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.
Archive for the ‘The One-Drop Rule’ Category
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.