a brown-skinned woman with long black hair—protested loudly. She insisted, even after being locked into the slave-holding pen in St. Augustine with the others, that she was not a slave. She said that she just happened to be dressed for labor, supervising slaves in a field, when the soldiers arrived. She said that she was Mrs. Nancy Wiggins, the planter’s widow, and that she was now owner and mistress of the Wiggins properties. And so, what started as a routine probate hearing became one of only two cases before 1840 where someone’s “racial” status was determined by a Florida court. The court documents in this case offer a glimpse of social attitudes of that place and time, not by what they said, which is straightforward, but by how they said it.
In the case’s earliest depositions and transcripts, Nancy was referred to as a “black woman” (mujer morena)1 and only by her first name. When her own lawyers arrived in court (contacted by her determined thirteen-year-old daughter), the documents began to refer to her by surname and as a “colored woman” (mujer parda), no longer “Black.”2 Once her own witnesses arrived in town to testify, the court reporter began to see her as a “colored lady” (señora parda), no longer a mere “woman.” Finally, by the time that politically powerful Juan Leslie, CEO of the Panton and Leslie trading company, arrived in the colonial capital to testify that the Wiggins family were personal friends, and that Job had left his last will and testament with the company for safekeeping, she had become “Milady Nancy” (Doña Nansi) in court documents, and subsequent records make no mention of her skin tone.3
The Wiggins probate case exemplifies social attitudes in Spanish Florida. It reveals more than merely the bleaching effects of wealth. As it turned out, Panton and Leslie’s office staff never did manage to find Job’s will. But the reason why the court balked at letting Mrs. Wiggins and her children inherit anyway was that Job and Nancy were Protestants. They had been married in an Anglican church during British rule. Only Catholic marriages were legal under the Spanish regime. Even more illuminating is that “Nancy” was just her nickname. Her maiden name was Anna Gallum, and she had no African ancestry at all. She was originally from India, a brown-skinned Bengali who had come from London many years before, to be a member of Rollestown, a utopian commune founded by a British nobleman dreamer named Denys Rolle.4 She had moved west of the St. Johns when the commune collapsed, and became a Seminole—an Indian Indian, as it were. There, she met and married the young Job when he was working as an Indian trading-post supervisor for Panton and Leslie.5 The point is that her being labeled morena (black) due to her dark-brown skin tone had no effect on her legal or social status. As we shall see below, it did not affect the marriage prospects of her children.
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This essay introduces one of four societies, within what became the United States, whose color line customs differed from the mainstream—Spanish Florida. It is presented in three topics: Echoes of Spain and Latin America traces the lack of an endogamous color line to Latin American and, ultimately, to Spanish customs. Legal Policy Regarding Afro-Hispanic Colonists shows how the state inadvertently encouraged people to switch “racial” identities by attempting unsuccessfully to impose an endogamous barrier. Society Changed When Americans Arrived narrates the transition from Spanish to Anglo-American laws and customs.
Echoes of Spain and Latin America
To understand why Spanish Florida lacked an endogamous color line, look at Iberia in the colonial period. Spanish and Portuguese parents often have children who span a wide skin-tone range.6 This is why Castilian has so many words for every skin tone from trigueño (wheat colored) to moreno (moorish colored). Most Spaniards attribute their diversity to seven centuries of North African military occupation. In fact, after the reconquest decimated Iberia’s labor class, Spain and Portugal repopulated by importing equatorial African slaves.
[After the reconquest] Black slaves were imported in ever-increasing numbers into Southern Portugal and neighboring regions of Spain, where Seville became an important slave market. These regions had greatly suffered from wars between Christians and Muslims, and their populations had been largely depleted. Imported Africans were employed not only for service in wealthy households but also for work in the fields and for a variety of tasks in the cities, especially as stevedores in the harbours. Because the Portuguese, and to a lesser degree also the Spaniards, as a result of the many conquests, had little race or colour consciousness, the various elements of the population mixed relatively freely and ultimately merged.7
By 1500, Iberia was landing over one thousand sub-Saharan Africans a year.8 By 1550, biracials outnumbered Europeans from the Algarve to as far north as Lisbon.9 By 1600, according to Mary Wilhelmina Williams, “there was no marked color line, and the blood of the two races mingled freely, resulting eventually in Negroid physical characteristics in the Portuguese nation.”10 At their peak population, Africans amounted to about eight percent of Portugal’s population (less than the United States’) and five percent of Spain’s.11 African communities had their own craftsmen’s guilds, churches, schools, neighborhoods, and “Black” burial societies.12 Yet within a few generations, Iberia’s Africans vanished without a trace, their genes absorbed and dispersed into the European melting pot as thoroughly as the Danes into England.13 The Black burial societies of Barcelona and Valencia still exist today. Membership has passed directly from father to son for four centuries, but the members have become White Europeans.14
To be sure, each of the sources cited in the preceding paragraph can be contested because some say that Africans imported to Spain were urban workers, not farm laborers; that the reconquest decimated the hidalgo class, not the peasant class; that the genetic absorption and dispersal of alleles from African laborers does not appear in written Portuguese histories; that the characterization of Portuguese as having “Negroid” traits is mistaken; and that the numbers of Africans imported and assimilated were fewer than the above estimates. Nevertheless, more than one study has confirmed 8 percent of recent sub-Saharan DNA genetic admixture in modern Portuguese and 5 percent of recent sub-Saharan genetic admixture in modern Spaniards.15 The alleles are undeniably there. One might argue that this genetic component did not come from assimilated African slaves. Nevertheless, it is present. It is from sub-Saharan Africa. And it arrived within the past 500 years. As one study put it, “the detection of L sequences at 7.1% in the [Portuguese] mitochondrial pool [seems] to support the above-mentioned pattern of admixture with African slaves.”16 (The comparable recent sub-Saharan genetic admixture fraction for the White U.S. population is one-tenth of that number, about 0.7 percent.17)
Africans and Iberians merged in the New World also. As noted by Du Bois, Boas, Frazier, Harris, Mörner, Degler and many others, Iberians in the New World, like Muslims in the Old, continued genetic absorption and dispersal.18 Where Africans were a minority (Mexico, Argentina) people of African appearance were absorbed and the phenotype eventually vanished. Parish records from Santiago de Guatemala between 1626 and 1769 reveal that on average, 7.9 percent of free people seen as Black or biracial married “pure” Spaniards. In one decade (1750-59), such intermarriages exceeded 12 percent—well over ten times the mean U.S. twentieth century rate.19 In 1830s Cuba, the rate was 19 percent.20 In 1646-1746 Mexico City, it was 8.5 percent.21 These rates were sufficient to thoroughly mix the groups within a few generations, dispersing African alleles throughout the population thus eliminating or absorbing the African phenotype.22 Where colonial Africans were a majority (the Caribbean, Brazil), the same thorough mixing resulted in today’s populations, which display a genetically predictable normal (Gaussian or bell-shaped) skin-tone distribution or genetic admixture distribution. Roughly one Puerto Rican, Cuban, or Dominican in ten looks White to modern Americans, about one in ten looks Black, and the rest look “Hispanic” (meaning in-between).23 The point is not that Hispanic populations enjoy wide diversity. It is that there was and is no endogamous color line in Hispanic societies.24
An example may illustrate the point. Spain’s army in the New World was a ruthless meritocracy. And so, they sometimes rewarded those with a knack for leading troops to victory, whatever their ancestry. Although other former African slaves reached high military rank, the best-known was Juan Valiente of New Spain, who served under Diego de Almagro in the failed conquest of Chile in 1535-37 and under Pedro de Valdivia in the successful conquest of Chile in 1550-51. He was granted hidalgo status and an encomienda (a village of Native Americans to serve as hereditary forced laborers) by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.25 He was killed in combat against the Araucanians (who were not defeated until 1883),26 but his son also became a military officer, as did his own son and so on. According to Valiente family lore, his descendants flourished in Colombia during the Bourbon dynasty, and a family branch moved to Puerto Rico in the 1880s, where its military tradition continues in the U.S. Army.
That Spanish Florida (like Spain and Latin America) lacked an endogamous color line is often misunderstood. When this point is made by a Hispanic, Anglo-American scholars often insist that Latin Americans were, or are, just as “racist” as North Americans. As David Brion Davis wrote, comparing Latin America with the United States, “It is an open question whether a society that sees every addition of white blood as a step towards purification is more or less, prejudiced than a society that sees any appreciable trace of Negro blood as a mark of degradation.”27 And V. Martínez-Alier pointed out that Spanish colonial leadership was often “racist” in rhetoric, vilifying colonists of African appearance.28 But nothing herein suggests that Hispanics were less “racist” than Americans. Davis may be correct that elite colonial Iberians tried to bequeath to their New World posterity a rigidly stratified society with negligible upward mobility. If so, compared to North America, they succeeded. Martínez-Alier may also be correct that they strove to tie these hermetic social layers to degree of African ancestry. If so, compared to North America, they failed. In short, despite near-impenetrable class divisions that are still in place, and although dark Hispanics tend to be poorer on average than fair ones, no endogamous color line ever formed in Latin America (or in the Islamic world, for that matter).
Part of the misunderstanding may spring from moral judgment. Raw facts cannot tell us whether Iberian and Latin American acceptance of Afro-European intermarriage is either praiseworthy or reprehensible. Nevertheless, many historians express themselves on this point. G.R. Andrews shows that unimpeded out-marriage caused the African-looking population of Buenos Aries to fall steadily from 15,000 in 1838, to 8,000 in 1887, to nil today. It vanished by genetic absorption and dispersal, as did the African-looking populations of sixteenth-century Spain or of Mexico.29 Andrews concludes that this shows that Buenos Aires was intensely “racist.”30 Frederick P. Bowser wrote that Latin American intermarriage “was not conducive to racial solidarity among those of African descent.”31 P. Wade wrote that colonial Hispanic intermarriage was deliberately calculated to destroy the Black “race.”32 J.R. Washington, Jr. wrote that colonial Hispanic intermarriage ruled out “cultural acceptance of blackness as a firm and rich experience,” and that it was “unconsciously bent on genocide.”33 R.L. Jackson wrote that colonial Hispanic intermarriage was deliberate genocide, “a process that, while loosely defined as ethnic and cultural fusion, is often understood to mean the physical, spiritual, and cultural rape of black people.”34 He also wrote that colonial Hispanic intermarriage was “tantamount to white lynching.”35 Such moral judgments may or may not be reasonable. Nevertheless, the only point made here is that, whether you consider it genocidal or not, Spanish Florida lacked an endogamous color line.
Legal Policy Regarding Afro-Hispanic Colonists
During Spain’s Habsburg dynasty (1516-1700) royal policy had been a mix of idealism and pragmatism. Ideally, no one unable to prove purity of blood (limpieza de sangre) could become hidalgo (the social rank immediately above slaves, servants, artisans, and peasants), and only hidalgos could hold public office.36 Pragmatically, Spain’s was a huge empire, and those who could help run it might be rewarded. Hence, the Holy Inquisition met two goals at once by selling certificates of limpieza for a steep price. The certificates gave a legitimate way for the socially powerful to become hidalgo, regardless of ancestry. The certificates also made money for the Church.37
Spain’s Bourbon dynasty (1700-today) was more practical. The reformer king, Charles III (1759-1788), tried to strengthen racialist ideals by decreeing that marriage between hidalgos and Afro-Americans was forbidden without case-by-case government permission.38 For practicality, he delegated permission-granting authority to local governors. Given the demands of a contentious empire, New World Hispanics were soon interpreting “race” as a synonym for “rank.”
Although there were exceptions, Bourbon racial policies often decreed that military officers in the New World (who, by definition were hidalgo elite) could receive permission to marry only if they wed Spanish-born women of “pure” blood. Apparently, too many soldiers had been marrying mixed women in the New World. All officers were required to follow the decree—even the Black officers. Hence, within three generations, the Valiente family and hundreds like it, lost their African looks and became European-looking. This sometimes caused confusion. Now and then, a light-brown youngster of hereditary military, commercial, or scholarly rank (the three routes to becoming hidalgo) was refused entry to an exclusive university or medical school in Spain or Latin America. The king’s solution was to issue a specific document in each case (a real cédula de gracias al sacar) patterned on the old limpieza de sangre certificates, decreeing that young Francisco Valiente, say, was legally White by royal edict.39
Until 1821, when it was acquired by the United States, historical contingency had made Florida into a multicultural community. When Spain took over the colony from the British in 1784 and Governor Zéspedes took office, the colony had only five Spanish-born families. The rest were from Scotland, England, Ireland, Switzerland, France, Turkey, Italy, Corsica, Greece, the Balearics, the United States, Africa, and (like Anna Gallum) India.40 It was also a society under Bourbon Spain’s laws and customs, a system that focused more on social rank or class than on skin tone.
Spanish Florida courts seldom had to adjudicate slave status, as they did in the English-Speaking United States. Consequently, no rule of physical appearance, of blood fraction, or of association ever arose under Spanish law. A social tradition that Hidalgo ranks and above enjoyed privileges over those of lower rank may superficially seem to resemble South Carolina’s rule of socioeconomic class, but there was no connection between rank and which side of an endogamous color line you were on. There was no endogamous color line.
To grasp how this worked, consider the case of the three Sánchez daughters. On February 6, 1795, 49-year-old Francisco Pérez, a White physician from the royal hospital at El Escorial in Castile received the colonial governor’s permission to marry 20-year-old María Beatriz Sánchez of Saint Augustine, Florida. The bride was the daughter of European planter Francisco Xavier Sánchez from Spain and his biracial concubine of the South Carolina Mulatto Elite, Beatrice Stone. The wedding was widely celebrated because Governor Quesada’s permission was phrased as a cédula de gracias al sacar, thus officially conferring legal Whiteness upon the bride. Father O’Reilly inscribed the nuptial sacrament into the parish book of White weddings and, from that day forth, María was invariably addressed with the Doña honorific and referred to as White.41
On May 10, 1795, 40-year-old José Manuel Fernández, a European merchant seaman from Galicia married 16-year-old Ana Sánchez, the next younger daughter of Francisco Xavier Sánchez and his concubine. (Apparently, Sánchez’s two younger daughters were allowed to wed only after the eldest was married off.) In a replay of her sister’s wedding three months earlier, the colonial governor again bestowed both permission on the happy couple and legal Whiteness upon the bride, and again the Church sanctioned the transformation. Ana also became a White Doña, like her older sister María.42
Finally, on January 4, 1802, Francisco Sánchez, a European soldier from Granada married Catalina Sánchez. This was the wedding of the third and final daughter of European Francisco Xavier Sánchez and Beatrice Stone of the South Carolina Mulatto elite. For the third time, official Whiteness bestowed upon a child of this illustrious and influential family sparked public celebrations.43
Slavery in Spanish Florida also differed from slavery in the English-speaking United States. Like Louisiana, Spanish Florida interpreted slavery as a form of lifelong, hereditary but ultimately voluntary labor contract between juridically equal citizens. According to Michael Gannon:
Slaves enjoyed a legal right to protest (file lawsuit) against harsh treatment. Masters were not allowed to make slaves work on Sundays and Holy Days. Slaveowners convicted of undue severity were fined [and, if recidivists, their slaves were court-confiscated and sold to reputable owners]. Slave marriages were encouraged and protected. Under no circumstances could a slave family be split and, if one member was sold, the others had to go to the same buyer. Slaves had to be properly fed and clothed, and required to be given Christian instruction necessary to fit them for worthy reception of the Church’s sacraments [reading, writing, arithmetic].44
As in Louisiana, coartación was often invoked in Spanish Florida. In July of 1794, Francis Philip Edinburgh sued for his freedom. His owner was Francisco Xavier Sánchez, the father of the three girls mentioned above, María, Ana, and Catalina. Sánchez was also East Florida’s wealthiest rancher and the government’s meat and timber contractor (and creditor). Sánchez’s plantations were the main source of supplies to the Florida militia. The dispute hinged on Edinburgh’s value. The slave was a manager who operated several of Sánchez’s plantations with little supervision. So, Sánchez argued, Edinburgh’s value on the labor market was that of an executive, far more than the pittance that the slave offered to buy himself. Edinburgh’s lawyer argued that a slave’s coartación value was that of an unskilled laborer, no matter his marketable skills. The court ruled in Edinburgh’s favor, citing his greater potential contribution to society as a free man. Having freed him, the authorities promptly commissioned him an officer in Florida’s militia.45 Local legend has it that his duty assignment was to negotiate supply contracts with his former owner. A few years later, one of Edinburgh’s own slaves, a man named Holbran, sued Edinburgh for his own coartación.46 He lost. How this tale of slavery and manumission relates to the unfolding of the endogamous color line will become clear within a few paragraphs.
Society Changed When the Americans Arrived
The Spanish negotiators of the Adams-Oniz Treaty ceding Florida from Spain to the United States knew that, one way or another, the United States was going to take possession of Florida. They tried to prevent a repetition of the mass disfranchisement that had been inflicted upon Louisiana’s Colored Creoles a decade earlier. To safeguard the rights of Hispanic Floridians, they proposed Article VI of the treaty. It read:
The inhabitants of the territories which his Catholic Majesty cedes to the United States shall be incorporated in the Union of the United States, as soon as may be consistent with the principles of the Federal Constitution, and admitted to the enjoyment of all privileges, rights, and immunities of the citizens of the United States.47
Article VI was vital because two points about U.S. citizenship were foremost in every Spanish Floridian’s mind. First, not everyone born within the United States was automatically a citizen. The citizenship of free members of the U.S. Black endogamous group was undecided. (Decades later, the U.S. Supreme Court would rule in Dred Scott v. Sandford, 1857, that free Blacks could not become citizens and had no more civil rights than livestock.48) Second, the Naturalization Act of 1790, which remained in force until the 1950s, allowed only members of the White endogamous group to apply for U.S. citizenship.49 Without Article VI, U.S. authorities could go through Florida’s population after annexation, apply the dreaded free Black label to some and strip them of their civil rights, as they had done in Louisiana. Without Article VI, U.S. authorities could require Floridians to apply for naturalization and, obeying federal law, refuse even to consider papers from those not seen as White. On the other hand, once Article VI was signed by both heads of state and their legislatures, Floridians of every ancestry would automatically become U.S. citizens upon annexation. The treaty meant that all non-slave Floridians would be considered equal under the law, no matter which side of the U.S. endogamous color line they were on. The issue of non-Whites applying for citizenship would not even arise.
The Adams-Oniz treaty, with Article VI intact, was approved by both nations. Florida was transferred to the U.S. in 1821. The 20-year flow of U.S. immigrants became a tidal wave of English-speaking newcomers. Catholic churches were closed, their property confiscated. Spanish was forbidden in schools, official documents, or in court.50 St. Augustine’s “Minorcans,” who had long been a civic-minded, politically active segment of the Hispanic melting pot were promptly renamed “Turnbull’s niggers.”51 The first public act by Florida’s new governor, Andrew Jackson, was to decree that Article VI was no longer in effect, that Hispanic Floridians had to apply for naturalization, and that Floridians thenceforth considered “free Blacks” would be ineligible for citizenship (as would be Seminoles, former slaves, and anyone with a runaway slave in their ancestry).52 Florida’s Hispanic culture was being buried under an avalanche of English-speaking people who saw the world in stark black and white.53 New laws by the new Floridians fined owners who freed their slaves, jailed those who married them, and barred free members of the Black endogamous group from assembly, carrying firearms, serving on juries, testifying against members of the White endogamous group, or owning property.54
And yet, despite the deluge of laws attempting to impose U.S. customs, Florida courts, like those in Louisiana and Alabama, also initially resisted the two-caste system. In the early years of U.S. rule, the courts adopted criteria resembling those of South Carolina—a rule of physical appearance modified by a rule of socioeconomic class. These rules were applied when a tax collector charged the Clarke brothers with refusing to pay the newly imposed capitation tax on free Blacks. The Clarke brothers were the sons of Jorge and Flora Clarke.
Decades earlier, near the end of Florida’s British period, Thomas Clarke from Scotland and Honoria Cummings from Ireland had immigrated to Florida. Their son, Jorge J. F. Clarke was raised in Spanish society. When Jorge turned 13, his parents apprenticed the boy to Panton, Leslie, and Co., the sole licensed Indian-trading company in the colony, run by its general manager Juan Leslie. The youngster promptly fell in love with Flora Leslie, his master’s teenaged biracial slave girl. As soon as he became self-supporting, as a surveyor in 1797 at age 24, Jorge J. F. Clarke purchased and married Flora. Clarke eventually became the local judge of Fernandina and, after a respected and successful life, provided handsomely for Flora and their two boys in his will.55 Now grown, the Clarke brothers (roughly one-fourth African admixture) were accused of being Black. The judge ruled that, despite their mother’s childhood status as a slave, they had been declared officially White by the Spanish authorities and so, by treaty, they were members of the White endogamous group under U.S. law.56
Despite such early judicial resistance, the U.S. endogamous color line system was gradually imposed on Florida throughout the 1830s and early 1840s. Some adapted. Former slave Philip Edinburgh, as it turned out, was so wealthy and European-looking that he was accepted into the White U.S. endogamous group (like Eston Hemings).57 His daughter Nicolassa married Nancy Wiggins’s son Benjamin and they also became White. Other families, who could not adapt, fled. Those who could afford it took ship for Mexico, the Caribbean, or back to Spain. The families of the three slave-owning Sánchez girls (now grandmothers) were too dark for Anglo-American acceptance (like Jim-Mad Hemings), and so they fled to Cuba. Spanish military veterans were rescued at the Crown’s expense and also resettled in Cuba. Families who could not flee adapted. Those who could neither be accepted as White in U.S. society, buy commercial passage, nor evidence past military service moved westwards and joined the Seminoles or made it to the Bahamas in small boats.58 And yet, color-line permeability for those who looked European remained high in Florida until well after the Civil War.
Of course, the rule of socioeconomic class, the idea that the “White” label was negotiable by those of rank was not unique to Florida. As Williamson shows, it was common in South Carolina until Reconstruction.59 As Dominguez shows, it flourished in Louisiana until Jim Crow.60 Spanish Florida was simply more open about it. In the United States, even in South Carolina, adults crossed the color line in secret and usually moved to a new town.61 In Florida, as in other Spanish colonies, one became White in a public ritual, an open celebration.
To recap, court cases as well as tax and census records reveal no endogamous color line in Spanish Florida. Documents of the time used three gradations of skin color (blanco, pardo, and moreno) roughly corresponding to the British West Indian labels: White, Coloured, and Black.62 But the designations did not delineate marriage barriers. They were merely an aspect of Bourbon modernization—a bureaucratic simplification of the dozens of names for skin tones that had become popular two centuries earlier. In fact, newspaper accounts, the vernacular, and literature continued to use the older myriad of skin-tone labels well into the twentieth century.
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This essay introduced Spanish Florida, one of four societies, within what became the United States, whose color line customs differed from the mainstream. It traced the lack of an endogamous color line to Latin American and, ultimately, to Spanish customs. It showed how the state inadvertently encouraged people to switch “racial” identities by attempting unsuccessfully to impose an endogamous barrier. It narrated the transition from Spanish to Anglo-American laws and customs.
1. It is impossible perfectly to translate Spanish Florida’s color designations into English. The usage above equates the darkest designation found in public documents for free people, “moreno,” with the English term “black,” which has the same usage. Neither of the Spanish words for the color black (prieto or negro) are found in official documents as color designations for free people. Similarly, the term “pardo” used in official documents of Spanish Florida to designate biracial or mixed-looking people literally means “brown.” It is translated above as “Colored,” which is the closest equivalent in the three-caste systems of the contemporary lower South.
2. That the terms “pardo” and “moreno” were not interchangeable in Spanish Florida, is evidenced by Cathedral Parish records of marriages, baptisms, and burials as well as civil marriage licenses being recorded separately for “pardos” and “morenos” with meticulous consistency.
3. Estate probate of Job Wiggins, East Florida Papers, Section #71, Reel #136 (St. Augustine Historical) or #137 (P.K. Yonge). This case is not included in the tabulations of http://backintyme/rawdata/CourtCases.xls because it was never appealed.
4. Carl Bohnenberger, “The Settlement of Charlotia (Rolles Town), 1765,” The Florida Historical Quarterly 4, no. 1 (1925): 43-49.
5. William Bartram and Mark Van Doren, The Travels of William Bartram (New York: Dover, 1928), 100. For more biographical details, see also the January 14, 1812, wedding of Benjamin Wiggins (Job and Nancy’s son) with Nicolassa Edimburgh (Francis Philip’s daughter), St. Augustine Cathedral Parish Records, Reel #248L (P.K. Yonge).
6. See “How Many Black Children are Born into White Families?” in the Backintyme essay, The Heredity of “Racial” Traits.
7. University of Chicago, ed. The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15 ed. (Chicago: William Benton, 1974), 16:859.
8. Hugh Thomas, The Slave Trade: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade: 1440-1870 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997), 22-24.
9 Lerone Bennett Jr., Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America, 6th rev. ed. (New York: Penguin, 1993), 32.
10. As quoted in Bennett (1993), 32.
11. Thomas (1997), 48-86, 804.
12. David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture (Ithaca: Cornell University, 1966), 53.
13. Frank Tannenbaum, Slave and Citizen, the Negro in the Americas (Boston: Beacon Press, 1946), 14-15, 44.
14. Leslie B. Rout, The African Experience in Spanish America, 1502 to the Present Day (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University, 1976), 9, 18-20.
15. Martin Richards and others, “Extensive Female-Mediated Gene Flow from Sub-Saharan Africa into Near Eastern Arab Populations,” American Journal of Human Genetics 72 (2003): 1058-64; H.B. Corte-Real and others, “Genetic Diversity in the Iberian Peninsula Determined from Mitochondrial Sequence Analysis,” Annals of Human Genetics 60, no. 4 (1996): 331-50.
16. L. Pereira, M.J. Prata, and A. Amorim, “Diversity of mtDNA Lineages in Portugal: Not a Genetic Edge of European Variation,” Annals of Human Genetics 64 (2000), 501.
17. See “Admixture Scatter Diagrams” in the Backintyme essay Afro-European Genetic Admixture in the United States.
18. Dubois: The Crisis 7 (April 1914), 286-87 as quoted in David J. Hellwig, ed. African-American Reflections on Brazil’s Racial Paradise (Philadelphia: Temple University, 1992), 32; Boas: as quoted in Roger Sanjek, “Intermarriage and the Future of Races in the United States,” in Race, ed. Steven Gregory and Roger Sanjek (New Brunswick NJ: Rutgers University, 1994), 103-30, 104; Frazier: As quoted in Hellwig (1992), 121; Marvin Harris, Patterns of Race in the Americas (Westport CT: Greenwood, 1964); Magnus Morner, Race Mixture in the History of Latin America (Boston: Little Brown, 1967); Carl N. Degler, Neither Black nor White: Slavery and Race Relations in Brazil and the United States (New York: Macmillan, 1971).
19. Christopher Lutz, Santiago de Guatemala, 1541-1773: City, Caste, and the Colonial Experience (Norman: University of Oklahoma, 1994), 179, 180.
20. Ramón de la Sagra, Historia Economico-Política y Estadistica de la Isla de Cuba (Havana: Arazoza y Soler, 1831), 20-4.
21. Edgar F. Love, “Marriage Patterns of Persons of African Descent in a Colonial Mexico City Parish,” Hispanic American Historical Review 41, no. 1 (1971): 79-91.
22. Robert S. Stuckert, “The African Ancestry of the White American Population,” Ohio Journal of Science 55, May (1958): 155-160.
23. Curt Stern, Principles of Human Genetics, 3d ed. (San Francisco: W. H. Freeman, 1973), 443-52; L. L. Cavalli-Sforza and W. F. Bodmer, The Genetics of Human Populations (Mineola NY: Dover, 1999), 527-31.
24. Cavalli-Sforza and Bodmer (1999), 788-90.
25. Leslie B. Rout, The African Experience in Spanish America, 1502 to the Present Day (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University, 1976), 76; John Kelly Thornton, Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-1800, 2nd ed. (New York: Cambridge University, 1998), 141; Frederick P. Bowser, “Colonial Spanish America,” in Neither Slave Nor Free: The Freedmen of African Descent in the Slave Societies of the New World, ed. David W. Cohen and Jack P. Greene (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, 1972), 20.
26. Benjamin Keen, A History of Latin America, 5th ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996), 731.
27. David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture (Ithaca: Cornell University, 1966), 275n24.
28. Verena Martinez Alier, Marriage, Class and Colour in Nineteenth-Century Cuba: A Study of Racial Attitudes and Sexual Values in a Slave Society (London: Cambridge University, 1974).
29. Steve Sailer, “Analysis: Race Now Not Black and White,” (UPI, May 8, 2002).
30. George Reid Andrews, “Race Versus Class Association: The Afro-Argentines of Buenos Aires,” Journal of Latin American Studies (UK) 11, no. 1 (1979): 19-39.
31. Frederick P. Bowser, “Colonial Spanish America,” in Neither Slave Nor Free: The Freedmen of African Descent in the Slave Societies of the New World, ed. David W. Cohen and Jack P. Greene (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, 1972), 58; Frederick P. Bowser, “The Free Person of Color in Mexico City and Lima: Manumission and Opportunity, 1580-1650,” in Race and Slavery in the Western Hemisphere: Quantitative Studies, ed. Stanley L. Engerman, et al. (Princeton: Princeton University, 1975), 360.
32. Peter Wade, Blackness and Race mixture: The Dynamics of Racial Identity in Colombia (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, 1993), 7-8.
33. As quoted in Roger Sanjek, “Intermarriage and the Future of Races in the United States,” in Race, ed. Steven Gregory and Roger Sanjek (New Brunswick NJ: Rutgers University, 1994), 105.
34. As quoted in David J. Hellwig, ed. African-American Reflections on Brazil’s Racial Paradise (Philadelphia: Temple University, 1992), 217.
35. As quoted in Judy Bieber, “Race, Resistance, and Regionalism: Perspectives from Brazil and Spanish America,” Latin American Research Review 32, no. 3 (1997), 159.
36. Originally, limpieza de sangre meant the absence of Moorish or Jewish ancestry. See Antonio Dominguez Ortiz, La Sociedad Espanola en el Siglo XVIII (Madrid: Instituto Balmes de Sociologia Departamento de Historia Social Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, 1955), 233. In the New World, the concept came also to be associated with African ancestry. See Verena Martinez Alier, Marriage, Class and Colour in Nineteenth-Century Cuba: A Study of Racial Attitudes and Sexual Values in a Slave Society (London: Cambridge University, 1974), 15.
37. Marcelo Martinez Alcubilla, Codigos antiguos de Espana: coleccion completa de todos los codigos de Espana, desde el Fuero juzgo hasta la Novisima recopilacion, con un glosario de las principales voces anticuadas, notas, bindices parciales y un repertorio general alfabbetico de materias (Madrid: Administracion J. Lopez Comancho Impresor, 1885), 890-91.
38. Verena Martinez Alier, Marriage, Class and Colour in Nineteenth-Century Cuba: A Study of Racial Attitudes and Sexual Values in a Slave Society (London: Cambridge University, 1974), 11.
39. Frederick P. Bowser, “Colonial Spanish America,” in Neither Slave Nor Free: The Freedmen of African Descent in the Slave Societies of the New World, ed. David W. Cohen and Jack P. Greene (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, 1972), 46.
40. Abel Poitrineau, “Demography and the Political Destiny of Florida During the Second Spanish Period,” The Florida Historical Quarterly 66, no. 4 April (1988), 422.
41. East Florida Papers, Section #69, Reel #132, Marriage License #82.
42. Ibid., Marriage License #83.
43. Ibid., Marriage License #142.
44. Michael V. Gannon, The Cross in the Sand (Gainesville FL: University of Florida, 1965), 111. Whether these laws were enforced against slaveowners in practice or were just empty legal promises is a fascinating question with a vast literature. Tannenbaum, Elkins, Genovese, Gannon, and Landers provide a wealth of data and anecdotes supporting the position that slaves in some places and times (notably Spanish Florida, Alabama, and Louisiana in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century) were in fact protected by vigorous law enforcement of their rights as Spanish citizens. See Frank Tannenbaum, Slave and Citizen, the Negro in the Americas (Boston: Beacon Press, 1946) 120-26; Stanley M. Elkins, “Slavery in Capitalist and Non-Capitalist Countries,” in Slavery in the New World: A Reader in Comparative History, ed. Laura Foner and Eugene D. Genovese (Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1969), 8-26; Eugene D. Genovese, “The Treatment of Slaves in Different Countries: Problems in the Application of the Comparative Method,” in Foner and Genovese (1969), 202-10; Gannon (1965), 111; Jane Landers, Black Society in Spanish Florida (Chicago: University of Illinois, 1999) 95. On the other hand, Harris, Davis, Mintz, and Thomas have found that in other times and places (notably 1830’s Cuba and 1840’s Puerto Rico), the landed gentry were immune to action by either the state or the Church. See Marvin Harris, “The Myth of the Friendly Master,” in Foner and Genovese (1969), 38-47; David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture (Ithaca: Cornell University, 1966) 274-76; Sidney W. Mintz, “Labor and Sugar in Puerto Rico and Jamaica, 1800-1850,” in Foner and Genovese (1969), 170-77; Hugh Thomas, The Slave Trade: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade: 1440-1870 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997) 567-68. But the debate over the comparative harshness of slave systems is irrelevant to the topic at hand—criteria of social positioning relative to the color line. Spanish laws are mentioned only because the Spanish doctrine of coartación reduced or even eliminated the number of freedom trials on the Gulf coast. This is because, in cases of irresolvable difference, Spanish law—Las siete partidas and the Recopilación de leyes de los reinos de las Indias—applied the practice of coartación. A Gulf Coast slave who acquired a court-set fraction of his own value (typically about five percent, usually through a loan) was immediately freed on the condition that he pay off the balance in installments. See Kimberly S. Hanger, “Origins of New Orleans Free Creoles of Color,” in Creoles of Color of the Gulf South, ed. James H. Dormon (Knoxville: University of Tennessee, 1996), 6-9. Also, it is stressed that nothing here is meant to suggest that Spanish Florida, Alabama, and Louisiana reflected Spanish society in general.
45. Jane L. Landers, “Traditions of African American Freedom and Community in Spanish Colonial Florida,” in The African American Heritage of Florida, ed. David R. Colburn and Jane L. Landers (Gainesville: University of Florida, 1995), 30-32.
46. Jane Landers, Black Society in Spanish Florida (Chicago: University of Illinois, 1999) 95.
47. John K. Mahon, History of the Second Seminole War 1835-1842, revised ed. (Gainesville: University of Florida, 1985), 29.
48. James A. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (New York: Ballantine, 1988), 170-81.
49. Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race (Cambridge: Harvard University, 1998); Ian F. Haney-Lopez, White by Law: The Legal Construction of Race (New York: New York University, 1996).
50. Michael V. Gannon, The Cross in the Sand (Gainesville FL: University of Florida, 1965), 119-130.
51. Thomas Graham, The Awakening of St. Augustine (St. Augustine: St. Augustine Historical Society, 1978), 18.
52. Kathryn Abbey Hanna, Florida: Land of Change (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1941), 146-47.
53. Jane Landers, Black Society in Spanish Florida (Chicago: University of Illinois, 1999), 227-48.
54. Daniel L. Schafer, Anna Kingsley (St. Augustine: St. Augustine Historical Society, 1994), 30-31.
55. Census records of 1786 and 1793, as tabulated in Donna Rachal Mills, Florida’s First families: Translated Abstracts of pre-1821 Spanish Censuses (Tuscaloosa, AL: Mills Historical Press, 1992), 4, 39; also see Louise Biles Hill, “George J. F. Clarke, 1774-1836,” The Florida Historical Quarterly 21, no. 3 (1943): 197-253.
56. Lary Eugene Rivers, Slavery in Florida: Territorial Days to Emancipation (Gainesville: University of Florida, 2000), 154, 157; Canter Brown Jr., “Race Relations in Territorial Florida, 1821-1845,” Florida Historical Quarterly 73, no. 3 (1995), 290.
57. See the opening anecdote of the Backintyme essay How the Law Decided if You Were Black or White: The Early 1800s.
58. Jane Landers, Black Society in Spanish Florida (Chicago: University of Illinois, 1999), 238.
59. Joel Williamson, New People: Miscegenation and Mulattoes in the United States (New York: Free Press, 1980), 93.
60. Virginia R. Dominguez, White by Definition: Social Classification in Creole Louisiana (New Brunswick NJ: Rutgers University, 1986).
61. Michael P. Johnson and James L. Roark, Black Masters: A Free Family of Color in the Old South, 1st ed. (New York: Norton, 1984), 53-54; Gary B. Mills, “Miscegenation and the Free Negro in Antebellum ‘Anglo’ Alabama: A Reexamination of Southern Race Relations,” Journal of American History 68, no. 1 (1981): 16-34.
62. As mentioned in notes 1 and 2 above, neither of the Spanish words for the color “black” (negro or prieto) appears as a complexion designation in any Spanish Florida document that the present author has yet uncovered. This does not imply that other Spanish colonies were similar.
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Frank W. Sweet is the author of Legal History of the Color Line (ISBN 9780939479238), an analysis of the nearly 300 appealed cases that determined Americans’ “racial” identity over the centuries. It is the most thorough study of the legal history of this topic yet published. He was accepted to Ph.D. candidacy in history with a minor in molecular anthropology at the University of Florida in 2003 and has completed all but his dissertation defense. He earned an M.A. in History from American Military University in 2001. He is also the author of several state park historical booklets and published historical essays. He was a member of the editorial board of the magazine Interracial Voice, and is a regular lecturer and panelist at historical and genealogical conferences. To send email, click here.
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